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U.S. Highway 6 - Clear Creek Canyon (West)

U.S. 6 West
Beautiful Clear Creek Canyon offers a scenic alternative to Interstate 70 between Golden and Idaho Springs. Passing through a narrow canyon with a series of tunnels, U.S. 6 offers dramatic scenery within an hour's drive of downtown Denver. Photo taken 08/29/04.
Tunnel #1 comes into view almost immediately after entering the canyon. Photo taken 08/29/04.
Offering dramatic views, Clear Creek Canyon seldom disappoints with stunning scenery. Due to limited pull out and parking areas, much of the scenery must be enjoyed in a car. Photo taken 08/29/04.

Sheer rock faces such as this one are the hallmark of Clear Creek Canyon. U.S. 6 remains close to the river, but the rock cliffs come close to the road. This may raise the chance of rock slides at any time. Photo taken 08/29/04.
This is the first tunnel along westbound U.S. 6 in Clear Creek Canyon, the first of five tunnels that help U.S. 6 pass through the narrow canyon. (Originally there were six tunnels, but Tunnel #4 near the intersection with Colorado 119 is no longer in use and was barricaded from use in 1998 when the intersection was reconfigured.) Photo taken 08/29/04.
According to Matt Salek's U.S. 6 Colorado page, the Clear Creek Canyon route of U.S. 6 was not certified as part of U.S. 6 until June 1952. Prior to that, U.S. 6 and U.S. 40 shared the alignment via Mount Vernon between Idaho Springs and Golden. However, the canyon was first planned for a new road in 1933, and it took nearly 20 years to design and construct the route. Given the dramatic nature of the route, it would be easy to claim the road was delayed as a result of engineering challenges. While that is certainly true to an extent (especially considering all the tunnels on the route), U.S. 6 in Clear Creek Canyon was also the victim of politics from the governor, mayor of Denver, and highway department head. For a time, the canyon was even considered for a reservoir rather than today's highway route. But by 1952, all of the tunnels were built, and U.S. 6 was moved onto its current route. Photo taken 08/29/04.
U.S. 6 crosses Huntsmans Gulch while staying close to the toe of the slope. With limited sight distances, efforts have been made to keep the road as safe as possible. Rumble strips, delineator posts, lower speed limits, additional patrols by public safety, and other safety features help keep drivers from missing a turn on this dramatic highway. Photo taken 08/29/04.
In the distance, U.S. 6 crosses over Clear Creek via a steel girder bridge, with its substructure painted green. Photo taken 08/29/04.
On the day this photo was taken, some construction work was underway on the approach to Tunnel #2 in Clear Creek Canyon on westbound U.S. 6. Photo taken 08/29/04.
U.S. 6 crosses Clear Creek again prior to entering Tunnel #2 in Clear Creek Canyon. Most of the roadway and tunnels were built between 1937 and 1941 or between 1945 and 1952. Most construction of the highway was halted during World War II. Photo taken 08/29/04.
The highway department identifies Tunnel #2 with a small green guide sign to the right of the tunnel entrance. We were hoping to find a date stamp on the portal, but we were not able to find one. Photo taken 08/29/04.
Upon exiting Tunnel #2, Tunnel #3 comes into view. Photo taken 08/29/04.
A third tunnel, similar to Tunnel #1 and Tunnel #2, funnels traffic under yet another mountain. Photo taken 08/29/04.
Dramatic scenery continues to unfold as the highway exits Tunnel #3. Photo taken 08/29/04.
Westbound U.S. 6 approaches its junction with Colorado 119, which travels northwest to Blackhawk and Central City in Gilpin County, then turns north into Boulder County. At Nederland (Junction Colorado 72), Colorado 119 abruptly turns east, serving the city of Boulder, then follows the Diagonal Highway from there northeast to Interstate 25 east of Longmont. Photo taken 08/29/04.
U.S. 6 west will turn left at the upcoming signalized intersection, while the main lanes will turn north onto Colorado 119. This intersection was reconfigured to remove Colorado 119 from Tunnel #4, which is no longer in use. Photo taken 08/29/04.
This reassurance shield is posted on westbound U.S. 6 after the Colorado 119 intersection. This section of roadway is on a brief viaduct. Photo taken 08/29/04.
U.S. 6 leaves Jefferson County and enters Clear Creek County. Photo taken 08/29/04.
U.S. 6 west passes through Tunnel #6. Photo taken 08/29/04.
Here is a view of Clear Creek itself from near Tunnel #6. Photo taken 08/29/04.
U.S. 6 and U.S. 40 meet again west of Clear Creek Canyon. U.S. 40 is basically a frontage road for Interstate 70 between Exit 244 (Junction U.S. 6) and Exit 252 (Junction Colorado 74/Evergreen Parkway). U.S. 40 remains on the original road, while the freeway follows a newer alignment. From here, U.S. 6 and U.S. 40 merge westbound, and they will both join Interstate 70 through Idaho Springs until splitting at Empire (Exit 232). Photo taken 08/29/04.
After merging with U.S. 40 west, the two routes ascend onto Interstate 70 westbound via this onramp. Photo taken 08/29/04.
The interchange (Exit 244) was built into a rock wall, offering very limited space for a traditional interchange. As a result, U.S. 6-40 westbound merge onto Interstate 70 westbound from the left side. Photo taken 08/29/04.
This left merge is very difficult due to blind curves and trucks and cars coming down the hill at a high rate of speed. Accelerate quickly to freeway speeds when entering Interstate 70 here. U.S. 6-40 eastbound remain with Interstate 70 through Idaho Springs; at Empire, U.S. 40 veers toward the northwest, while U.S. 6 remains close to Interstate 70 all the way to Green River, Utah. Photo taken 08/29/04.

Page Updated June 25, 2005.