Colorado Highways: US 285

Return to Routes 267-299
Colo Hwys Home    About

Location: San Luis Valley > Central Mountains > Metro Denver
Length*: 263.87mi
S End: New Mexico border south of Antonito (link to Steve Riner's site)
N End: Jct I-25 Exit 201 at Hampden Ave. in Denver
Nationally: S End: US 90 at Sanderson, Texas (835mi)

Counties: Conejos, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Saguache, Chaffee, Park, Jefferson, Denver, Arapahoe
Places: Antonito, Romeo, La Jara, Alamosa, Monte Vista, Saguache, Poncha Pass, Poncha Springs, Johnson Village, Trout Creek Pass, Fairplay, Red Hill Pass, Jefferson, Kenosha Pass, Bailey, Conifer, Aspen Park, Turkey Creek Canyon, Morrison, Lakewood, Denver, Sheridan, Englewood, Cherry Hills Village

NHS: Entire length in Colorado.

Freeway: Parmalee Gulch Rd. southwest of Morrison east to Knox Ct./Lowell Blvd. in Sheridan (exit list).


Mountain Passes:

Roadway Names: East-west section in metro Denver: Hampden Avenue

Memorial Designations:
Ralph Carr Memorial Highway, New Mexico border to SH 470

Scenic & Historic Byways:

Milepost Guide:

  • 0.00: New Mexico border (begin US 285 in Conejos County)
  • 5.21: SH 17, Antonito
  • 12.70: SH 142
  • 19.81: SH 136, La Jara
  • 20.41: SH 15
  • 25.77: Enter Alamosa County
  • 26.82: SH 368
  • 31.25: SH 370
  • 34.10: Southeast jct US 160, Alamosa
  • 51.16: Northwest jct US 160/SH 15, Monte Vista (Rio Grande County)
  • 62.90: SH 112 west of Center, Enter Saguache County
  • 86.29: SH 114, Saguache
  • 100.46: SH 17 north of Mineral Hot Springs
  • 119.04: Enter Chaffee County, Poncha Pass
  • 126.48: South jct US 50, Poncha Springs
  • 126.85: North jct US 50
  • 133.88: SH 291 northwest of Salida
  • 148.07: Southwest jct US 24 south of Buena Vista
  • 161.79: Northeast jct US 24, Antero Junction (Park County)
  • 181.97: South jct SH 9 south of Fairplay
  • 182.98: North jct SH 9, Fairplay
  • 228.84: Enter Jefferson County
  • 248.37: SH 8 interchange, Morrison
  • 250.08: SH 470 interchange
  • 253.48: SH 391/Kipling Street interchange, Lakewood
  • 255.01: SH 121/Wadsworth Boulevard interchange
  • 255.75: Enter Denver County
  • 256.54: SH 95/Sheridan Boulevard interchange, Denver
  • 257.56: Enter Arapahoe County
  • 258.06: SH 88/Federal Boulevard interchange, Sheridan
  • 259.32: US 85/Santa Fe Dr. interchange, Englewood
  • 261.71: SH 177/University Blvd., Cherry Hills Village
  • 261.96: Begin Arapahoe/Denver County split
  • 262.68: SH 2/Colorado Blvd.
  • 263.18: Enter Denver County
  • 263.87: I-25/SH 30 Exit 201 interchange, Denver (end US 285)

Annual Average Daily Traffic (2008):

  • 1300 at New Mexico border
  • 5600 at 5th Avenue, Antonito
  • 4700 north of SH 142, Romeo
  • 5000 north of SH 368
  • 12,900 south of US 160, Alamosa
  • 21,600 on US 160-285 at 1st St., Alamosa
  • 7900 on US 160-285 west of CR 3E
  • 10,600 on US 160-285 at Jefferson St., Monte Vista
  • 7000 north of US 160
  • 2100 north of SH 112
  • 2000 north of CR X
  • 2000 northeast SH 114, Saguache
  • 1600 southwest of SH 17, Mineral Hot Springs
  • 2200 north of CR 200
  • 3100 south of US 50
  • 4100 on US 50-285, Poncha Springs
  • 4600 north of US 50
  • 7100 north of SH 291
  • 6800 south of US 24
  • 5700 on US 24-285, Johnson Village
  • 2400 on US 24-285, Trout Creek Pass
  • 3100 north of US 24, Antero Junction
  • 4400 north of CR 5
  • 5100 northeast of SH 9, Fairplay
  • 4100 south of CR 77, Jefferson
  • 4200 northeast of CR 62, Grant
  • 6800 northeast of CR 68, Bailey
  • 17,500 northeast of CR 126, Pine Junction
  • 23,800 northeast of Foxton Rd., Conifer
  • 26,900 northeast of Parmalee Gulch Rd.
  • 26,600 east of SH 470, Morrison
  • 68,900 east of SH 95/Sheridan Blvd.
  • 61,000 east of US 85/Santa Fe Dr., Englewood
  • 59,300 east of Clarkson St., Cherry Hills Village
  • 53,700 at I-25, Denver

