Snow, winds, and ice often make travel difficult in Colorado, but planning ahead can help make winter travel less stressful. Here are seasonal and temporary highway, mountain passes, and rest stop closures to be aware of when traveling across the Centennial State this winter.
1. Trail Ridge Road (extended closure)
Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park typically shuts down for the winter season from late October to mid-May. Winding to heights of 12,183 feet, the iconic stretch of mountain highway features incredible views and frequent wildlife sightings, including bighorn sheep and elk. If traveling this scenic route when it’s open, be be prepared for strong winds and rapid weather changes. For current conditions, park visitors can call 970-586-1222.
2. Kebler Pass (extended closure)
Kebler Pass typically closes from November to October, depending on the weather. During open months, traveling this 10,007-foot mountain pass connecting the towns of Crested Butte and Paonia will transport you to a wonderland of beautiful mountain scenery, including one of the best displays of fall color in the state. For current pass conditions, visitors can call 970-641-0044.
3. Mount Evans Highway (extended closure)
Located about 60 miles west of Denver, Mount Evans Highway offers a grand escape into nature. Unfortunately, it tends to close between Labor Day and the Friday after Memorial Day. At times, only a partial closure is in place allowing access to Summit Lake. The typical closure date for lower half of the pass from Echo Lake to Summit Lake is around the end of September.
4. Independence Pass (extended closure)
Notoriously steep, narrow, and winding, the seasonal closure of Independence Pass comes as no surprise for high country travelers. The 12,095-foot mountain pass normally closes for the winter season around the first week of November when heavy snow starts to fall. With a few rare exceptions, the pass reopens on the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend by tradition.
5. Cottonwood Pass (extended closure)
Cottonwood Pass, which usually closes from November to May, is a 12,126-foot mountain pass located in the southwestern part of the state that serves as a beautiful shortcut between Buena Vista and Crested Butte. It offers hiker-access to many of the Collegiate Peaks, including Mount Yale.
6. Loveland Pass / US 6 (frequent closures)
Winter driving conditions along U.S. Highway 6 over Loveland Pass can be quite dangerous. The 11,991-foot mountain pass often faces temporary closures amid safety concerns and inclement weather. It’s also not uncommon for crews to close down the pass for avalanche mitigation efforts. When this pass closes, it cuts off the easiest route for Denverites to access Arapahoe Basin and Keystone Resort.
7. Kenosha Pass / US 285 (frequent closures)
It’s not uncommon for safety closures to take place along U.S. Route 285 between Kenosha Pass and Fairplay. Heavy snow and strong winds pound the road, creating limited visibility that can result in temporary shut downs of the 9,997-foot mountain pass.
8. Hoosier Pass / CO 9 (frequent closures)
State highway 9 over Hoosier Pass is a popular route traveled by winter adventurers headed to ski country from Colorado Springs. While the 11,542-foot pass is fairly maintained throughout the winter months, heavy snow and strong winds prompt occasional safety closures. A number of steep switchbacks make this road particularly problematic.
9. Red Mountain Pass / US 550 (frequent closures)
Weather-related closures can be expected along U.S. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass, which connects the iconic mountain towns of Ouray and Silverton. Notably very scenic, this 11,018-foot mountain has steep grades of 8 percent, sharp winding turns, deadly drop-offs, and no guardrails. Drive it once and it’s easy to see why the pass faces multiple closures throughout the winter season.
10. Monarch Pass / US 50 (frequent closures)
During the winter months, closures may occur along U.S. Highway 50 over Monarch Pass. As snow piles, safety closures for harsh winter conditions, multiple crashes, limited visibility, and avalanche mitigation are known to follow. A number of slide paths exist along the route, making closures quite necessary.
11. Pikes Peak Highway (partial closures)
Climbing high to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Highway is a classic Colorado drive enjoyed by many tourists coming to the state. Road crews work hard to keep this road as open as possible throughout the entire year, including the winter months. That being said, heavy snowfall will often close several of the higher miles barring access to the summit. Check the Pikes Peak Twitter page for the most up-to-date information.
12. Interstate 70 (frequent closures)
This heavily traveled interstate serves as the main route for slopegoers headed to much of Colorado’s ski country, including Vail, Breckenridge, and Keystone.
Between truckers and skiers, travel on I-70 can be a real nightmare. Warnings of steep grades and sharp curves are not to be taken lightly, particularly for semi-trucks and high-profile vehicles. The route is flanked by a number of runaway ramps for truckers that lose control, often a result of brakes overheating or excessive downhill speed. While taking the ramp is generally a last resort, it can prevent tragedies from occurring.
Severe winter weather can cause delays on this route ranging from several minutes to hours. Pack your trunk with safety essentials to use in case of stranding.
Oh, and there’s also that one time an avalanche swept cars on I-70 into roadside barriers.
13. Interstate 25 (occasional closures)
Weather-related closures are often seen on Interstate 25, mainly between Colorado Springs and Denver in the area of Monument Hill. While it normally takes about 1.5 hours to drive from the north end of Denver to the south side of Colorado Springs, even the slightest bit of snowfall tends to greatly increase travel times, especially if there’s construction taking place on the route.
14. Virginia Dale Rest Area (extended closure)
The Virginia Dale Rest Area typically closes for the winter in September and reopens in May before Memorial Day. The rest area is located on US 287 at mile marker 383, about two miles south of the Colorado and Wyoming border.
Editor’s Note: It's important to note that many of the state's mountain passes including Black Bear, Imogene, Cinnamon, Corkscrew, Engineer, and Owl Creek close for an extended period of time due to heavy snow. Exact opening and closing dates vary from year-to-year based on the current weather and pass conditions. Be sure to check the weather forecast and the latest road conditions, closures, and active chain and traction laws at CDOT before hitting the roads in Colorado.