Wildfires in several states shutting down highways

August 21, 2020

Tyson Fisher


Wildfires in California and Arizona have shut down sections of several highways. Meanwhile in Colorado, the Grizzly Creek Fire continues to shut down a portion of Interstate 70 for the 12th straight day.

Colorado wildfires

As of the early afternoon of Friday, Aug. 21, Interstate 70 between mile marker (Glenwood Springs) 116 and mile marker 140 (Gypsum) near Glenwood Canyon in Colorado continued to be closed in both directions. The interstate first shut down on Aug. 10, when the fire started. As of publication, there was no estimated time of reopening.

During the closure, motorists are to follow the following detours going westbound on I-70 while the wildfire is active:I-70 wildfire detour

  • U.S. 285 to U.S. 50, continue west to Grand Junction.
  • Colorado Highway 9 to U.S. 285 south to U.S. 50, or Colorado Highway 91 southwest to U.S. 24 to U.S. 50.
  • U.S. 24 from I-70 to U.S. 285 to connect with U.S. 50.

Those coming from the west going eastbound must get off I-70 at Grand Junction and use U.S. 50 east to U.S. 285 and continue to Denver. Eastbound travelers on U.S. 50/285 may also use U.S. 24, Colorado Highway 91 or Colorado Highway 9 for destinations at or near Vail, Copper Mountain or Silverthorne.

Independence Pass (Colorado Highway 82) has been reopened. However, it is available to passenger vehicles only.No commercial motor vehicles, camper trailers, recreational or similar vehicles may use the highway. A 35-foot length restriction is in place. Additionally, the Colorado Department of Transportation also asks motorists not to use Cottonwood Pass, Hagerman Pass, or other county or forest service roads in Eagle and Garfield counties as a detour. These roads are not built for heavy traffic or commercial oversize vehicles.

Motorists should avoid using highways north of I-70 as a through route, due to construction zones. CDOT has paused some construction projects in order to accommodate detour traffic.

According to The Aspen Times, the current I-70 closure in Colorado may be the longest unexpected closure since I-70 was completed through Glenwood Canyon in 1992.

Entering its 12th day on Friday, the previous record was set in February 2016 with a six-day closure. However, that closure was not the result of a wildfire. Rather, a massive rockslide near Glenwood Canyon caused the closure.

More wildfires in Colorado have shut down other highways. Colorado Highway 14 is shut down from west of Cameron Pass and Walden (mile marker 61) for eastbound traffic and at Rustic and County Road 69 (mile marker 91) for westbound traffic due to the Cameron Peak Wildfire. CDOT recommends detouring north on U.S. Highway 287 or Interstate 25 to Laramie, Wyo., and then traveling on Wyoming Highway 230 to Walden, Colo.

Colorado Highway 139 (Douglas Pass) is shut down due to the Pine Gulch wildfire. The closure is north of Loma (Fruita/Grand Junction) and between mile marker 6 and mile marker 39. There is no anticipated time for reopening. In the meantime, CDOT recommends traveling on Colorado Highway 9 or Colorado Highway 131 to access U.S. Highway 40, or to travel in reverse from northwest Colorado to points south or the recommended detour around the I-70 closure. Commercial traffic is to use Colorado Highway 9 instead of Colorado Highway 131, for safety purposes. While Colorado Highway 13 is open at this time, it is not a recommended detour due to construction. Oversize commercial vehicles cannot use Colorado Highway 13 due to construction restrictions.

CO 14 wildfire detour

For traffic updates, visit COtrip.org.

California wildfires

Several wildfires throughout the state of California are also shutting down highways. Although the closures may not be as severe as Colorado’s I-70 shutdown, motorists should plan ahead when traveling in the Golden State.

According to CalTrans, the following wildfire-related closures are in place as of Friday afternoon:

  • State Route 1 (both directions) from Route 116 to Fort Ross (reopening expected at 9 a.m. on Aug. 23).
  • State Route 1 (southbound) from San Mateo/Santa Cruz County Line to Route SR/084 (reopening expected at 8 p.m. on Aug. 22).
  • State Route 1 (both directions) from Mission Street/Shaffer Road to San Mateo County Line (no estimated time for reopening).
  • State Route 1 (both directions) from Ragged Point Viaduct to Pfeiffer Burns State Park (no estimated time for reopening).
  • State Route 9 (both directions) from Junction Route 236 to San Mateo County Line (no estimated time for reopening).
  • State Route 35 (both directions) from San Mateo/Santa Clara County Line to Saratoga Gap (reopening expected at midnight on Aug. 24).
  • State Route 39 (both directions) from San Gabriel River Bridge to East Fork Road (no estimated time for reopening).
  • State Route 49 (both directions) from Route 120 to Penon Blanco Road (no estimated time for reopening).
  • State Route 84 (both directions) from Route 35 to Route 1 (reopening expected at 8 p.m. on Aug. 23).
  • State Route 121 (northbound) from Vichy Avenue to Route 128 (reopening expected at 6 a.m. on Aug. 22).
  • State Route 128 (both directions) from Silverado Trail to Monticello Dam (reopening expected at 6 a.m. on Aug. 22).
  • State Route 236 (both directions) from Highway 9 in Boulder Creek to Highway 9 in Watermans Gap (no estimated time for reopening).

For up-to-date closures, visit CalTrans’ QuickMap. Updates on California can be seen on Cal Fire’s Twitter page.

Arizona wildfires

Two separate wildfires in Arizona have caused closures of two highways.

East of Phoenix, the Salt Fire has closed state Route 188 in both directions between mile marker 223 and mile marker 232. The wildfire has also shut down state Route 288 in both directions between mile markers 258 and 262. There is no estimated time to reopen either highway.

North of Globe, a wildfire is shutting down U.S. 60 in both directions between mile markers 257 and 269. There is no estimated time of reopening for this closure either.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT.