5 Must-See Stops Along I-70 in Colorado

American President Dwight Eisenhower was no stranger to the world of war. As a supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, he pla...

American President Dwight Eisenhower was no stranger to the world of war. As a supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, he played a key in the liberation of Europe from the Nazi Germany. However when the World War II ended in 1945, he was convinced that it was just a matter of time when the new war, this time with Soviet Union, would begin. That's why, once he became a president, he persisted that the country-wide network of highways be built in the US to assist a mobility of military troops and allow people to quickly escape big cities in case of a nuclear attack. The Interstate Highway System was finished long after Eisenhower had passed away, and the last stretch of the originally planned network was the Interstate-70 in Colorado.

The reason why the Interstate-70 in Colorado was finished only in 1992, 35 years after the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 passed, was its difficult terrain and high complexity. You'll see it by yourself when I'll show you pictures of the narrow gorges of Glenwood Canyon. But aside from being an engineering marvel, the I-70 corridor in Colorado is arguable one of the prettiest stretches in the whole network of interstate highways: nestled in deep canyons of the Colorado River amid snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Below is my top 5 places along the I-70 in Colorado that you don't want to miss.

1. Glenwood Hot Springs.  
If you like hot springs and hate to be constrained to tiny spas, you will very much enjoy Glenwood Springs. Two Olympic size pools of hot and a bit smelly water coming from within the Mother Earth (albeit cooled so that people don't get boiled alive) is what you can expect from the world's largest mineral hot springs pool.
At the time of our visit, most people huddled at a warmer pool (104 F / 40 C), but I found the cooler pool (90 F / 32 C) to be more enjoyable.
There are several hot springs in the area, this one is called Yampah ('Big Medicine' from Ute language) and has been in operations since 1888.
Original pool.
Interesting that to prevent turning this hot springs into a private spa, 22 local businessmen purchased it in 1956, so that it would always remain under local ownership and be available to public.
The town of Glenwood Springs was once inhabited by miners, gamblers and gunslingers much like the rest of the American West, and bore a suitable name - 'Defiance'.
Hotel Colorado was a favourite stop of the President Theodore Roosevelt. People claim that a famous teddy bear was invented here as a gift from the hotel's staff.

2. Glenwood Canyon I-70 Corridor.  
The 12.5 mile / 20 km stretch of the I-70 in Glenwood Canyon was the last and the most celebrated section in the Interstate Highway System. 
It's also one of the most difficult and expensive pieces with a total budget of $490 million ($800 million in today's dollars). It includes 40 bridges and viaducts, three tunnels, and 15 miles / 24 km of retaining wall.
Glenwood Canyon has been crucial in the American land transportation since the railroad was built here in 1887 that connected Denver and Alamosa on the border with New Mexico. The first auto road appeared in 1902, but was windy and dangerous to navigate, especially in the winter. But it wasn't until 1975 that Glenwood Canyon officially became a future link on the map of interstate highways.
'The process of planning and designing the new highway through Glenwood Canyon was lengthy, intense and - public. Designers were especially challenged to create model graphics that would realistically depict the finished product. They did it by using artists' renderings, sophisticated computer simulations, and actual models. Designers walked every foot of the canyon many times and literally adjusted the location of the road by inches to save a tree or keep from blasting a cliff face. It was this personal commitment to excellence and attention to detail that ultimately gave the people what they wanted - the best that can be accomplished in highway design and construction.' (from an informational sign at one of the four rest areas).

3. Vail.  
Ski industry in Colorado should thank Interstate-70 for its growth and development. With the opening of the Glenwood Canyon section in 1992, the corridor between Denver and Grand Junction has seen the largest concentration of ski resorts in the United States.
While there are many places to go skiing, Vail is probably the most famous and expensive one. You will never be bored with 33 ski lifts and 193 marked skiing trails.
Vail is trying its best to look like a Bavarian town, and it succeeded in many ways.
From Bavarian-inspired architecture to Bavarian food and even Octoberfest to snowy peaks - Vail looks and feels like the Alps in the Rocky Mountains.

4. White River National Forest.  
White River National Forest is huge and you only catch a quick glimpse of it while driving along the I-70, but it's enough to want to come back and explore more.
White River National Forest is the most visited national forest in the United States. Guess what is the major contributor to its accessibility?
Things to do at White River National Forest is countless - skiing, hiking, camping, caving, fishing, cycling, hunting, and many more.

5. Eisenhower Tunnel.  
Eisenhower Tunnel marks the highest point on the Interstate System and the highest auto tunnel in the world.
The elevation is 11,155 ft / 3,400 m under the Continental Divide meaning that rivers on either side of the divide drain into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans respectively.
Eisenhower Tunnel is very busy. It took only 4 months to carry 1,000,000 vehicles.
Running a tunnel requires 52 full-time staff. Those include security, repair and ventilation maintenance, washing and sweeping, snow removal, etc.

My other posts about the trip to Colorado, New Mexico and Utah:

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