Welcome to Colorado!
Colorado is known for amazing outdoor recreation year-round. This page can help you plan a great trip with tips on navigating the state's most traversed mountain passes and roadways as well as trooper dashcam videos that show you what you can expect. If you are towing a camper or trailer, this site also provides insight into the conditions you can expect to encounter. Spend a couple of minutes, so you can safely navigate our mountains, valleys, plains and beyond!
Prevent Trailer Sway
Winter Car Kit
In case of an emergency, keep these supplies in your car:
- First Aid Kit
- A shovel and snow scraper
- Sand or Kitty Litter
- Extra blankets, clothes or sleeping bag
- Jumper cables
- Tow Rope
- Water, protein bars
- Extra battery/charger for cell phone
Winter Driving Tips
1. Winterize your vehicle. Install winter tires or all-season tires with great tread. Check your brakes, have a fully charged battery and full fluids in your vehicle. Confirm that your headlights are working and clear. Have wiper blades cleaned.
2. Plan ahead by knowing the weather forecast, conditions can change quickly in Colorado. It may start out sunny with blue skies, but snow conditions may be moving in.
3. Know your route. Study your route in advance so you are aware of any high mountain passes and directions you’ll need to follow. Visit cotrip.org to watch live traffic cameras across the state.
4. Avoid Cruise Control. Turning on cruise control in the mountains can be dangerous. Each hill and downgrade yields different circumstances on how you should handle the road and you need to be in full control of your vehicle so you can anticipate each situation. Cruise control is especially dangerous in icy, snow packed conditions. Plus, beware of standing water as road conditions can change very quickly.
5. Keep your gas tank above half-full. This avoids gas line freezing and will give you plenty of gas to keep your car heated if you’re stranded.
6. Slow Down. Driving too fast is a primary cause of winter driving collisions. Icy roads that may not look icy, de-iced roads that could still be slippery, low visibility, and other moving vehicles are all good reasons to slow down on the road. Don’t tailgate and keep an eye on your rearview mirror to make sure nobody gets too close to you.
7. Easy on the Brakes! When you are driving in the harsh weather of a Colorado winter, hitting the brakes can often just make things worse. Reduce your speed and only use your brakes when necessary to help you avoid slipping and sliding along the road.
8. Don’t stop when going uphill. You don’t have to rush to the top of the hill, but you will want to hold stead and continue providing fuel to climb to the top. Once you make it to the top, slow down and proceed very slowly. On narrow roads the vehicle going up hill has the right away. Cars driving downhill must yield.
9. Know what to do if you get stranded. Make sure you have your car kit. Never wander from your vehicle. The only time is to tie a colored cloth on your antenna to signal for help and routinely remove any snow from the tail pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
10. Practice driving on snow and ice. If you’re new to winter roads, practice in parking lots and other open spaces so you know what to do when you make a mistake. And, if at all possible, don’t drive alone. At minimum, make sure you let someone know where you are going.
Fall Driving Tips
1. Beware of Quickly Changing Temperatures. As you’re probably aware, temperatures change with altitude. Some mountain passes can bring you up and down thousands of feet within a short distance. When you start climbing a mountain it can be sunny clear blue skies, and by the time you reach the top of the pass, there can be blizzard conditions.
2. Fog can be a huge issue, especially in the valleys. Visibility can go from totally clear to being extremely limited, literally in seconds.
3. The colorful leaves may be pretty to look at, but leaves on the road can be dangerous when wet. Driving on slippery leaves can be similar to driving on ice! Leaves can also obstruct traffic lines, potholes, or pavement markings. Remember to use caution, drive slowly, and keep a safe following distance.
4. The days are becoming shorter which means visibility is reduced. Turn on your headlights and watch for pedestrians walking or biking on the roadway at dawn, dusk, or night. Also, remember to check that all of the lights on your car are working properly.
5. With the time change, the sun rises and sets at different times. The sunset and sunrise may even occur during the morning and evening rush hour, producing a dangerous glare at the same time that many cars are on the road. Keep a pair of sunglasses in your car that you can wear to reduce sun glare.
6. The cool overnight temperatures bring morning frost. Keep a snow broom/ice remover in your car and give yourself extra time to clear your windows of frost before you start driving. Make sure your wipers and defrosters are working as they should.
7. Watch for deer and elk! Deer and elk accidents are common during the autumn months because it’s mating season. If you see a deer or elk, proceed with caution and slow down as they often travel in groups. Remember that deer are most active at dawn and dusk.
8. Don’t Give In to Tire Pressure. Temperatures fluctuate a lot in the autumn. It can go from double digits in the afternoon to zero (or lower) at night and in the early morning. This will cause your tires to expand and contract which can ultimately lead to a loss of pressure, something you don’t want to worry about when on the road. Monitor your tire pressure regularly.
9. Don’t park where it says no parking. Just don’t. They say no parking for a reason and that reason is often related to safety or to protect the environment in the area. Parking in restricted areas can compromise safety as the fall season is one of the busiest times of the year in the Rocky Mountains.
