CDOT encourages drivers to avoid mountains as fires close highways on Western Slope |

CDOT encourages drivers to avoid mountains as fires close highways on Western Slope

DILLON — Active wildfires have closed down sections of highways throughout the state, and the Colorado Department of Transportation is asking motorists to plan ahead in dealing with alternate routes and delays.

State highways have been closed in a number of locations due to wildfires burning near roadways, and officials stress that more roads could close suddenly given the rapidly changing fire conditions. Drivers are being asked to avoid fire areas and to be prepared by checking before traveling, having detour maps handy and packing emergency supplies.

When possible, officials are urging visitors to avoid the mountains entirely. 

“We are really encouraging people not to head out to the mountains right now because of the wildfire situation,” said Elise Thatcher, CDOT’s communications manager for northwest Colorado. “It’s a very active and dynamic environment right now. It’s like having a winter storm right now. Closures could happen at any time depending on fire behavior.”

Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon is closed between mile point 116 at Glenwood Springs and mile point 140 at Gypsum due to the Grizzly Greek Fire. The closure began Aug. 10, and there is no estimated timeline for reopening the road.

Colorado Highway 14 is closed west of Cameron Pass and Walden for eastbound traffic, and at Rustic and County Road 69 for westbound traffic due to the Cameron Peak Fire. Colorado Highway 139 at Douglass Pass is closed north of Loma due to the Pine Gulch Fire.

The Williams Fork Fire north of I-70 in Grand County is burning near U.S. Highway 40 and Colorado Highway 9 but isn’t impacting state highways at this time.

A detour route for drivers heading between the Denver and Grand Junction areas.
Photo from Colorado Department of Transportation

All of the closures will last until wildfire activity dies down in those respective areas. And while there have been notable thoroughfare closures in the past due to fires — U.S. Highway 550 during the 416 Fire in 2018 and U.S. Highway 24 during the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 — its uncommon for them to last this long.

“We have had closures in the past, but certainly closing an interstate for this amount of time is very unusual for a wildfire or for any reason,” Thatcher said.

Thatcher said cross-country commercial vehicles that typically make their way through Colorado already have made adjustments over recent days, shifting to nearby states like Wyoming and Nebraska to avoid closures and delays.

Locals also have to find alternative routes through the Western Slope. Thatcher said CDOT is working with mapping apps to make sure the most up-to-date information is available to motorists, but in the meantime, CDOT is asking drivers to stick to recommended detours.

“Just because a mapping app is showing that things have opened up, that might not be true,” Thatcher said. “We’re working with those apps to make sure they’re updated, but we’re asking people to continue using those detour routes.”

Alternative Routes

Westbound I-70: Denver metro area motorists can travel on U.S. Highway 285 to U.S. Highway 50, and continue west to Grand Junction. Travelers on I-70 can use Colorado Highway 9 to U.S. 285 south to U.S. 50, or use Colorado Highway 91 southwest to U.S. Highway 24 to U.S. 50.

Eastbound I-70: Motorists traveling from Grand Junction can use U.S. 50 east to U.S. 285 and continue to Denver. Eastbound travelers on U.S. 50/285 can also use U.S. 24, Colorado 91 or Colorado 9 for destinations at or near Vail, Copper Mountain or Silverthorne.

Independence Pass: Colorado Highway 82 between Aspen and U.S. 24 is open with limited access and alternating traffic, controlled by flagging personnel. No commercial motor vehicles, camper trailers, recreational or similar vehicles are allowed. Drivers should expect significant delays.

Colorado Highway 14: CDOT recommends detouring north on U.S. 287 or Interstate 25 to Laramie, Wyoming, and then traveling on Wyoming Highway 230 to Walden.

Colorado Highway 139: CDOT recommends traveling on Colorado 9 or Colorado Highway 131 to access U.S. Highway 40, or to travel in reverse from northwest Colorado to points south or the recommended detour around the I-70 closure.

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