How to get to Vail: Alternate Routes

When i70 is closed (Vail Pass) it can be frustrating to get to Vail/Beaver Creek. Especially after a long day of traveling. Luckily there are some alternate route options to explore. We've included the pros and cons of these routes so that you can make the best choice.

The Primary Route to Vail/Beaver Creek from Denver

The main route to Vail/Beaver Creek is via i70 over Vail Pass. The summit elevation of Vail Pass is 10,660 ft which makes it more prone to hazardous weather. As such, the road closes often due to safety concerns or if there is an accident. Another hazardous section of the i70 corridor that drivers must pay attention to are the Eisenhower and Johnson Tunnels. The tunnels summit at 11,158 ft and go through the continental divide via a 1.6 mile tunnel. This section is prone to heavy traffic and stalled vehicles. Many drivers do not follow safety guidelines with winter vehicle equipment and are ill-prepared for winter weather. As such, vehicles may get stuck, accidents happen, and traffic is slow or at a standstill. You can use cotrip.org for information on which routes are open as well as view road conditions for those routes.

Routes We've Used in the Past

Below are alternate routes from i70 West that we're familiar with. All of these routes take longer than the normal trip via i70. Keep in mind that snow removal is not as adequate as on interstate highways. Travel at your own risk. Rental cars do not always have snow tires or four wheel drive. Our professional chauffeurs have driving experience in winter conditions as well as on these alternate routes. We just wanted to share all of the travel options so that you can make the best choice.

Highway 285 Via DIA

Highway 285

This route is useful when i70 is closed in the foothills or at Floyd Hill. When the i70 is closed at exit 260, travel anywhere in the mountains can be difficult. Luckily you will be able to take highway 285 to bypass these closures. Compared to the 120 mile i70 route to Vail, the highway 285 route will be about 177 miles from Denver International Airport.

Vail Pass Detour

Highway 91 to Highway 24

This route is useful when Vail Pass is closed. Keep in mind that closures on Vail Pass may only last from one to a few hours. If you believe that i70 west will be closed between Copper Mountain and Vail Mountain for an extended amount of time, then consider taking this route. This alternate route will take you through Fremont Pass (Highway 91, elevation 11,319 ft). This route is not plowed as well as interstate highways during the winter months. The road is windy and is only a single lane in each direction.  It is highly recommended to have winter tires and a 4-wheel drive equipped car for this route. This alternate route will add (on average) 35+ minutes of travel time. However, on a fair sky day, you will be greeted by picturesque mountainous landscapes.

i70 is Totally Closed! What Now?

What if i70 is closed in several spots or traffic is out of hand for the entire i70 corridor? Consider this route for a complete bypass of i70. This is a combination of the last two mentioned alternate routes. The travel time and distance is significantly more than the normal route to Vail/Beaver Creek (216 miles from DIA, as opposed to 120 miles). This route should really only be used in absolute emergencies, but we wanted to mention it in this article as a possible option. Colorado in the winter months can be a very dangerous place to drive, so make sure the vehicle you're driving has the proper snow equipment.