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Driving from Denver to Telluride Advice~ options needed

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

Driving from Denver to Telluride on Sat. 12/27.  We will have a AWD with snow tires.  Looking for 2  route options for shortest duration.

 

Option 1- Bluebird day predicted for entire route.  

Option 2- May have some weather along route.

 

Leaving early so no night driving.  Comfortable driving in snow but not looking for excitement.  As weather can change, are there any reliable apps that I can use to monitor road conditions.  Also, I'd like to avoid the traffic on the front range because I'm sure it can get congested on that day, but we might not have an option.  Just looking for any friendly advice.  thanks in advance

post #2 of 28

How early can you leave Denver?   If not really, really early you'll want to go the 285 route to avoid traffic.   If dry, I usually go I-70 to Carbondale over Cottonwood Pass, otherwise I'll go I-70 to Grand Junction.   But, on the Sat after xmas 285 is almost certainly the way to go.  

post #3 of 28
I disagree I70 to grand junction is always the way to go in the winter time.
post #4 of 28
I'd definitely take 285, but I also have zero aversion to winter driving and I like routes that have a bit of adventure / memories potential.

What's the driving time difference as that would be relevant to the OP?
post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post

I'd definitely take 285, but I also have zero aversion to winter driving and I like routes that have a bit of adventure / memories potential.

What's the driving time difference as that would be relevant to the OP?

 

It's about the same. It's farther to go I-70, by 30 or 40 miles I think, but you can go faster. I have driven this route quite a few times in winter, and usually we go I-70, because it's easier driving, but the decision is pretty much always weather-driven. If weather is bad up north, you can even take I-25 down south and go in that way, on 50 most of the way. That's 45 min or so longer, but if I-70 is closed, or there is a blizzard in South Park, sometimes that works better.

post #6 of 28

Colorado Department of Transportation ("CDOT") runs a very informative website at www.cotrip.org. It will give you updated road condition and traffic information in real time, including numerous live webcam images of various sections of important roads. They also have an Android and iPhone app. 

 

Typically, too, most local radio stations in Colorado will keep you fairly well-informed, at least of any real problems like road closures and such.

 

Finally, it's always a good idea to keep your gas tank fairly full and to pack some energy-dense food (I keep a jar of almond butter and graham crackers and some good chocolate--will keep you going in any emergency!) and water, along with enough clothes and/or blankets/sleeping bags to keep you warm if you do get "caught out" on Colorado's roads in the winter. I thought I was going to spend the night on Vail Pass just a week ago or so, when they closed it for accidents during a blizzard. Turned out that the road re-opened in about an hour, but I was prepared either way.

 

Enjoy the drive! (And the skiing. Remember that good skiing and good roads don't often go together!)

 

Best regards,

Bob

post #7 of 28

^^ Yeah, I forgot to answer that one, thanks Bob. CDOT Mobile is the app, and there is also one called GoI70, which I think is a little more up-to-date. But I've found that the fastest way to get good info is sign up for mobile alerts on CDOT, or follow it on twitter. Sometimes the mobile app is a little behind. (ie, I'll be sitting still on the approach to the tunnel when the app says my speed is 45 mph! oh really!)

post #8 of 28

Tball, Cottonwood pass doesn't go to Carbondale.  I suspect you meant I70 to Glenwood Springs to Carbondale over McClure Pass to Delta.  Might save a few minutes, but it's not a great winter route.

 

Cottonwood Pass is a dirt road on the west side the mountains and goes from Buena Vista to somewhere between Gunnison and Crested Butte.  I'm not sure it is open in the winter...

 

Mike

post #9 of 28

Thanks Mike, yep I meant McClure Pass from Carbondale.  I think that's the best combo of scenery and travel time, but only if the roads are bone dry, and only during the daylight.

 

I still say avoiding I-70 is key for the OP.   The Sat after xmas is probably the biggest traffic day of the year heading west on I-70.   It's not worth the risk of a 5 hour drive Denver to Vail, so just avoid I-70 altogether.

post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by tball View Post
 

Thanks Mike, yep I meant McClure Pass from Carbondale.  I think that's the best combo of scenery and travel time, but only if the roads are bone dry, and only during the daylight.

 

I still say avoiding I-70 is key for the OP.   The Sat after xmas is probably the biggest traffic day of the year heading west on I-70.   It's not worth the risk of a 5 hour drive Denver to Vail, so just avoid I-70 altogether.

