Colorado Highways: US 36

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Location: Northern Mountains > Northern Metro Denver > Eastern Plains
Length*: 187.97mi signed; 231.70mi implied
W End: Jct US 34 at Deer Ridge Junction in Rocky Mountain National Park
E End: Kansas border east of Idalia (link to Richie Kennedy's site)
Nationally: E End: Jct US 250 in Uhrichsville, Ohio (1414mi)

Counties: Larimer, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe, Washington, Yuma
Places: Estes Park, Lyons, Boulder, Louisville, Superior, Broomfield, Westminster, Byers, Last Chance, Cope, Idalia

NHS: SH 119 in Boulder southeast to I-25

Freeway: Broadway/Baseline Rd./28th Ave. interchange in Boulder southeast to I-25 Exit 217 (exit list)

Spur Connection: From US 36 west along Baseline Rd. in Boulder to Broadway (SH 93)

Broken Route: Discontinuous due to an unmarked multiplex with Interstates: From I-25 Exit 217, southeast on I-270, east on I-70, to Exit 316 at Byers.

Roadway Names: The above freeway section is the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, usually shortened to the Boulder Turnpike.

Scenic & Historic Byways: Trail Ridge Road/Rocky Mountain National Park (US 34 to Estes Park) America's Byways (All-American Road)

Milepost Guide:

  • 0.00: US 34, Deer Ridge Junction (begin US 36 in Larimer County)
  • 3.09: Rocky Mountain National Park fee gate
  • 6.98: BR US 34/Moraine Dr./Elkhorn Ave., Estes Park
  • Mileposts reset due to US 36's north end being in east Estes Park up until the late 1970s.
  • 0.00: US 34/BR 34 in east Estes Park
  • 0.39: SH 7, Estes Park
  • 13.24: Enter Boulder County
  • 20.35: SH 7, Lyons
  • 21.76: SH 66 southeast of Lyons
  • 35.00: SH 119/Diagonal Hwy, Boulder
  • 36.34: SH 119/Canyon Blvd., Boulder
  • 36.53: SH 7/Arapahoe Ave, Boulder
  • 37.60: Spur US 36/To SH 93/Baseline Rd interchange
  • 39.26: SH 157/Foothills Pkwy/South Boulder Rd interchange
  • 43.19: SH 170/McCaslin Blvd interchange, Superior/Louisville
  • 45.17: Enter Broomfield County
  • 48.03: SH 121/To SH 128/To US 287/Wadsworth Pkwy interchange, Broomfield
  • 49.40: Enter Jefferson County
  • 52.47: SH 95/Sheridan Blvd interchange, Westminster
  • 52.70: Enter Adams County
  • 54.85: US 287/Federal Blvd interchange
  • 56.99: SH 224/Broadway interchange
  • 57.25: I-25 Exit 217/I-270 Exit 0 interchange (end US 36)
  • 100.98: SH 36-40, Byers (begin US 36 in Arapahoe County)
  • 101.00: I-70 Exit 316 interchange, Byers
  • 102.86: Begin Arapahoe/Adams County split
  • 115.35: Enter Arapahoe County
  • 124.79: Begin Arapahoe/Adams County split
  • 129.57: Enter Washington County
  • 135.58: SH 71, Last Chance
  • 155.61: SH 63, Anton
  • 178.04: West jct SH 59 east of Cope
  • 180.40: Enter Yuma County
  • 185.38: East jct SH 59 west of Joes
  • 211.10: South jct US 385 east of Idalia
  • 213.65: North jct US 385
  • 224.72: Kansas border (end US 36)

Annual Average Daily Traffic (2008):

  • 2700 at US 34, Deer Ridge Jct.
  • 11,600 west of BR 34, Estes Park
  • 17,400 on US 36/BR 34
  • 16,800 south of US 34/BR 34
  • 6000 south of SH 7
  • 5200 southeast of CR 47
  • 7100 north of SH 7, Lyons
  • 12,700 west of SH 66, Lyons
  • 7000 south of SH 66
  • 8900 south of Nelson Rd.
  • 15,500 south of Lee Hill Rd., Boulder
  • 27,000 south of SH 119/Iris Ave.
  • 41,100 south of SH 7/Arapahoe Ave.
  • 47,100 southeast of SH 93/Baseline Rd.
  • 74,800 southeast of SH 170/McCaslin Blvd., Louisville/Superior
  • 78,400 southeast of SH 121/Wadsworth Pkwy., Broomfield
  • 113,000 southeast of US 287/Federal Blvd., Westminster
  • 124,000 at I-25
  • 3800 at SH 36-40, Byers
  • 970 east of CR 185/Calhoun Rd
  • 620 east of CR 269/East Mile Road
  • 550 east of SH 71, Last Chance
  • 1300 east of SH 63, Anton
  • 700 east of SH 59
  • 500 east of CR Q
  • 920 on US 36-385
  • 390 at Kansas border

US 36 starts off as a twisty mountain road at Deer Ridge Junction in Rocky Mountain National Park. It winds its way down to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, and then east to Estes Park. It enters town heading north onto Moraine Ave., and at the intersection with Elkhorn Ave., it hits BR US 34. US 36 goes east on Elkhorn to the intersection with St. Vrain Ave., which is also the east US 34/BR 34 split. See my US 34 page for stories on each US 34-36 intersection and pictures of them.