From the New Mexico border, US 285 heads north through the flat San Luis Valley toward Antonito. On the west side of town US 285 meets a T intersection with SH 17 and turns right, through town on Main St. As it heads north, US 285 forms the backbone of Conejos County, passing through Romero and La Jara where it uses Spruce St.

US 285 then heads northeast to Alamosa, and comes into the west side of town on West Ave. It meets US 160, which uses two one-way streets, eastbound at 6th St and westbound at Main St. US 285 joins US 160 heading west, then northwest out of town. Together they go to Monte Vista, and at 1st St. and Broadway, US 285 turns north off US 160 and heads north on Broadway.

US 285 then heads due north on a flat, arrow-straight alignment through the western part of the San Luis Valley. At the northwest foothills of the valley US 285 comes into Saguache, using 8th St., then at SH 114 at Gunnison Ave. it turns east. US 285 then hugs the hills that border the north edge of valley, eventually curving to the northeast then northwest, paralleling San Luis Creek up an expansive "spur" of the San Luis Valley. After passing through Villa Grove, US 285 continues northwest, then climbs up to Poncha Pass. The south side of the pass isn't much of a climb, but the north side features a steeper descent down the canyon for Poncha Creek.

At Poncha Springs, US 50 and 285 have a sort overlap and US 285 then continues north via Nathrop and the Arkansas River toward Buena Vista. Just south of Buena Vista, US 285 and US 24 meet, and they continue northeast multiplexed together. Just east of their junction is Johnson Village, a small town of mainly gas stations and recreation-oriented businesses.

US 24-285 goes up Trout Creek, then north over Trout Creek Pass where it crosses from the Arkansas to the South Platte basin. At Antero Junction, US 24 breaks off to the east, while US 285 continues north. No town there, even though it has a name. From Antero Junction US 285 begins crossing the flat plain surrounded by mountains known as South Park, and is arrow-straight for miles on end. It goes north to Fairplay, skirting the east side of town. US 285 then goes up and over Red Hill Pass to another part of South Park. US 285 then goes northeast via Como and Jefferson, then climbs over Kenosha Pass and drops into the valley of the North Fork of the South Platte River to Grant.

From there it's east through the South Platte Canyon to Bailey. In Bailey US 285 takes an abrupt left turn north out of the Platte Canyon and up Crow Hill, through a mini interchange at Deer Creek. US 285 continues swerving, dipping, climbing to the northeast, not really following any defined topographic corridor, and goes via Conifer and Aspen Park finally descending into Turkey Creek Canyon. US 285 from Conifer down to metro Denver is collectively referred to as the "Mountain Corridor" and is getting more clogged every year as more and more people move to bedroom communities in south Jefferson County.

From Elk Creek Rd (Shaffers Crossing) southwest of Conifer, US 285 is undivded or divided four-lane expressway all the way to Parmalee Gulch southwest of Morrison. The expressway includes multiple grade seperations and mini-interchanges, including ones at Elk Creek Rd, Richmond Hill Rd, Kennedy Gulch/Foxton Road, Conifer Town Center, Conifer/CR 73, Aspen Park, North Turkey Creek Road, South Turkey Creek Road, and Parmalee Gulch. Most of those interchanges are not standard diamonds, but instead take the form of what I call "Wyoming diamonds" which have just two two-way ramps instead of four one-way ramps.