Really? This doesn't sound quite right, but it still is not recommended to leave between 7 and 11.. Westbound traffic is usually spread out a lot more than eastbound. In any case, I still say the decision is weather-dependent. 

post #11 of 28

Spend a night/day skiing near Grand Junction, then early morning drive to T!

post #12 of 28

Here is another (new) resource for I70 weather: https://opensnow.com/dailysnow/i70

post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 

WOW!  Thanks for the tips!  You all do not disappoint.  Exactly what I was looking for.  Gives me a lot of options, and will be able to make the call the morning of.  Flight lands at 9AM, figure 10AM depart best case.  We have an entire week in Telluride, so if we have to split the drive due to weather, so be it.  Will probably pick up ski rentals on the way out of town to avoid resort prices if anyone has suggestions for best value.  We are all good with the basic sport packages and boots, no advanced skiers here.  Looking at Christy Sports in Lakewood heading out of town, reasonable weekly rentals and kids rent free.  We'd love any advice on "non-resort" activities near Telluride since we will have a good vehicle.  My kids absolutely love everything about the skiing, mountains and nature, go figure we live in south tx.

post #14 of 28

Christy's in Lakewood off I-70 should be good for rentals, and they have a shop in T-ride to help you if you have any trouble.  That's a great stop for lunch too, as there is a Whole Foods, Qdoba, Toyko Joes, and the Blue Sky Cafe is a great breakfast/lunch cafe if you want to sit down.  By then, I-70 traffic should have cleared (but check to make sure!) so make your decision of route based primarily on weather, as sebrown said.

 

There is one other important criteria in route selection that that wasn't mentioned... a little surprising given the quality of posters here:  If you have any South Park fans, the 285 route is the way to go! :)

 

Take your kids to the hot springs pool in Ouray!   I have vivid memories of when my parents took me there as a kid.   It seemed like it was the biggest swimming pool in the world, and toasty warm in the middle of the winter.  Fun times.

post #15 of 28

Ouray is worth a visit!

post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post
 

Tball, Cottonwood pass doesn't go to Carbondale.  I suspect you meant I70 to Glenwood Springs to Carbondale over McClure Pass to Delta.  Might save a few minutes, but it's not a great winter route.

 

Cottonwood Pass is a dirt road on the west side the mountains and goes from Buena Vista to somewhere between Gunnison and Crested Butte.  I'm not sure it is open in the winter...

 

Mike

 

It is not.

post #17 of 28

Recommendation would be I-70 for both options.

 

As long as the drive is not happening on a weekend morning, I-70 should be faster and easier.

 

A little less than half of the drive, Glenwood to Ridgway, is in high desert and will have adverse weather VERY rarely.  You get to stay on expressway with 65 mph+ speed limits until S of Montrose. 

 

This is a long damn drive either way, but the I-70 route requires less active driving.

 

US 285 is prettier, but it is exhausting doing Denver to Durango- and from there you still have 2 1/2 hours to go (about 9 all told).  Most of this drive is rural highway with 2 lanes (1 each way) and no shoulder.  Most of this drive is in the snow zone. The road in South Park and San Luis Valley doesn't stay snowpacked unless the storm just recently passed, but it is very easy for winds to create white-outs by blowing snow in the valleys across the road.

 

You have several more passes to negotiate going this way. Many are not really that big of a deal, but you should expect Wolf to be snowpacked and a bit hairy. If you have any qualms about driving mountain passes in winter (with a rental car?) go the other way.  

 

If a meaningful part of your trip is putting eyes on other ski areas, I-70 is the way to go. You drive past/through Loveland, Copper, Vail, Beaver Creek, and you can glimpse Breck from the tunnel downgrade, and Keystone in your rearview around Silverthorne.

 

The US 285 route, you will drive by Wolf Creek, and Hesperus, and nobody cares about these places.

post #18 of 28
^^^^ That's the long way down 285.   Instead cut over on 50 over Monarch Pass through Gunnison to Montrose then South.  No Wolf Creek that way.
post #19 of 28
I guess that makes more sense. Not much more, but...
post #20 of 28
Thread Starter 

greetings!  and merry christmas.   based on all the snow already and more today I think I-70 to grand junction- Take US-50 EUS-550 SCO-62 W to Telluride will be our safest route.  Any specific passes that I should keep on eye on?  All the comments have been very helpful, I appreciate them all!  Safe travels.

post #21 of 28
There will be a lot of traffic coming out of Denver this morning. Might wait till afternoon?
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by texastiger View Post
 

greetings!  and merry christmas.   based on all the snow already and more today I think I-70 to grand junction- Take US-50 EUS-550 SCO-62 W to Telluride will be our safest route.  Any specific passes that I should keep on eye on?  All the comments have been very helpful, I appreciate them all!  Safe travels.

