Colorado Highways: US 285
Return to Routes
Location: San Luis Valley > Central Mountains
> Metro Denver
S End: New
Mexico border south of Antonito (link to Steve Riner's
N End: Jct I-25 Exit 201 at Hampden Ave. in
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
- Five-lane undivided for several miles north of Monte Vista
- Four-lane undivided and divided from Shaffers Crossing (Elk Creek Rd) southwest
of Conifer to Parmalee Gulch Road southwest of Morrison.
Includes mini interchanges at Elk Creek Rd, Richmond Hill Rd, Kennedy Gulch/Foxton Rd.,
Conifer Town Center, Conifer, Aspen Park, South Turkey Creek Rd., North Turkey
Creek Rd. and Parmalee Gulch Rd.
- Four-lane divided from Knox Court/Lowell Boulevard in
Sheridan east to I-25 in Denver. Includes interchanges at
Federal Blvd. (SH 88), Santa Fe Drive (US 85) and
Broadway. Slow-speed section through central Englewood
from Inca Street to Gilpin Street.
Roadway Names: East-west section in metro Denver: Hampden Avenue
- Poncha Pass (9010ft; <4% grade) south of Poncha
- Trout Creek Pass (9346ft; 5.2% grade) near Antero
- Red Hill Pass (9993ft; 6% grade) northeast of
- Kenosha Pass (10,001ft; 5.3% grade on north side)
west of Grant.
Memorial Designations: Ralph Carr Memorial Highway, New Mexico border to SH 470
Scenic & Historic Byways:
- Los Caminos Antiguos (Antonito to SH 142)
- Collegiate Peaks (US 50 to US 24)
- 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
- 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
- 161.79: Northeast jct US 24, Antero
Junction (Park County)
- 181.97: South jct SH 9 south of
- 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
- 255.01: SH 121/Wadsworth Boulevard
- 255.75: Enter Denver County
- 256.54: SH 95/Sheridan Boulevard
- 257.56: Enter Arapahoe County
- 258.06: SH 88/Federal Boulevard
- 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
- 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.,
- 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
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.
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
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
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.
- New Mexico Border: Welcome Sign • Fenceline East.
Here at the New Mexico border is one of CDOT's large welcome signs.
From the road the fenceline at the border stretches off across the
valley. (August 2010)
- Another View North.
Northbound on US 285, with the
expansive San Luis Valley filling the camera. Photo by David Herrera.
- South Toward the Volcano.
The view on US 285 as it heads south from SH 17 toward New Mexico.
Filling the windshield is 10,908' San Antonio Mountain, one of northern
New Mexico's numerous extinct cinder cone volcanoes. (August 2010)
- Approaching Turn at SH 17. Southound US 285 on the south side of Antonito, where US 285 has to turn toward the New Mexico border. (August 2010)
- Antonito. Southound on US 285 as it passes through Antonito. (August 2010)
- South of Alamosa.
A view of the Crestone group of peaks, including the Crestone Needle
and Mount Cleveland, from northbound US 285 about 7 miles south of
Alamosa. Photo by David Herrera. (May 2005)
- US 160-285, Eastbound Turn. Signs on eastbound US 160-285 where 285 turns south out of Alamosa. (August 2010)
- West Alamosa One-Way Split.
Here, with ominus clouds in the sky, eastbound US 160-285 enters the
one-way split on the west side of Alamosa. EB goes onto 6th St ahead
while WB is coming off Main St to the left. (August 2010)
- Monte Vista Sign Assembly. Shot of the sign assembly on southbound US 285 at the US 160/SH 15 intersection in Monte Vista. (July 2005)
- Rock Cut South of Saguache.
On northbound US 285 south of Saguache at Milepost 83. Here US 285 goes
through a series of rock cuts. In the distance are the hills that mark
the northwest edge of the San Luis Valley. (July 2005)
- US 285/SH 17 Destination Sign.
Here's the large destination sign CDOT provides marking the turnoff to
SH 17 from southbound US 285, south of Villa Grove. (July 2005)
- Villa Grove. The cluster of buildings that makes up Villa Grove as northbound US 285 passes through. (July 2013)
Shavano. The view looking north along US 285
between Mineral Hot Springs and Poncha Springs. The is
the northern part of the San Luis Valley and off in the
distance is Mount Shavano in the Sawatch Range. Photo by
David Herrera. (March 2002)
- San Luis Valley and Blanca Group.
