Glenwood Canyon detour: There’s really no good way around it |

Glenwood Canyon detour: There’s really no good way around it

You really shouldn’t trust your navigation systems

Colorado Department of Transportation crews twice over the past weekend have had to clean up mudslides on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon. The slides came from the burn scar of the 2020 Grizzly Creek fire.
Colorado Department of Transportation/Special to the Daily

6:50 p.m. update: Westbound Interstate 70 reopened at about 6:45 p.m. Monday.

3:30 p.m. update: Cottonwood Pass road reopened after being closed by a mid-day traffic accident. Eastbound Interstate 70 reopened at about 3 p.m. Monday. Westbound lanes were expected to reopen later Monday evening.

Reopening Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon is never easy. In the case of a pair of weekend mudslides in the Grizzly Creek area, crews had to figure out how to essentially load soup into dump trucks.

Downpour rainstorms Saturday and Sunday closed the interstate both days, with Sunday’s closure lasting into Monday.

No one was injured in the closures, Thatcher said, and the slide mostly put “soupy” mud and smaller rocks onto the roadway. Thatcher added that the cleanup crews, mostly people well-experienced at maintaining and reopening the road through the canyon, had come up with ways to get soupy mud into dump trucks, speeding the cleanup.

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Once the roadway is cleaned off, Thatcher said engineers evaluate the roadway to ensure it’s still safe for travel.

The Sunday closure left a number of vehicles parked along interstate through most of Monday, hoping the delay would take less time than the roughly 200-mile detour around the canyon.

It’s a long detour

From Eagle County, motorists have to take State Highway 131 to Steamboat Springs, then U.S. Highway 40 west to Craig, then State Highway 13 south through Meeker and into Rifle.

That’s a roughly four-hour trip.

Sometimes, people try to take the road over Cottonwood Pass. That road starts just outside of Gypsum on the Eagle County side and ends up at State Highway 82 on the Garfield County side.

Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said his office has put up signs in the area and deputies stationed at the eastern access to the road, working to keep only local traffic on that road.

The road was closed early Monday afternoon due to a vehicle accident and reopened about two hours later.

‘A lot of practice’

“We’ve had a lot of practice with Cottonwood, and we have a substantial plan in place,” van Beek said. It’s particularly important to keep vehicles longer than 30 feet off the road.

No plan is perfect, though, and motorists unfamiliar with the terrain can get into trouble.

“Parts of that road can turn to goo when it rains, and there are parts where only one car can make it through.”

The area around the Sylvan fire remains closed to the public. But, van Beek said, he’s heard reports of motorists, hikers and bikers in the area. Despite extra patrols in the area, no one has yet been caught.

Anyone caught is likely to receive a summons.

“We don’t want people summonsed,” van Beek said. “But we want them to, by God, adhere to the closures.”

People also need to stop putting so much trust in their phones and other devices, van Beek said.

“We’ve had it multiple times,” van Beek said. “People went by five or 10 signs, but they’re so oriented to what their electronics are telling them.” Navigation devices often don’t account for narrow dirt roads that can’t handle large vehicles, van Beek added.

“We’ve had so much experience in the last few years,” van Beek said, referring to his team, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Department of Transportation. “We’ve minimized impact to those roads, but we can’t alleviate detours.”

Ignore your GPS

Crooked Creek Pass is closed and not suitable for large trucks.

Cottonwood Pass isn’t suitable for anything larger than passenger cars or light trucks.

Road and trail closures are still in place around the Sylvan fire.

For highway information, go to

For Sylvan fire information, go to or


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