Retaining walls help create 65-mile trail through mountains near Denver

February 28, 2017
Ledgestone block was custom colored to match the natural surroundings
Ledgestone block was custom colored to match the natural surroundings

All great visions have to start somewhere. This one began with over 3 miles of paved multi-purpose trail winding through the scenic Clear Creek Canyon near Denver.

Installing the retaining walls was no easy task, as the terrain includes steep slopes, flooding issues along the river, active landslide problems and limited space. In addition, protecting the natural habitat of endangered species was a must.

The long-term vision of the Peaks to Plains Trail is a 65-mile off-highway opportunity to travel from the Continental Divide to the South Platte River. The initial phase includes three bridges, six overlooks and 16 boulder benches, allowing hikers, climbers, anglers, bikers, picnickers, rafters and other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy Clear Creek and this beautiful canyon.

Matt Andrews, PE, Project Engineer from Muller Engineering Co., explained that “one of the main objectives of this project was to create a trail and retaining walls that would blend so seamlessly with the canyon that users would think it had always been there.”

What better way to appreciate the natural beauty of an area than spending time there? So, engineers hiked, kayaked and rafted through the canyon during the entire project, selecting natural features they wanted to preserve and carving out the best route.

This helped solve the challenge of installing a 10-ft-wide trail through a narrow canyon. To complete the trail, many miles of retaining walls were needed above and below the trail line.

The Redi-Rock gravity system was the perfect solution for the constricted space because it doesn’t require reinforcements,” said Seth Clark, Business Development Partner with Signature Stone, the local Redi-Rock manufacturer. “In addition, Redi-Rock products allowed the walls to blend beautifully into the landscape because each block is cast in a mold taken from real natural stone—the Ledgestone texture perfectly matched the natural rock in the area.”

“Due to the size of the blocks, along with the Ledgestone texture, we were able to design the wall to follow the grade rather than have steps in the wall,” added Clark. “This concept worked very well and the subtle changes in the wall profile adds another level of beauty to the project.”

On July 29, 2016, the Clear Creek segment of the trail was ceremoniously opened for people to enjoy this picturesque canyon. From families out for a casual hike or bike ride to experienced outdoor adventurists, this trail offers something for everyone.

To date, this project includes 42,000 sq ft of Redi-Rock retaining walls, with more to come. Muller Engineering, who partnered with Concrete Express Inc., won two awards at the 2017 American Council of Engineering Companies Colorado Excellence Awards ceremony for their work on this project, including Outstanding Engineering Design and Outstanding Graphics.

The trail and walls, which were built with very little disturbance to the natural surroundings, will provide many recreational opportunities for generations to come.

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