 

 

Merry Christmas!   Looks like a glorious day for a drive across the high country!  Hope you brought your sunglasses with the sun and all the snow.   Traffic doesn't look too bad coming out of Denver at 10am either, hopefully it wasn't too bad earlier?

 

Yep, that's the route.  In case you are checking this or getting email notifications, there is one little shortcut around Grand Junction that will save you a few minutes.  Take 141 from I-70 to 50:

 

 

Save travels! 

post #23 of 28

285 / 50 to Telluride in the winter can be sketchy.  Almost as bad as driving 80 through WY when there is weather.  Not a lot of services if you have a break down.

 

70 / 50 to Telluride is the better bet in the winter.  Windy and white out conditions are not as common.  Plenty of services the whole way.  Denver to Vail can suck if you hit it on the wrong day but the rest of the trip is usually butter.

 

About 45 minutes difference between the 2 routes on a good day.  Bad day on 285 and you might not ever get there.  70 will get you there on a bad weather day but t will be dark-30 when you arrive.

 

I have family in Montrose and business interests throughout Southern CO.  I have driven there 3-6 times a year for the last 10 years.

post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by texastiger View Post
 

greetings!  and merry christmas.   based on all the snow already and more today I think I-70 to grand junction- Take US-50 EUS-550 SCO-62 W to Telluride will be our safest route.  Any specific passes that I should keep on eye on?  All the comments have been very helpful, I appreciate them all!  Safe travels.

How was it? What a beautiful day for a drive. I was going the other way, Silverton to Denver, and I did the Monarch Pass-285 route, because the I-70 route would have put us right into eastbound skier traffic in Summit Co at day's end. It went great except for the plow going 20 mph from Ridgway to (almost) Montrose. FML. There wasn't even any snow on the road, really. FML.

post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 

Travel Report-  what a beautiful and easy drive!  Perfect Weather! 7 hrs total- 3 quick stops.  Left Denver about 12pm-ish on I-70 W.  All traffic reports said heavy traffic and everyone we met told us the traffic would be terrible, so we were mentally prepared to sit and wait.  People-  that is not traffic.  We never stopped and were slow and go for about an hour at the reported Idaho Springs trouble spot.  I'm from Houston, and heavy traffic to me means you are not going to move for several hours.  I had trouble keeping up with the 65-70 mph speed limit.  Roads were dry and clear and after Vail no traffic .  From Palisade- Ridgeway the road was dry and clear.  We we were driving this part at dusk to dark so I was a little nervous, but all was great!  Ridgeway to Telluride was nice and enough travelers that we could follow drive lines.  I will take this route on the way home as well.   Anyone not used to mountain driving should take this route.  Thanks and Happy New Year!

post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by texastiger View Post

Travel Report-  what a beautiful and easy drive!  Perfect Weather! 7 hrs total- 3 quick stops.  Left Denver about 12pm-ish on I-70 W.  All traffic reports said heavy traffic and everyone we met told us the traffic would be terrible, so we were mentally prepared to sit and wait.  People-  that is not traffic.  We never stopped and were slow and go for about an hour at the reported Idaho Springs trouble spot.  I'm from Houston, and heavy traffic to me means you are not going to move for several hours.  I had trouble keeping up with the 65-70 mph speed limit.  Roads were dry and clear and after Vail no traffic .  From Palisade- Ridgeway the road was dry and clear.  We we were driving this part at dusk to dark so I was a little nervous, but all was great!  Ridgeway to Telluride was nice and enough travelers that we could follow drive lines.  I will take this route on the way home as well.   Anyone not used to mountain driving should take this route.  Thanks and Happy New Year!

Have a great time in Telluride, one of my favorite mountains!
post #27 of 28
When are you driving back?

Tunnel traffic, could make Houston look like paradise.
post #28 of 28
I wanted to add that I have been using the Waze app on my iphone (they also have it for Andriod) and have found it very helpful for looking ahead at traffic or weather
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