Interstate 70 - Summit County (Westbound)

Interstate 70 West
Westbound Interstate 70 exits the Eisenhower Tunnel, and an incredible view of the valleys come into view. During winter months, watch for ice or snow upon exiting the tunnel, since the weather conditions have not been visible while in the tunnel. At any time, enjoy the view as Interstate 70 follows Straight Creek down toward Silverthorne and Dillon. Welcome to Summit County! Photo taken 02/02/02.
Upon exiting the tunnel, Interstate 70 is now in world-famous Summit County, home to multiple world-class ski resorts (including Arapahoe Basin and Keystone via U.S. 6/Loveland Pass Road, Breckenridge via southbound Colorado 9, and Copper Mountain via Colorado 91 south at Exit 195) and home to 23,548 people in the 2000 census. Summit County is located close to Grand County and Eagle County, both of which feature their own high profile ski resorts (such as Winter Park and Vail, respectively). On trips to the ski resorts, pay attention to the weather. Winter driving conditions can exist on Interstate 70 and the local roads at any time of the year, even during the summer! Speaking of summer, hiking, river rafting, and camping are among the many activities to be found in Colorado's high country. Much of the national forest has trails to various points of interest. Photo taken 11/08/03.
This suite of photos shows the unparalleled, stunning vistas available along westbound Interstate 70 after leaving the Eisenhower Tunnel as the freeway follows Straight Creek in a southwesterly direction toward Dillon and Silverthorne. The creek runs alongside the freeway on the south side. To the north, Interstate 70 passes by Coon Hill and Ptarmigan Peak. A few runaway truck ramps are positioned at set intervals. Most of these photos were taken 11/08/03, but the first and third photos were taken 02/02/02.

Interstate 70 West
Interstate 70 west approaches Exit 205, U.S. 6 East to Loveland Pass and Colorado 9 north to Silverthorne, Kremmling (U.S. 40), and Steamboat Springs. At this interchange, truck traffic forced to use U.S. 6 will be allowed to rejoin Interstate 70. The town of Dillon is located to the south of this interchange, which was founded at the crossroads of three major rivers (Blue, Ten Mile, and Snake Rivers) and incorporated as a town on January 26, 1883. Approximately 750 people live in Dillon year-round. The area changed dramatically in 1963, when the Lake Dillon reservoir was completed. To the north, the town of Silverthorne, known as the gateway to Summit County, was incorporated much later than Dillon (on September 5, 1967). As of 2003, approximately 3,520 people were estimated to live in Silverthorne (per Official Frequently Asked Questions). The Silverthorne Factory Stores are located adjacent to the freeway and are one of the attractions of this community north of Interstate 70 along Colorado 9. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Interstate 70/U.S. 6 West and Colorado 9 South
Interstate 70 west and Colorado 9 south are cosigned ... but what happened to U.S. 6? This is a typical issue with silently merged U.S. routes in Colorado. See also U.S. 50 in Mesa County and U.S. 87 throughout Colorado on how these routes simply disappear. If you are trying to follow a U.S. highway that gets near any Interstate highway in Colorado, carry a good map. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 approaches Exit 203, Colorado 9 South/"Frisco Business Loop" West, 1.25 miles. This is a major interchange, since Colorado 9 offers a connection to the Breckenridge ski resort and a connection to U.S. 285 at Fairplay via Hoosier Pass. To the south of the freeway, look for the expansive Dillon Reservoir. Biking and hiking paths line the large lake, which is fed by Tenmile Creek from the west, Blue River from the south, Snake River from the west, and Straight Creek from the east. The Blue River continues north, parallel to Colorado 9, toward a merge with the Colorado River near Kremmling. Photos taken 11/08/03 and 10/18/04.
