Interstate 70 - Eagle County (Westbound)


Interstate 70/U.S. 6 West
After the Shrine Pass Road interchange, westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 depart from Summit County and enter Eagle County. In addition, the national forest changes from Arapaho to White River National Forest. Eagle County encompasses 1,694 square miles and is home to an estimated 46,927 people as of 2003. This represents an increase from the 2000 Census, which lists the Eagle County population at 41,659 people. The area continues to grow as more people relocate to an area famous for its ski resorts, outdoor recreation, and accessibility to metropolitan Denver afforded by Interstate 70. Photo taken 10/18/04.
This yellow advisory sign warns of two runaway truck ramps, which means that the long ascent to Vail Pass is almost over. Interstate 70 continues to climb a bit more, but the Colorado Department of Transportation building that appears in the distance marks the highest point of the Vail Pass climb. Photo taken 10/18/04.
The maintenance building comes into view, and it has its own exit ramp that provides access to the facility. Only official vehicles should use this exit. Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 briefly level out on top of Vail Pass, but the descent from Vail Pass lies just ahead. Photo taken 10/18/04.
This sign acknowledges that westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 have reached the top of Vail Pass, at an elevation of 10,662 feet above sea level (10,666 feet according to the Colorado DeLorme Atlas). While not as high as the Eisenhower Tunnel summit that separates Clear Creek County from Eagle County, this summit not enclosed, and inclement weather here is common in winter months. Photo taken 10/18/04.
This variable message sign is located immediately after Exit 190/Shrine Pass Road after the Summit-Eagle County Line to warn of any weather or traffic concerns for westbound travelers as the descent from Vail Pass begins!. Photo taken 11/08/03.
The downslope from Vail Pass lasts for eight miles, and it will get much steeper than it is here before reaching the town of Vail. Interstate 70 generally travels in a northwestern direction between Exit 195 (Colorado 91) and the town of Vail. Photo taken 11/08/03.

It was snowing on top of Vail Pass at the time this picture was taken along westbound Interstate 70/U.S. 6 at Milepost 188.5. (Our 2004 photos were all washed out due to a rain storm on top of Vail Pass.) Photo taken 11/08/03.
A rarity on the Interstate highway system, Interstate 70/U.S. 6 follow a 7% grade downslope from Vail Pass. Usually Interstate Standards call for a maximum of 6% slope. A federal waiver allows Interstate 70 to have a steeper than normal slope due to the difficult engineering of this terrain. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Continuing west, Interstate 70/U.S. 6 pass by Milepost 186. The purple sign above the milepost is an adopt-a-highway marker, which is basically too small to read while cruising down a 7% slope at 65-70 miles per hour in inclement weather! Photo taken 11/08/03.
The downslope from Vail Pass follows Black Gore Creek from Vail Pass north toward Vail. As the road twists and turns down to Vail, the runaway truck ramps becomes important for vehicles with brake troubles. This sign is for the first of the two upcoming runaway truck ramps on westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Even after several miles of downslope, the grade remains at 7% for a bit longer before leveling out. In 2004, the weather continued to be nasty, turning into a downpour as we descended toward Vail. Photo taken 11/08/03.
This is the second of the two runaway truck ramps on the descent from Vail Pass to the town of Vail. Like the descent alongside Straight Creek from the Eisenhower Tunnel, Interstate 70 also has a very steep descent here. Photo taken 11/08/03.
The next three exits along westbound all serve Vail, home to the Colorado Ski Museum and Hall of Fame: Exit 180/Vail east entrance, Exit 176/Lionshead, and Exit 173/Vail west entrance. Photo taken 11/08/03.
The descent into Vail offers incredible views. The old alignment of U.S. 6, Bighorn Road, parallels Interstate 70 on the north side of the freeway. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Descending from Vail Pass, the first exit is Exit 180, the east entrance into Vail. This would be a business loop if the state maintained the route through Vail. Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 both remain on the freeway as they pass through Vail, a town with 4,805 residents as of 2003 (estimate) and 4,531 residents year-round as of the 2000 Census. We have no further coverage of Exit 180, but this is the most direct route into downtown Vail. It is also the only diamond interchange to serve Vail; the other two interchanges are served by traffic circles as part of the interchange. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Due to the loud noise of engine brakes, they are prohibited on the downslope of Interstate 70 into Vail unless they are fitted with mufflers that reduce the sound. Much of the residential development in Vail is located adjacent to the freeway out of necessity, since the town has very little space for growth in its narrow valley. There is no exit sign for Exit 176, just a gore point marker. An overhead sign would be helpful here. Look to the south of the freeway to see the sprawling Vail Mountain Ski Resort complex. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70/U.S. 6 reaches Exit 176, Lionshead/Vail Village (second Vail interchange). Note the traffic circle signage in place to warn motorists of how to navigate the roundabout placed at the bottom of the exit ramp. Photo taken 11/08/03.
