Cottonwood Pass opening Wednesday

Eagle County officials urge caution on dangerous dirt road

Motorists take to Cottonwood Pass between the Roaring Fork Valley and Gypsum due to an I-70 closure in Glenwood Canyon last summer. Glenwood Canyon has seen its two longest closures over the last two summers.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Cottonwood Pass between Gypsum and the Roaring Fork Valley — the dangerous Glenwood Canyon detour — will open for the season on Wednesday and is set to remain open through the fall, conditions permitting.

Eagle County issued the announcement on Tuesday, urging drivers to use caution on the road.

“Traffic and weather can have a significant impact on road conditions,” Eagle County said in the release. “Furthermore, portions of the road are not paved, there are many sharp turns, and steep drop-offs.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation does not recommend Cottonwood Pass as a Glenwood Canyon detour, instead suggesting the northern route via Highway 40, during extended closures of Glenwood Canyon.

Cottonwood Pass does not support heavy commercial vehicles – any vehicle that exceeds 8-feet, 6-inches in width, 14-feet, six-inches in height and/or 35 feet in length will require a permit to travel over Cottonwood Pass.

And the road is likely to remain that way in the future. CDOT has acknowledged there’s a great deal of interest in the future of Cottonwood Pass, but also says the road will likely continue to be a county road and will not be able to support heavy commercial traffic.

A bill known as the I-70 Detour Act, which was referred to the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on April 15, seeks to study potential Glenwood Canyon alternatives “necessary to offset extended closures associated with Interstate Route 70,” according to the bill text, including the study of “the possibility of improving an existing road down Cottonwood Creek.”

Cottonwood Pass often remains open into December, depending on snow. In 2021, the road closed on Dec. 12.