U.S. Route 50 in Colorado

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U.S. Highway 50

US 50 highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by CDOT
Length467.583 mi[1] (752.502 km)
Major junctions
West end I-70 / US 6 / US 50 at Utah state line
Major intersections
East end US-50 / US-400 at Kansas state line
CountryUnited States
CountiesMesa, Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Saguache, Chaffee, Fremont, Pueblo, Otero, Bent, Prowers
Highway system
  • Colorado State Highway System
SH 47 SH 52

U.S. Route 50 (US 50) is a part of the U.S. Highway System that travels from West Sacramento, California, to Ocean City, Maryland. In the U.S. state of Colorado, US 50 is a major highway crossing through the lower midsection of the state. It connects the Western Slope with the lower Front Range and the Arkansas Valley. The highway serves the areas of Pueblo and Grand Junction as well as many other smaller areas along its corridor. The long-term project to widen the highway from two lanes to a four lane expressway between Grand Junction and Montrose was completed in January 2005. Only about 25% of the remainder of highway 50 in Colorado is four lane expressway.

Route description

Western Slope

U.S. Highway 50 enters Colorado from Utah concurrent with Interstate 70 (I-70), as well as US 6. At Interstate 70 exit 11, US 6/50 end their concurrency with I-70, following the old highway alignment directly north of I-70 while they travel through the communities of Mack, Loma, and Fruita. These communities were bypassed by I-70. In Fruita, US 6/50 intersect State Highway 340 (SH 340), the gateway to the Colorado National Monument. The monument's sandstone canyons and rock spires are visible to the south from the highways.

US 6/50 meet again with I-70 at exit 26, where they begin a concurrent segment with Interstate 70 Business. The three routes travel southeast towards downtown Grand Junction. US 6 breaks away from US 50 and I-70 Business at a free-flowing, grade-separated interchange at North Avenue. The two remaining routes continue south onto surface streets in downtown Grand Junction. At Grand Avenue, they once again intersect with SH 340, which forms a loop between Grand Junction and Fruita. There are several points of access to the Colorado National Monument from the SH 340 loop.

After turning onto two east–west one-way streets (Ute and Pitkin Avenues); US 50 detaches itself from Interstate 70 Business, crosses the Colorado River, and heads through suburban Grand Junction as an expressway. Leaving Grand Junction and the area known as Orchard Mesa, the highway descends into the community of Whitewater and the Gunnison River valley. It intersects with SH 141 and begins a short concurrency with it. Near this intersection, Mount Sneffels (14,158 feet (4,315 m)) and the Sneffels Range of the San Juan Mountains are clearly visible 80 miles (130 km) to the south-southeast.

As US 50 follows the Gunnison River valley in a southeasterly direction, it is bounded on the east by Grand Mesa, which rises to over 11,000 feet (3,400 m), and on the west by the Uncompahgre Plateau, averaging 9,500 feet (2,900 m) and rising to 10,300 feet (3,100 m). US 50 travels through Delta as a typical surface street, having junctions with SH 92 and SH 348. It then passes through Olathe, home of a popular annual sweet corn festival, as an expressway bypass. US 50 arrives in Montrose, in the Uncompahgre River valley, on Townsend Avenue. The route then junctions with US 550 and turns east onto the San Juan Avenue bypass and then onto Main Street heading eastward out of Montrose.

The westernmost 94 miles (151 km) of US 50 in Colorado is a four-lane expressway, from the Utah border to the eastern boundary of Montrose, except for surface streets in Grand Junction, Delta and Montrose. The widening of the last segment of highway between Utah and Montrose was completed in January 2005. Of the remaining 375 miles (604 km) from Montrose to the Kansas line, only about 90 miles (140 km) had been widened to four lanes as of 2012, primarily around larger towns. Otherwise, it is a two-lane highway.

US 50 at Cerro Summit

About ten miles east of Montrose, the highway intersects SH 347. This 5.2-mile-long (8.4 km) highway provides access to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Highway 50 then passes over Cerro Summit, about 8,000 feet (2,400 m), descends to the small community of Cimarron on the Cimarron River and ascends again to Blue Mesa Summit, 8,704 feet (2,653 m), before dropping into Blue Creek Canyon. 3 miles (4.8 km) north of the stream crossing, where Blue Creek empties into the Gunnison River, is the Curecanti Needle, a striking rock formation that is the symbol of the now defunct Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. The needle is now accessible only by boat since the abandoned railroad line was flooded by Morrow Point Lake, formed by the completion of the Crystal Dam in 1976. U.S. Highway 50 rises again over a third low pass before reaching State Highway 92. A short distance north of the intersection, highway 92 crosses the Blue Mesa Dam which forms Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest body of water in the state of Colorado. Highway 50 crosses the reservoir at Middle Bridge, intersects State Highway 149 near the east end of the reservoir and continues into the town of Gunnison, home of Western Colorado University.