A shot along southbound US 285 at Milepost 112, about 7 miles south of
Poncha Pass. This shot shows the view looking south across the north
part of the San Luis Valley. Off in the distanace is the Blanca Peak
Group. Photo by David Herrera. (May 2005)
- Poncha Pass Northbound Climb. Northbound on US 285 climbing up the south side of Poncha Pass, the furthest north extent of the San Luis Valley. (July 2013)
- Poncha Pass Summit: View Southbound • View Northbound • Marker Sign.
Photos from the summit of Poncha Pass, looking each direction on US 285
and at the CDOT marker sign. To the south is visible the west side of
Sangre de Cristos while to the north the far-off Sawatch Range is
visible. (July 2013)
- Poncha Pass, North Side.
Here's a picture on northbound US 285 on the north side of
Poncha Pass. At this point the road is oriented west toward Mount
Ouray. Photo by David Herrera. (May 2005)
- Poncha Springs Overhead Signs.
A shot of overhead signs on EB/SB US 50-285 approaching the southern
intersection in Poncha Springs where US 50 turns left toward Salida.
- Southbound US 50 Approach.
View of the marker assembly and traffic waiting to turn left as US 285
southbound comes to US 50 in Poncha Springs. (August 2009)
- Nathrop Overhead Pipe Crossings.
US 285 features several sets of overhead pipe crossings near Nathrop.
This show shows a series of three as viewed southbound. (August 2009)
- US 24 Approach Sign South of Buena Vista.
This is the large sign on northbound US 285 approaching US 24 south of
Buena Vista. They really crammed things onto this narrow sign,
resulting in some odd line spacing. Photo by Dale Sanderson. (March
- US 24-285 Split Signs, Sign 1 and Sign 2.
These two shots show the signs on westbound US 24-285 approaching the
split south of Buena Vista. The first sign is a little ways before the
intersection, while the second one is nearer to it, and you can see the
T-intersection itself. Both photos by Dale Sanderson. (March 2008)
- Mount Princeton.
The peak dominates the western horizon in this area, as seen on
westbound US 24-285 a little east of Johnson Village. Photo by Dale
Sanderson. (March 2008)
- Curves Sharpen. A specific warning sign on westbound US 24-285 as it enters the Trout Creek canyon east of Johnson Village. (August 2009)
of Fairplay. The scenery during a light snowstorm
as northbound US 285 traverses the South Park valley
north of Fairplay. (November 2003)
of Jefferson. More scenery on northbound US 285
north of Jefferson just before it begins to climb up
Kenosha Pass. (November 2003)
- Kenosha Pass South Park Overlook.
Looking southward into the South Park valley from the Kenosha Pass
overlook. In the middle of the plain is the town of Jefferson.
- Kenosha Pass Summit. Looking southbound on US 285 at the Kenosha Pass summit during apsen season. (September 2006)
- Shaffers Crossing.
Northbound on US 285 coming up to the Shaffers Crossing / Elk Creek
Road mini interchange. US 285 is elevated on large retaining walls, and
the northwest quadrant of the interchange featrues a massive hillside
cut to make room for the southbound offramp. (September 2011)
- Aspen Park Overpass Construction Picture
1 & Picture
2. Two photos of construction of an
overpass in Aspen Park. The overpass at this point only
had the two abutments, center pier, and girders in place.
The decking and approaches still are to be done. In the
bottom picture you can see US 285 traffic still on its
old two-lane pavement passing under the north half of the
overpass. (August 2001)
East of Aspen Park. Heading northeast on US 285
northeast of Aspen Park. This shows the excavation going
on on the side to create more lanes near Windy Point.
- Windy Point Retaining Wall Part
1 and Part
2. Two shots of the retaining wall at the
massive Windy Point cut east of Aspen Park. The huge cut
into the hillside was necessary as part of the US 285
expressway upgrade. (November 2003)
C-470 Signs. Westbound on US 285 at the SH 470
cloverleaf. The overhead signs here are unusual in that
they don't use directions for SH 470, instead what
highways they head to (I-70 for WB 470, I-25 for EB 470).
Photo by Drew Willsey. (July 2003)
Street Overpass. Westbound US 285 at the Simms
Street interchange. When the photo was taken the new
interchange had not yet opened. Photo by Drew Willsey.
Street Again. Eastbound US 285 at Simms Street.
By the time this picture was taken the interchange was
open. When on this section of US 285 you're pointed right
at the downtown Denver skyline, which can be seen behind
the overpass. (November 2003)
Street Overpass. The US 285 overpass at Raleigh
Street (east of SH 95). You'd never even know it was
there unless you go into Bear Creek Park. (May 2002)
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.
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.
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
Page created 7 January 2008
Last updated 9 March 2014