Geographically, Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 spend a great deal of time combing through high altitude mountain valleys as the freeway crosses Summit County. Surrounded on all sides by mountains and tall ridges, Interstate 70 offers scenic views in all directions. To the west of Frisco and Breckenridge, peaks rise as to elevations in excess of 12,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level. These peaks constitute the mammoth Ten-Mile Range. To the east and south of this area is the Continental Divide, which rises sharply above the surrounding valley. Colorado 9 travels south over the Hoosier Pass 11,539 feet above sea level near the town of Blue River. Interstate 70 just came down from the Eisenhower Tunnel, which bores under the Continental Divide at an elevation of 11,013 feet above sea level. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Although not officially designated as Business Loop I-70 because Main Street through Frisco is not a state highway, this sign indicates that the locally maintained route is the "Frisco Business Loop," which implies that motorists may exit and return to Interstate 70/U.S. 6 westbound via the unsigned loop. The business loop returns to Interstate 70 at Exit 203, but motorists must be careful to watch for signage to downtown Frisco, or else they'll end up on Colorado 9 south to Breckenridge. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Follow Colorado 9 south to the town of Breckenridge, which is home to one of Colorado's most popular ski resorts. Touted as a "quaint Victorian town in the heart of the Colorado Rockies" by the official visitors site, Breckenridge is situated at an elevation of 9,603 feet above sea level on 5.3 square miles. The town was founded in 1859 and is home to approximately 3,100 year-round residents. However, seasonal population changes with the influx of skiers annually. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 reaches Exit 203, Colorado 9 South and Westbound "Frisco Business Loop." Colorado 9 heads south to Breckenridge and Fairplay in Park County. The business route serves the town of Frisco. A gateway community to Breckenridge and Copper Mountain to the southwest, Frisco is situated in the shadow of Tenmile Peak along Tenmile Creek. According to its official webpage, Frisco is home to 6,906 people, of whom 2,697 are year-round residents and the remaining 4,209 people are second homeowners. The town is situated at 9,100 feet above sea level. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Interstate 70/U.S. 6 West
While Interstate 70 bypasses Frisco to the north and west, Business Loop I-70 follows Colorado 9 (Summit Boulevard) south to Main Street, then takes Main Street west to Interstate 70. There are no shields for the business route along Summit Boulevard or Main Street, so use a map to travel into Frisco and then return to Interstate 70 at Exit 201. Main Street is old U.S. 6, but it is no longer state maintained. Photo taken 10/18/04.
The next exit along westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 is Exit 201, Main Street/Frisco Business Loop. The tall slopes of Tenmile Peak dominate the view along westbound Interstate 70. The freeway will skirt the mountain to the north by following Tenmile Creek southwest toward Wheeler Junction (where Interstate 70 meets Colorado 91). Photo taken 10/18/04.
Westbound Interstate 70/U.S. 6 reaches Exit 201, the western entrance to Frisco and the west end of the "Frisco Business Loop." A redevelopment project is currently underway (as of January 2006) to redevelop and add streetscape elements to West Main Street between Interstate 70 and downtown Frisco. Photo taken 10/18/04.
The next exit along westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 is Exit 198, Officers Gulch Road. Use this exit to reach recreational access to Officers Gulch Pond, which is located west of the freeway. Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 travel nearly due south from Frisco to the junction with Colorado 91. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Between the Officers Gulch exit and the Colorado 91 interchange at Wheeler Junction, a scenic stop (with no facilities) is located around Milepost 196. Photo taken 10/18/04.