A diagrammatical sign on the offramp from Interstate 70 to the Exit 176 traffic circle. Follow the circle around to the left to Lionshead and Vail Village (via the South Frontage Road) and to the right to West Vail. Vail is a very linear town, with much of the development hemmed in by the freeway on the north side and the mountain on the south side. Photo taken 10/18/04.
The next exit along westbound Interstate 70/U.S. 6 is Exit 173, the west entrance to Vail, one mile. Vail is one of the most popular ski resorts in Colorado, and it is situated right next to Interstate 70, thus providing some of the best freeway access of any of the major resorts. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70/U.S. 6 reaches Exit 173, the west entrance into Vail. This would be a business loop if the route were state maintained. As the freeway prepares to leave Vail and travel west through Dowds Junction to the community of Avon, note that the posted freeway speed limit between Exits 173 and 167 drops to 60 miles per hour due to the preponderance of sharp curves. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Exit 173, the final Vail interchange, also features a traffic circle just like Exit 176 (Vail Village/Lionshead). Turn right onto Chamonix Road and left to connect to the South Frontage Road. The South Frontage Road travels east back to Lionshead and west alongside Interstate 70. Neither frontage road goes much farther west; use Interstate 70 west to connect to U.S. 24 and the rest of Eagle County. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Now leaving world-famous Vail, Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 briefly turn southwest until reaching Dowds Junction, where U.S. 24 joins the fray. U.S. 24, a major east-west highway that extends from here east to the Detroit metropolitan area, ends at this interchange, Exit 171. Reaching Interstate 70 for the first time since Limon, U.S. 24 finally reaches its western terminus. Between Limon and Dowds Junction (Minturn), Interstate 70 passes through Denver and Idaho Springs, while U.S. 24 connects with Leadville, Woodland Park, and Colorado Springs. At one time, U.S. 24 continued west along with U.S. 6 all the way to Grand Junction, but it was curtailed to this point in 1976. Utah may have planned on an extension of U.S. 24 west; its Utah Highway 24 might have been numerically connected in some way ... or possibly not. Photo taken 11/08/03.
This rock-cut, one of many to be found along Interstate 70 as it travels through the Colorado Rockies, is found along westbound as the freeway approaches Exit 171. Much rock and earth was moved to make way for four freeway lanes of traffic along much of Interstate 70 as it passes through these mountains; the greatest engineering triumph of all Interstate highways may well be Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, which is profiled on the Garfield County page. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70/U.S. 6 reaches U.S. 24 east (south) to Minturn, Gilman, Red Cliff, Tennessee Pass (elevation 10,424 feet), and Leadville. In addition, U.S. 6 breaks off again from Interstate 70, this time to follow the original alignment between here and Exit 140 near Gypsum. To follow U.S. 6 westbound through the rest of Eagle County is relatively easy, since there are ample signs to point the way. However, eastbound U.S. 6 travelers had better know that U.S. 6 merges onto Interstate 70 east, or else those travelers will be following U.S. 24 south to Leadville. Photo taken 11/08/03.
The ramp that connects Interstate 70 to U.S. 6 and U.S. 24 is a loop ramp. Upon reaching the base of the ramp, turn left to follow U.S. 6 west to Avon and Eagle. Turn right to follow U.S. 24 southeast to Leadville, Red Cliff, and Buena Vista. Black Gore Creek, which has followed Interstate 70 from Vail Pass down through the town of Vail, merges into the Eagle River. From here, Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 follow the Eagle River west past Avon, Edwards, and Eagle until the Eagle River flows into the Colorado River. Photos taken 10/18/04.
Interstate 70 West
The next exit along westbound is Exit 169, U.S. 6 (no access from eastbound or back onto westbound from this ramp). We don't have that exit photographed yet. U.S. 6 heads west into Avon, then onward to Edwards and Wolcott. It heads east back toward the U.S. 24 interchange. Following Exit 169, the subsequent exit is Exit 167, William J. Post Boulevard. According to Colorado Highways (Matt Salek), this was unsigned Business Spur I-70 until 1999, when it was decommissioned. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70 reaches Exit 167, William J. Post Boulevard (Former Business Spur I-70) in Avon. Note the traffic circle sign located along the offramp on the side. Many Eagle County communities (such as Vail) have these kinds of traffic circles rather than traffic lights that act as gateways into each community area. Avon is adjacent to another major ski resort (Beaver Creek). As of the 2000 Census, 5,561 people lived in Avon, and that number swelled to 6,727 people by 2003, according to an Eagle County population estimate. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Now on the offramp to Avon, another traffic circle sign shows a left turn follows Avon Road south into the town of Avon and a right turn follows Nottingham Road briefly for local access before that road ends. Avon Road is known as William J. Post Boulevard, and this short road connects to U.S. 6 in downtown Avon, the "Heart of the Valley" and home to the Beaver Creek Ski Area. William J. Post Boulevard is notable for having no fewer than five traffic circles on it: two at the Interstate 70 interchange, one at Fawcett Road, one at Beaver Creek Boulevard/Yoder Road, and a final one at U.S. 6. These roundabouts generally replaced previously signalized or stop sign intersections, and they were opened in 1997. For more information and a diagram, visit Avon Roundabouts from TeachAmerica, a site that hosts information from the National Roundabout Conference. Photo taken 10/18/04.
