Colorado Highways: SH 82

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Location: Central Mountains
Length*: 85.29mi
W End: Jct I-70 Exit 116 in Glenwood Springs
E End: Jct US 24 east of Twin Lakes

Counties: Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Lake
Places: Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, Snowmass, Aspen, Independence Pass, Twin Lakes

NHS: I-70 southeast to Galena St. in Aspen

Expressway: South side of Glenwood Springs to west side of Aspen

Mountain Passes: West of Twin Lakes, Independence Pass (12,095ft; 6% grade). Vehicles over 35 feet long are prohibited from Independence Pass.

Sections Closed in Winter: The section of SH 82 over Independence Pass (east of Aspen to west of Twin Lakes) is closed every winter.

Scenic & Historic Byways: Top of the Rockies (Aspen to US 24) America's Byways

Milepost Guide:

Annual Average Daily Traffic (2008):

SH 82 from Glenwood Springs to Aspen is a big time, hugely important highway. CDOT has been falling all over itself since the mid-1980s making improvements to it, and for good reason. SH 82 serves as the main artery for traffic getting from I-70 up to myriad towns which serve as tourist destinations year round. Also, in the winter it's the only way to get to Aspen, since you can't get over Independence Pass.

SH 82's north end is a little confusing. SH 82 doesn't actually hit the I-70 interchange coming north in Glenwood Springs, instead it goes north on Grand Ave. over I-70 to 6th St., west on 6th to Laurel St., then south for a block to the interchange. SH 82 goes right through downtown Glenwood Springs on Grand Ave., crossing over I-70 and the Colorado River on a narrow four-lane viaduct. On the south side of town, SH 82 becomes a divided expressway with a 65mph speed limit, and hugs the east side of the Roaring Fork River valley toward Carbondale.

From Carbondale, SH 82 continues as a divided highway following the Roaring Fork River valley southeast through El Jebel, Basalt, Snowmass, Woody Creek, and then to Aspen. The narrowest part of the valley, Snowmass Canyon, features an expressway inspired by Glenwood Canyon, with the eastbound roadway on retaining walls above the westbound roadway. Coming southeast into Aspen, SH 82 warps down from an expressway to an urban street at the roundabout at Owl Creek Road.

The highway has HOV lanes northwest of Aspen. Do not attempt to adjust your computer monitor; you did indeed just read that a rural highway has carpool lanes. They go from Basalt to the end of the expressway at Aspen. This goes against conventional wisdom, which says that HOV lanes are put only in urban areas, but there they are. CDOT says they are the first rural HOV lanes in the country. The right-hand lanes of the expressway are restricted inbound to Aspen from 6 to 9 am, and outbound from Aspen from 3 to 6 pm. During those times, only cars with 2+ people, buses, motorcycles, and vehicles using alternative fuels can use the lanes. During all other times, they are general lanes. An eastbound signal at Owl Creek Rd just west of Aspen has a special priority signal for just the right lane when the HOV restriction is in place.

In Aspen, SH 82 heads east down Hallam St., south of 7th St. for two blocks, east on Main St., south on Original St. for four blocks, east on Cooper Ave., then out of town. Downtown Aspen can be quite congested at times, with heavy pedestrian/bicycle traffic.

Side note: People in the Glenwood-Aspen corridor refer to the directions of SH 82 as "up valley" (toward Aspen) and "down valley" (toward Glenwood Springs) rather than the normal eastbound and westbound.

SH 82 continues east along the Roaring Fork valley, then begins climbing up toward Independence Pass. It is a very curvy, narrow alignment. From Aspen to the summit the speed limit is never above 35 mph. In fact, in three places the road gets so narrow on cliff shelves that the center line disappears and the pavement is only 16-18 feet wide. Anything wider than standard passenger vehicles cannot fit side-by-side. Per state law, downhill vehicles yield to uphill vehicles, with the best thing to do being pulling as far right as possible and stopping. SH 82 spends a very long time climbing up the west side of the pass, going through huge aspen groves and passing the ghost town of Independence along the way. But driving-wise, the most challenging part is well west of the summit, with the section from Independence to the summit always two lanes and fairly straight except for a couple switchbacks.

Eventually SH 82 passes above tree line and reaches the summit of the pass at 12,095 ft. The east and west sides of the pass are very different in character. While the west side features several too-narrow-for-a-centerline segments and a climb of about 4200' from Aspen, the east side is always two lanes and has an elevation change of only about 1000' to the base of the valley. And not too far east of the bottom switchback the speed limit gets back up to 55 mph, the first time since west of Aspen.

Independence Pass is closed every winter, and with good reason since the highway is nearly unmaintainable given its geometrics. And it's the kind of road you wouldn't want to drive in a blinding snowstorm, anyway. The winter closure goes from east of Aspen to east of the bottom switchback west of Twin Lakes. When open, vehicles over 35' in length are prohibited from the pass, and I'd be weary taking anything larger/wider than an SUV up it.

After reaching the bottom of the valley from Independence Pass, SH 82 picks up Lake Creek. It heads east through Twin Lakes, then around the north side of Twin Lakes Reservoir. Upon reaching the Arkansas River, SH 82 ends at US 24 north of Granite.

Photo Gallery:

SH 82 is an original 1920s state highway. In 1937, four miles between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale was paved. The reminder to Aspen was paved in 1938. The last section to be paved over Independence Pass was done by 1969. The expressway was completed from Glenwood Springs halfway to Carbondale by 1966, and to Carbondale by 1972. Two-lane Basalt Bypass completed 1988. Four-laning from Carbondale to southeast of Basalt completed 1995. Four-laning from Aspen northwest to Woody Creek completed in various phases from 1998-2000. The last section to be four-laned, Snowmass Canyon, was completed in November 2004. The Basalt business route was turned back sometime in 2005-2007.

The Maroon Creek Bridge project was a large undertaking by CDOT, being built from 2005-2008. The converted railroad trestle held traffic until July 2008 when it was switched to the new bridge. Before the project, there was a pedestrian bridge to the north of the trestle, but that was removed to make way for the new bridge. The project was dedicated with a ribbon cutting on October 20, 2008. The trestle was kept in place as a historical landmark.


Page created 7 January 2008
Last updated 9 March 2014