The next exit along westbound is Colorado 91 south to Copper Mountain and Leadville. Colorado 91 connects Interstate 70/U.S. 6 with U.S. 24 in Leadville. While not a town or city, Copper Mountain is a world class ski resort found just south of Interstate 70. Aside from Vail, Copper Mountain is one of the most readily visible resorts to be found directly along Interstate 70. From the freeway, several of the ski runs that course down Copper Mountain are visible. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Now reaching the scenic area, Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 continue southwest toward the junction with Colorado 91 near Copper Mountain Ski Resort and Wheeler Junction in the heart of the Arapaho National Forest. There are no services available at the scenic area pull out, but there are services at the Colorado 91 exit. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Use Colorado 91 south to Copper Mountain Ski Area. This resort is located south of Interstate 70 and west of Colorado 91. Follow Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 west to Vail, the next major ski resort on westbound. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Variable message signs such as this one provide motorists information on the condition of the mountain highways. Conditions can change at any time, and each mountain and valley may feature different weather conditions, including high winds, ice, snow, blowing snow, sleet, fog, icy fog, falling rocks, landslides, and rain. In addition, these signs can warn of traffic conditions due to accidents and heavy traffic volume. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 reaches Exit 195, Colorado 91/Wheeler Junction, then south to Copper Mountain Ski Resort, Fremont Pass (elevation 11,318 feet), Climax, and U.S. 24 near Leadville. Prior to the completion of U.S. 6 over Vail Pass in the early 1940s, U.S. 6 used to turn southwest via Colorado 91 to Leadville, then turned northwest via U.S. 24 to Minturn and Vail. When the Vail Pass highway was completed, U.S. 6 was rerouted onto this new road, and that road became part of Interstate 70 as the freeway was planned and built between the 1950s and 1990s. As a result, Interstate 70 continues to have more high summits to cross, and after the Colorado 91 interchange, Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 begin to ascend to its second highest elevation, at Vail Pass. Photo taken 10/18/04.
The carved ski trails of Copper Mountain dominate the view ahead as Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 turn from due south to west. Interstate 70 follows West Tenmile Creek upstream until it reaches Vail Pass at an elevation of 10,666 feet above sea level. While lower than the Eisenhower Tunnel summit near Loveland Pass, Vail Pass is still an extremely high summit for any Interstate highway. And this time, Interstate 70 does not get to burrow under the pass via a tunnel. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Now ascending to Vail Pass, westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 waste no time in beginning to climb up the next mountain. This mileage sign provides the distance to Vail (19 miles), Glenwood Springs (79 miles), and Grand Junction (158 miles). Photo taken 10/18/04.
The beauty of Vail Pass is made clear as Interstate 70 continues to climb its eastern slope. Westbound lanes ascend the slope much more quickly than the eastbound lanes descend from the pass. During inclement weather conditions, this section of Interstate 70 can be among the more difficult routes due to the lack of exits and services until reaching Vail. A Colorado Department of Transportation building is located on top of the pass, and this building services the road during inclement weather conditions. Photo taken 10/18/04.
On this day, rain had made the roadway slick, but not icy. On the route to the top of Vail Pass, the freeway has several minor turns and twists, but none are sharp enough to warrant a reduction in the speed limit. Photo taken 10/18/04.
The sun lit the pine trees after the rain showers had passed through Vail Pass. The highway ascends to a point near the alpine tree line, but the freeway does not go above the tree line. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Here is a view of westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 as they follow West Tenmile Creek on the ascent to the Shrine Pass Road exit and Vail Pass. Photo taken 10/18/04.
The next exit along westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 is Exit 190, Shrine Pass Road and Rest Area. This exit is only signed for the rest area, but Shrine Pass Road is a beautiful back way to get to U.S. 24 in Red Cliff. Shrine Pass Road changes into Eagle County Route 16, Turkey Creek Road upon crossing into Eagle County at Shrine Pass (elevation 11,089 feet above sea level). Photo taken 10/18/04.
Westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 reaches Exit 190, Shrine Pass Road/Rest Area. Shrine Pass Road leads west to Shrine Pass, elevation 11,089 feet, and it becomes Turkey Creek Road upon entering Eagle County. Turkey Creek Road connects to U.S. 24 at Red Cliff. This route avoids Vail entirely; it is possible (but not confirmed) that this is an old alignment of U.S. 6. Photo taken 10/18/04.
An Eagle County welcome sign is posted immediately after the Shrine Pass Road offramp. Interstate 70 continues west to Vail Pass and the town of Vail in Eagle County. Photo taken 10/18/04.
At the top of the exit ramp from westbound Interstate 70/U.S. 6 to Exit 190/Shrine Pass Road are these signs, pointing the way to Shrine Pass Road and the rest area. This interchange marks the height of Vail Pass (Elevation 10,666 feet) and the Summit-Eagle County Line. Photo taken 11/08/03.

Page Updated January 22, 2006.

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