Continuing west, Interstate 70 leaves the town of Avon. The next exit (Exit 163, Junction Business Spur I-70) serves a rest area and the town of Edwards. Note this California-style exit sign, with the exit number part of the guide sign rather than shown on a separate tab. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70 approaches Exit 163, Junction Business Spur I-70 south to the town of Edwards and the Rest Area, one mile. Housing has begun to appear on the south side of the freeway, even though most of the town is located south of Interstate 70 along U.S. 6. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70 approaches Exit 163, Junction Business Spur I-70 south to U.S. 6/Rest Area in Edwards, next right. The business spur is not signed on any of the advance guide signs. This instance of Business Spur I-70 is approximately 0.52 mile per Colorado State Highway Log (courtesy of Colorado Highways (Matt Salek). Photo taken 11/08/03.
While this part of Colorado is not known for its red rock, occasional hints of color occur at some rock cuts, including this one on westbound just prior to the Eagle River bridge. Much more of this kind of color will be seen at the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction and again in the state of Utah, which is also known for its red rocks. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70 passes over the Eagle River, which parallels the freeway from the U.S. 24 interchange west to its confluence with the Colorado River just east of the entrance to Glenwood Canyon. Photo taken 11/08/03.
The next exit along westbound is Exit 157, Colorado 131, one mile. The small town of Wolcott is located to the north of Interstate 70 at the Colorado 131 interchange. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70 approaches Exit 157, Colorado 131 north in Wolcott. Colorado 131 leads north to meet U.S. 6 in Wolcott, then continues north as a two-lane highway through Yampa to meet U.S. 40 south of Steamboat Springs. Photo taken 11/08/03.
View of the marvelous skyline for which Eagle County is known, as seen along westbound Interstate 70 at the gore point signage for Exit 157, Colorado 131 in Wolcott. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70 approaches Exit 147, Junction Business Spur I-70 south into Eagle via Eby Creek Road, one mile. The town of Eagle is the seat of Eagle County, and it only has 3,032 people living there as of 2000. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Westbound Interstate 70 reaches Exit 147, Junction Business Spur I-70 south into Eagle via Eby Creek Road. The business spur is not signed but is state maintained. It is 0.27 mile long per Colorado State Highway Log (courtesy of Colorado Highways (Matt Salek). Photo taken 11/08/03.
The Eagle County Airport comes into view as Interstate 70 proceeds west toward Glenwood Canyon. Photo taken 08/28/04.
Interstate 70 travels along the northern edge of the Eagle River Valley; the river itself is just south of the freeway. Photo taken 08/28/04.
Westbound Interstate 70 reaches Exit 140, U.S. 6 east. U.S. 6 West merges onto the freeway and will not split off again until Exit 109 about six miles west of Glenwood Springs. Photo taken 11/08/03.
Interstate 70/U.S. 6 West
Not very many people were on this stretch of Interstate 70; most winter season traffic tends to exit in Summit County or Vail to reach the most easily accessible ski resorts from Denver. However, traffic to Aspen, Snowmass, and Glenwood Springs still use westbound Interstate 70, along with travelers to Grand Junction and the Southwest. Photo taken 08/28/04.
View of Interstate 70/U.S. 6 west and the Eagle River to the south as the freeway approaches Exit 133, Dotsero. Photo taken 08/28/04.
The next exit along westbound is Exit 133, Dotsero. Photo taken 08/28/04.
Westbound Interstate 70/U.S. 6 reaches Exit 133, Dotsero. Looking north, you can see the old U.S. 6 steel truss bridge over the Colorado River. Glenwood Canyon, one of the modern engineering marvels that ranks with Interstate 15/Virgin River Gorge and Interstate 75/Alligator Alley through the Florida Everglades. Photo taken 08/28/04.
The next three exits along westbound Interstate 70 serve Glenwood Canyon: Exit 129, Exit 121, and Exit 119. Photo taken 08/28/04.
As we enter Glenwood Canyon, the speed limit drops to 50 miles per hour. With the scenery, limited sight distance, curves, tunnels, and related factors, it is prudent to slow down to 50 miles per hour at most until reaching Glenwood Springs on the other site of the canyon. Photo taken 08/28/04.
A variable message sign has been placed at the entrance to Glenwood Canyon, which allows for communication of construction, weather delays, and other impacts to traveling through the canyon. Photo taken 08/28/04.
Upon reaching this sign, Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 enter Glenwood Canyon of the Colorado River. Photo taken 08/28/04.
Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 enter the canyon. The freeway stays north of the Colorado River; the walls of the canyon get closer and closer together. Interstate 70 leaves Eagle County and enters Garfield County. Photos taken 08/28/04.

Page Updated January 22, 2006.

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