Between Parmalee Gulch and Morrison, US 285 twists down a narrow portion of Turkey Creek Canyon, and has a steep grade and numerous sub-45mph curves. It basically becomes a freeway at Parmalee Gulch Road. South of Morrison, US 285 breaks out of the canyon, goes through a massive gap in the Hogback, and has a cloverleaf interchange with C-470. US 285 then picks up as Hampden Avenue, and continues as freeway east to Sheridan. While most maps show it as freeway from SH 8 to Federal Blvd. (SH 88), there actually is a signal light at Knox Court/Lowell Blvd. between SH 95 and SH 88. You're just happily tooling along, and all of the sudden with almost no warning there is a signal light! A real half-baked attempt was made to make Hampden Ave. a freeway.

East of that, US 285 is only as an expressway, but it still has interchanges at Federal Blvd. (SH 88), Santa Fe Dr. (US 85), and Broadway. East of Santa Fe, Hampden Avenue warps down to an urban arterial street with a 35mph speed limit and comes into central Englewood. A bypass takes US 285 south one block (and it is actually Jefferson Avenue for a while) around downtown Englewood. At Gilpin Street, US 285 moves back north to Hampden Avenue and now forms the border between Denver and Cherry Hills Village. It also becomes a somewhat functional expressway, with a 40 to 45 mph speed limit and few signals. It rolls up and down the terrain and eventually reaches a diamond interchange at I-25.

Photo Gallery:

US 285, as first proposed in the 1926 US Highway plan, was actually US 185 from Denver to Laramie via Broomfield, Longmont and Fort Collins. When the US Highway plan was implemented in 1927, US 185 was changed to US 285. About 1936 US 285 was then extended south from Denver via Morrison, Fairplay, Salida, Saguahce, Monte Vista and Alamosa to New Mexico, replacing US 650 in one section. US 285 was also eliminated north of Denver in 1936 and replaced with US 87 to Fort Collins and US 287 to Laramie.

Some of the differences between the US 285 of 1936 and today: In Denver, the north end was at US 85 at Broadway and Alameda, and used Alameda, Morrison Road, Mississippi, Pierce, Jewell, Wadsworth and Morrison Road (current SH 8) to head southwest out of town. North of Aspen Park US 285 used South Turkey Creek Road through Fenders and Tiny Town. Near Antero Reservoir, US 285 had a different routing, hugging the southwest side of the reservoir, meeting US 24 at current CR 78, then heading southwest to Trout Creek Pass. Between Poncha Springs and Buena Vista, US 285 was aligned along current SH 291, because the direct route to the west of Salida had not been built. And down in the southern part of the state US 285 went southwest from Antonito via current SH 17 and Cumbres Pass to New Mexico.

By 1939 the routing near Antero Reservoir had been changed to its modern one. Also by 1939 the sections of US 285 not paved were from New Mexico to Antonito and from Kenosha Pass to Bailey. By 1942 US 285 was rerouted south of Antonito so it went south to the New Mexico border as it does now, and the direct route between Poncha Springs and Buena Vista (bypassing Salida) had been built. By 1946 all of US 285 was paved. By 1951 the alignment was moved west of Fenders and Tiny Town. By 1960 US 285's north end was moved from Broadway to the Valley Highway (US 87). By 1963 the expressway from Parmalee Gulch to Morrison (SH 8) was open.

By 1970, US 285 was moved onto the Hampden Avenue freeway across the south part of the metro. The freeway had been built as part of SH 70. US 285 continued on Hampden Avenue east through Denver, curved north on Havana Street (current SH 30) and ended at Colfax Avenue (US 40-287). The north end of US 285 was trimmed back to I-25 by 1979, and what had been US 285 northeast of I-25 was renumbered as an extension of SH 30.

Expressways southwest of Parmalee Gulch opened in stages beginning in 1998. Parmalee Gulch to North Turkey Creek Road was first. Next two separate sections North Turkey Creek Road to Settlers Road and Brandenberger Road to Eagle Cliff Road. The section from Settlers to Brandenberger, closing the gap at the massive Windy Point cut, opened in late August 2001. Eagle Cliff Road to Kennedy Gulch/Foxton Road (through Aspen Park and Conifer) opened in November 2002. Kennedy Gulch to Richmond Hill opened in 2008. The Shaffers Crossing grade separation was complete in 2011.

The Simms Street interchange in Lakewood opened in October 2003.

Related Sites:


Page created 7 January 2008
Last updated 9 March 2014