Know Your Route
H145 Trout Lake to Scenic Overlook (Northbound)
Dallas Divide to Mt. Sneffels Scenic Overlook
Bayfield to Durango
Yellow Jacket to Bayfield
Monarch Pass Westbound
Red Mountain Pass Northbound
Southbound HWY 550 from Silverton (Southbound)
Slick Rock Hill Northbound
Colorado 160 Eastbound (MM 158)
Colorado 160 Westbound (MM 163)
Things You Should Know
- Steep Turns and Blind Corners
Don’t hug the center line when driving on winding roads, as this can be especially dangerous if a vehicle coming from the other direction is also hugging the center. If you are driving on a single-lane mountain road and come across a blind corner, drive slowly and continuously honk your horn. If another driver is traveling in the opposite direction and also approaches the corner. This can alert the driver that you are there and help prevent a collision.
Drive the posted speed limit to save your gas and your brakes and stay in your lane. The speed limit is set for your safety. If you know you are going much slower than the posted limit, be courteous and pull into a turnout or on a straightway with a shoulder to allow a group of other motorists to pass.
- Fatigue – Plan your trip
Plan your trip. Driving long distances and trying to navigate the Southwest part of Colorado at night or fatigued is not advisable.
- Scenery and Sightseeing
Use pull offs to enjoy the views not while driving.
Only pass slower-moving traffic (slow vehicles pulling over when possible and letting traffic pass) when you’ve got a clear view of the road ahead and you are in a marked area that allows it. Never pass another car on a blind curve or when your visibility is compromised.
- Downshift Before Steep Downgrades or Uphill
Give your brakes a break. Plan ahead of a downgrade by slowing down and downshifting into a lower gear. If you’re in a higher gear, it will cause more wear and tear on your brake pads. This not only helps on maintenance of your vehicle, but also is a safer method of speed control. Downgrades will naturally speed you up.
- Descend Slowly
Even if you put your vehicle into lower gear, you will still likely need to monitor your speed going downhill. Do not ride your brake or brake for an extended period. Instead, evenly pulse your brake by applying steady pressure until your speed drops slightly under the limit. Then let off the brakes and allow your vehicle to speed back up to the posted limit and repeat the process.
- Pay Attention to Your Engine Temperature
Steep inclines can cause your engine to heat up, so keep an eye on your engine temperature gauge. To avoid becoming disabled on a narrow roadway or road with no shoulder, watch your engine light. If it starts getting hot, turn off your air conditioning and roll down your windows can help cool it off. If that doesn’t help, pull over when safe and let the engine idle for a moment to help lower the temperature.
- Exploring Unpaved Road
Planning to go off-road? First check local weather and road conditions that may affect your drive. Remember, unpaved roads provide significantly less traction so you will need to slow down and takes curves on a wider arc than what is needed on a paved road. Finally, let someone who isn’t going with you know where you are headed and when you expect to return.
- Avoid Critter Collisions
While it is always important focus on the road while driving, the mountains come with unique hazards. Wildlife such as foxes, bears, mountain lions, and particularly elk and deer have been known to wander out into the middle of the road, especially during the hours between dusk and dawn. By slowing down and glancing ahead to the upcoming road and shoulders, you’ll give yourself more time to spot an animal. Additionally, using your high beams if there is no oncoming traffic can give you better visibility on dark roads. Wildlife crossing signs are good reminders that wildlife could be lurking about, but it’s important to take precautions anytime you are driving in the mountains. Also, remember that elk and deer often travel in groups, so if you stop and allow one of these animals to cross, it’s a good idea to wait a moment to see if any others are following.
- Watch for hidden driveways
Regional roads are often scattered with residences. When driving on these types of roadways, watch for driveways. If a road is curvy or hilly, driveways can be difficult to see until you are very close to them.
- Look for livestock
In some areas, livestock may be moved across rural roads. Look for road signs marking these areas and warning drivers to slow down and use caution. If you happen upon a group of cattle or other livestock being moved from one side of a rural road to another, stop your vehicle and wait patiently for the animals to clear the roadway completely. Do not do anything that may spook the animals like revving your engine or blowing your horn. Stay inside your vehicle for safety.
- Share the Road
Tractors, ATVs, and farming combines can often be found on rural roadways. Remember that these vehicles, especially farm equipment, have every right to be on the road. Keep a safe distance, as drivers of such vehicles might have limited visibility. If you attempt to pass a large piece of equipment on a rural roadway, make sure that you have plenty of time and space to make the maneuver safely. Above all, be courteous to the drivers of these types of vehicles.
- Avoid Cruise Control in the Mountains
Turning on cruise control in the mountains can be dangerous. Each hill and downgrade give different circumstances on how you should handle the road and you need to be in full control of your vehicle so you can anticipate each situation. Also, avoid Cruise Control in ice, snow pack, and standing water as road conditions can change very quickly.