Colorado’s Highest Highways

Posted on: June 7th, 2013 by Accurate Auto Body Repair No Comments

Auto body repair Colorado, Aurora collision, Hail damage Denver

It’s another Colorado summer, and few places in the state get hotter than the cities. So why not head to the mountains for some cool, fresh air? We are lucky to live in a state where it can be 90 degrees in Denver and 40 degrees 100 miles west (and 9,000 feet higher). Take advantage of Colorado’s highest highways, most of which are only open in the summer and boast views and elevations unlike anywhere else in the contiguous United States.

Check out Independence Pass, a spectacular drive along the Continental Drive. This scenic, curvy route from the Twin Lakes to Aspen reaches 12,095 feet, and it provides stunning views of 14ers like Mount Massive, La Plata Peak, and Colorado’s tallest, Mount Elbert. From Denver, take I-70 west past Frisco, turn south on CO-91 near Copper Mountain, merge onto US-24 South, turn west onto CO-82 near the Twin Lakes, and start climbing. Independence Pass and the further south Cottonwood Pass are the two highest improved highways, open to all vehicles throughout the summer. Though Cottonwood Pass climbs to 12,126 feet, it remains surrounded by forest on either side—San Isabel National Forest to the east, and Gunnison National Forest to the west. This Continental Divide drive is worth the views, but avoid it during storm season: in July 2002, 4 inches of rain in an hour caused a mudslide that buried parts of the pass in 15 feet of debris! (For this pass, continue south on US-24, then take County Road 306 west at Buena Vista).

The Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous through-highway in North America. Also only open for the summer, it runs through Rocky Mountain National Park, going from its lush evergreen base to its open tundra plateau. Driving it requires paid access to the park ($20 per vehicle per week), but if you’ve never been there, this route from Estes Park to Grand Lake is a gorgeous review of all the park has to offer. Take US-36 northwest through Boulder and Estes Park, and then continue onto US-34 W into the heart of the Rockies!

Monarch Pass (11,312’) and Loveland Pass (11,990’) both try to stay open all year for all vehicles. Loveland Pass is more popular but more treacherous; while both passes are safe and scenic for most of the summer, wintertime drivers and backcountry skiers should be much more cautious. For Loveland Pass, also on the Continental Divide, take I-70 west, then turn southwest on US-6 before Eisenhower Tunnel

Finally, don’t miss Colorado’s two highest highways, whose only destination is up: State Highway 5 up Mount Evans, and the Pikes Peak Highway. Both go above 14,000 feet and include the best views Colorado has to offer. Pikes Peak Highway is a 19-mile toll road that goes right to the summit (as does the always-fun Pikes Peak Cog Railway). Take I-25 south to Colorado Springs, then take US-24 west to the mountain. The Mount Evans Road is the highest paved road in North America! It stops a little below the summit, where you can take a very short hike to the summit. Take I-70 west from Denver, turn south onto CO-103 at Idaho Springs, then you’ll find the Mount Evans Road (State Highway 5 south) a little past Echo Lake Park.

How to use this Information

Bring the whole family on one of these spectacular road adventures this summer! Make it a day trip or build it into a longer Rocky Mountain vacation. Mountain driving can put a strain on your car; bring it into Accurate, your Colorado auto body repair shop, to get it tuned. We wish you safe travels, but if you suffer collision or hail damage, we are your Denver and Aurora auto body repair solution.

Tell us how your trip went, or share any other great drives around Colorful Colorado!

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