If you’re driving across Colorado anytime soon, be prepared for a two-hour detour, whichever way you slice it.
Since Thursday, when multiple mudslides and floods rocked Glenwood Canyon, Interstate 70 between Dotsero and Rifle has been closed to traffic. The time frame for reopening the state’s main thoroughfare along this stretch is still undetermined.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has a few options for travelers — all clocking in at around 6 driving hours.
For those looking to take the scenic route — which is no longer the slowest — either from the east or west, we recommend going south of I-70 to get to your destination. Highways 285 and 50 have plenty to see and do along the way, with worthwhile stops that you might be hard-pressed to see otherwise.
So here are five pitstops to make during your detour that won’t set you back much farther than you’ve come already. But they will add to the complete Colorado road trip experience. We’ve organized them from east to west here for simplicity. Now all you have to do is buckle up, enjoy the ride and just be thankful you don’t have to sit in traffic on I-70.
Note: Be sure to check cotrip.org ahead of your drive for the latest road closure updates.
Mount Princeton Hot Springs
These first couple of recommendations could come as a twofer. To get to the hot springs, you’ll drive about 4 miles west of Highway 285 on County Road 162, where you’ll find this water-lovers resort nestled in the mountains. Bathers can buy a general admission day pass for $25-$35 and have access to the historic bath house, creekside springs, an infinity pool and more. mtprinceton.com
St. Elmo ghost town
To get to this 141-year-old mining site, you’ll drive another 25 minutes (11 miles) west on CO-162 past Mount Princeton resort. There are plenty of photo opportunities — and a lot of history to learn — with dozens of preserved structures scattered around. The General Store is still open, selling antiques, souvenirs, snacks (ice cream!) and drinks during the summer season. st-elmo.com
Buckel Family Wine
Stop for a taste, a glass or a bottle to go at this surprising little winery in the heart of Gunnison. With no vineyards to speak of in the neighborhood, winemaker Joe Buckel sources from his grape-growing friends across the Western Slope. And the results are just lovely. His 2016 Chardonnay brought home a gold medal from Sunset magazine in 2019. If you can get your hands on the 2020 pet-nat rosé, it’s a rare treat this season. To get to the Buckels (Fridays and Saturdays only), head north a mile from Highway 50 on CO-135. buckelfamilywine.com
Curecanti National Recreation Area
With 43,000-acres, three reservoirs, seven hiking trails and 10 campgrounds, Curecanti has it all right along Highway 50. You can even experience some of the beauty right from your car window, but we recommend stopping for one more of the many activities this area has to offer. Bird-watching, boating and fishing are all on the table, as is a picnic lunch on the beach by the water. Watch for a full guide to Curecanti coming later this week on denverpost.com and in the paper. nps.gov
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
A national park with Grand Canyon-like vistas is hidden away just 7 miles and 14 minutes driving north of Highway 50 on Colorado 347. From the South Rim Visitor Center, you can take in the views quickly. If you have some more time to spare, opt for a scenic drive along the south rim, which features a dozen overlooks and can take a couple of hours. While you’re there, see if you can spot the fastest bird in the world, the Peregrine falcon, which dives along this canyon’s vertical walls, reaching speeds of more than 200 mph. nps.gov
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