If you're in need of travelling from Grand Junction to Denver which route should you take? I just drove the two main options and have a little info to share.

With the Glenwood Canyon closure still in effect, you'll have to choose your alternate route. Which is faster - Highway 50 to Gunnison or Steamboat Springs to Silverthorne?

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Put Them Both to the Test

Last weekend's adventures included a marathon trip to Red Rocks to see Joe Bonamassa. My entourage decided to head to Red Rocks using the Highway 50 to Gunnison to Highway 285 option (Grey Line). For the return home, we opted to use the I-70 to Silverthorne, then Highway 9 to Steamboat Springs route (Blue Line).

Alternate Routes Grand Junction to Denver
Waylon Jordan


Travel Time and Distance

As you can see on the map above, the travel distance for each route equals:

  • Highway 50 - 326 miles at 6 hours and 18 minutes
  • I-70 to Steamboat - 346 miles at 6 hours and 3 minutes

The Reality of the Matter

Our travel time did not conform to the information suggested by Google Maps. As a matter of fact, our trip came in almost exactly the same for both routes at 7 1/2 hours.

We Hit Traffic and Construction

On the trip up using Highway 50, we came to an absolute standstill for the better part of an hour on Highway 285. On the return trip, we lost about an hour on Highway 40 in Steamboat Springs. The road went down to a single-lane right in the middle of town. Note to the mayor of Steamboat Springs: It was my understanding construction was supposed to be halted to make way for increased traffic during the Glenwood Canyon closure. A couple of miles of road were closed off right in the middle of Steamboat Springs for resurfacing, and yet I didn't see one ounce of construction taking place.

Choosing Which Route to Take

As it turns out, one of my coworkers took the same trip over the weekend, and did the same thing, went up 50 to Denver and then through Steamboat Springs for the return trip. His findings were the same as mine - it took the exact same amount of time each way. Both routes bring another element to the table: unexplored territory. I'm a lifelong Colorado resident, but to date, have never taken Highway 285 to Denver. I usually stay on Highway 50 to Canon City and then head up 113 to Colorado Springs (since I usually want to stop off and climb Manitou Incline). With the return trip, never before have I traveled Highway 9 from Silverthorne to Steamboat Springs.

If I Had to Choose...

Both routes offer magnificent views. Considering travel time is pretty equal both ways, choosing which route is something of a draw. Looking back at the weekend, if I were to make the trip again, my preference would be Highway 50 up to Highway 285. As a matter of fact, even if Glenwood Canyon were open and things were business as usual, my choice would probably still be Highway 50. It may be a while before any of us travel I-70 through Glenwood Canyon. Personally, that suits me fine. Taking I-70 from Grand Junction to Denver is a drag. Many Grand Junction residents started using Highway 50 years ago.

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