US 36 goes southeast on St. Vrain Ave., crossing Lake Estes on a land causeway. It then climbs a grade and on the other side drops into the canyon for the Little Thompson River. It follows the canyon most of the way to Pinewood Springs, passing through that town at a fairly wide, level interruption in the mountainous terrain. US 36 then picks up an unnamed gulch and has a continuous downward grade for almost the whole distance from Pinewood Springs to Lyons. Just northwest of town US 36 comes into the canyon for North Fork Saint Vrain Creek and follows that into town. At first it heads south on 5th Ave., but then turns east, splits onto two one-way streets (southeastbound on Broadway, NWB on Main). At 2nd Ave., they merge back onto one street.

East of Lyons, US 36 intersects SH 66 at a signalized T intersection. You have to turn to continue on US 36. US 36 then follows the Foothills Highway south to Boulder. Just north of town US 36 veers southeast toward 28th St. 28th St. is attempting to be an urban expressway, but has a 35mph speed limit and lots of traffic signals. Southeast of downtown, along the east side of the University of Colorado, US 36 becomes freeway north of the Baseline Road interchange. The interchange with Baseline Road also ties into Broadway (SH 93), which is one block to the west. The short piece of Baseline Road between US 36 and SH 93 is defined as a Spur SH 36. A side note: Baseline Road (by which I mean the east-west line that it follows) is the baseline for surveying in Colorado; it falls along the 40th Parallel, and is the dividing line between north and south townships.

From Boulder to I-25, the Boulder Turnpike is a full freeway with a 65mph speed limit, 55mph east of 104 Avenue. I have created an exit list for the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. The portion of it between Boulder and Broomfield is still out in the boondocks, but development is knocking. From Broomfield to I-25, it is lined with development, much of it occurring in only since the mid-'90s. Flatiron Crossing Mall in Broomfield, which opened in August 2000, is sure to bring even more.

Here are some notes about signs along the Boulder Turnpike, from Ben Kiene:

The interchange at Wadsworth and US 36 is also up for a MAJOR overhaul. Plans for it include converting the interchange into a half cloverleaf with loops from both directions of Wadsworth to 36. A completely new interchange will also be built there. 120th Avenue (which I assume will be marked as SH 128) will be carried over US 36 on its own bridge and will have a half diamond interchange with ramps from westbound 36 to it and from 120th to eastbound 36. I'm still not sure what will happen with the loop on US 287 to the north of here. No one knows when all of this will be done as funding is still a problem.
I believe the purpose of the new interchange at 120th and US 36 is to alleviate the congestion at the SH 121/US 287 interchange. A substantial amount of the traffic flow through the area is commuters trying to go east on 120th. The only way to do that (without turning on several local streets) is to turn left immediately after the bridge over the BNSF Railroad tracks. The turn lane here is pretty short resulting in traffic being backed-up, sometimes as far south as the Park-n-Ride at SH 128 and Wadsworth. It will also provide direct access to Denver-bound US 36 from the Jeffco Airport/Interlocken area. Currently, you have to turn on to Wadsworth and then turn on to 36. In the same area, Wadsworth will be widened to 6 lanes at least between 120th and Midway Blvd (the first light to the north of this mess).

Starting at Sheridan Blvd., US 36 has an HOV lane eastbound on the left side. This is not a separated roadway like on I-25, but just a single lane separated by striping. In May 2001, a new single-lane barrier-separated HOV lane opened up east of Pecos Street. The lane is reversible, heading eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening. It includes a direct connection to the HOT lanes on I-25. From the end of the separated HOT lane, there is also a striping-separated westbound HOV lane, which ends at Federal Blvd.

The interchange with I-25 (Exit 217) is not a pretty sight. US 36 and I-76 hit I-25 in separate places according to maps, but the truth is they blend together in a tangle of ramps and bridges. The I-25-76-270/US 36 area has been under construction since at least 1994. In August 2000 a major milestone was reached, when the new exit from NB 25 to WB 36 opened. It became a left exit, unlike before when it was a right exit. This of course caused confusion, considering drivers are creatures of habit and don't read signs. On the first day of it news chopper video showed many people swerving across the gore at the last minute, and even a couple of people backing up. BAD IDEA! But there were no accidents and things settled down after a couple of days.

US 36 disappears at I-25. No matter how hard you look, you will not find a sign which tells you which way to go to continue on it. However, maps dictate that it goes southeast on I-270 and east on I-70. This is the most direct route to the point it appears again in Byers, so that makes since.

US 36 appears again in central Byers. From SH 36's eastern end, US 36 heads northeast out to I-70. This dangling end is the result of the fact that SH 36 used to be US 36 (also US 40-287), but the US highway was taken off that alignment when I-70 was built. US 36 goes through I-70 Exit 316, then curves east and straddles the Adams/Arapahoe country line. As US 36 heads east across the Plains, it takes a relaxing, rolling, almost straight alignment toward the crossroads town of Last Chance (at SH 71). US 36 continues east over the rolling prairie, passing through Lindon, Anton (at SH 63), Cope, Joes, and Idalia. Of all the towns east of Byers, none are incorporated, only some have services (Anton, Cope and Idalia) and Cope appears to be the largest. Don't take chances with gas, get it before you need it.

East of Idalia, US 36 hits US 385, with US 36 turning north and the two routes having an overlap for 3 miles. Each US 36/385 intersection is arranged with US 36 as the through route with a 90-degree curve. From the north US 385 intersection, US 36 heads due east to Kansas. At one time there was a proposed US 36 angling northeast from just east of Idalia to just east of US 385, so that would make for a slightly more direct route through that area. Apparently, this was a CDOT plan that was never realized.

Photo Gallery:

US 36 is not an original 1926 US highway in Colorado. Instead it was extended west into Colorado in 1930. At first it appears its west end was at Byers. By 1936 it was realigned so that it did not go to Byers, instead heading west to US 40 at Strasburg. Also by that time it was paved from Strasburg to SH 71.

By 1937 US 36 was extended west along US 40, ending in Denver at likely Colfax and Colorado (historic junction with US 6). About 1946 US 6 was rerouted through downtown on Larimer St, so US 36 was extended west along Colfax to Larimer (this intersection no longer exists). About 1952 US 6 was rerouted again, this time south through downtown on Broadway, so US 36 was truncated back to end at Colfax and Broadway. During the following few years the Colfax/Broadway intersection was a nexis of US highways, with US 6, 36, 40, 85 and 87 all passing through it.

US 36 was paved in its entirety by 1950. By 1955 US 36 was realigned near Byers so it turned south on Xmore Rd rather than continuing west to Strasburg. By 1959 the Valley Highway was complete past downtown Denver, so US 36 was extended west along Colfax to it, ending at US 85-87/SH 185.

The freeway east of Aurora past Watkins and Bennett appeared by 1962, and US 36 was run along that. The diagonal portion of US 36 northeast of Byers was built about 1963 in conjunction with the completion of the I-70 Byers interchange.

In 1967, US 36 was extended from Denver, up I-25 from Colfax Avenue and northwest on the newly-free Denver-Boulder Turnpike. From Boulder it took over SH 7's route north to Lyons and SH 66 to east Estes Park. The corner stone from the DBT toll plaza at Broomfield was moved to a memorial to the Turnpike at the westbound Davidson Mesa scenic overlook (see photo gallery above).

In 1976 the routing through Denver was changed from Colfax Ave/I-25 to I-70/I-270. By 1978 US 36 was extended west through Estes Park to Deer Ridge Junction along what had been SH 66. See the SH 66 listing for more.

Jim Adolphson reports that in the mid-1980s the plan by the (then) Colorado Department of Highways was to extend I-270 up US 36 to Boulder once the interchange reconstruction at I-25 was complete. Sometime between then and now the plan was scrapped, though.

The new connection between westbound I-270 and westbound US 36 opened in February 2000. New exits at Flatiron Crossing Mall in Broomfield opened in August 2000. A new separated single reversible HOV lane opened from I-25 to Pecos Street, as well as the direct connection to the I-25 HOV lanes, and widening from four to six lanes, in May 2001. In August 2003 the direct link from US 36 to EB I-270 opened.

US 36 between Estes Park and Lyons suffered flooding Sept 12-15, 2013 and was damaged or destroyed in numerous areas. The road underwent emergency repairs by the Colorado National Guard and reopened on November 4, 2013.

The Boulder Turnpike currently has a 65 mph speed limit from Boulder to Sheridan Blvd., then 55mph to I-25. The speed limit should be 65mph until just short of I-25.

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Last updated 8 June 2014