East of Gunnison the highway intersects with State Highway 114, passes through the communities of Parlin and Sargents and then ascends to Monarch Pass (elevation 11,312 feet (3,448 m)) on the continental divide. Monarch Pass is the highest point on the entire length of U.S. 50.

Arkansas River Valley

After descending from Monarch Pass, the highway enters the Arkansas River Valley near the town of Salida. The headwaters of the Arkansas are about 50 miles (80 km) north near Leadville, in Climax. The Arkansas is the second-longest tributary to the Mississippi-Missouri River system. U.S. 50 closely follows the Arkansas River from Salida to Kansas. East of Salida, the highway enters a deep canyon, dubbed Bighorn Sheep Canyon. There are several small communities in the canyon including Howard, Coaldale and Cotopaxi. The major industries in the canyon are fishing and river rafting.

US 50 looking west entering Howard

Near mile marker 267, the highway crosses the river. Before the highway climbs uphill and leaves the canyon, Parkdale, Colorado is home to rafting, mining and a recreational area along the river. A short distance later, Colorado State Highway 9 intersects from the north as the highway enters the Royal Gorge area. Fremont County Road 3A leads to the rim of the Royal Gorge and its famous suspension bridge. The Royal Gorge Bridge is 1,260 feet (380 m) long and 956 feet (291 m) above the Arkansas River. It was built in 1929 and remains a popular tourist attraction that reopened to the public in 2014 after a devastating fire destroyed much of the surrounding park in 2013. The bridge remained intact but some boards were blackened. The damaged boards were replaced to maintain the integrity of the bridge.

After passing by the Royal Gorge, Highway 50 lowers off Eight Mile Hill and becomes a divided four lane highway. It then passes by the scenic route Skyline Drive on its way into Cañon City. At 1st Street, the highway is known locally as Royal Gorge Boulevard. Fremont County, which includes Cañon City, is the home to 15 prisons, including ADX Supermax, the only federal Supermax prison in the United States, located south of Florence, Colorado.

U.S. 50 intersects State Highway 67, State Highway 115 and State Highway 120 in Fremont County before crossing into Pueblo County. Then the highway enters Pueblo West on its way to intersect with State Highway 45. Highway 50 enters Pueblo, the home of the annual Colorado State Fair, as a six-lane divided highway and joins Interstate 25. Pueblo is at the edge of the Rocky Mountains, the beginning of the plains of southeastern Colorado. As the highway heads east across the plains, it generally follows the path of the Arkansas River until it reaches Kansas. Along the route it passes through several small communities including Fowler, Rocky Ford and La Junta.

US 50 in Lamar approaching the intersection with US 385 and US 287

Just beyond La Junta, the highway passes Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site where travelers can find information about life on the plains. The highway continues on to Las Animas, Colorado, home of Boggsville Historic Site, and Lamar.

Between Pueblo and Kansas, Highway 50 intersects with a number of state highways and U.S. highways. The U.S. highways are U.S. Highway 350, 287, 385 and 400. It runs concurrently with 287 and 385 for short distances and with 400 from Granada, Colorado, to Dodge City, Kansas, a distance of 136 miles (219 km).

U.S. route 50 in Colorado ends at the Kansas state line, about 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Holly, Colorado, 467.6 miles (752.5 km) from the Utah border. Holly has the lowest elevation of any town in Colorado at 3,392 feet (1,034 m).

Major intersections

I-70 west (US 6 / US 50 west) – Salina
Continuation into Utah
1.8142.9192Rabbit ValleyExit number follows I-70
I-70 east
Eastern end of I-70 concurrency; I-70 exit 11
SH 139 to I-70 – Loma, Rangely
To I-70 via SH 139 south

SH 340 east (Coulson Street) to I-70
Western terminus of SH 340
Grand Junction26.08041.972
I-70 BL begins / I-70 – Denver, Utah
Western end of I-70 BL overlap; I-70 exit 26; diverging diamond interchange
28.24445.454Patterson Road / 24 Road
Redlands Parkway south
Partial interchange

US 6 east (North Avenue)
Interchange; eastern end of US 6 concurency; no eastbound entrance; mileposts change to reflect I-70 BL mileage
SH 340 west (Grand Avenue) – Colorado National Monument
Eastern terminus of SH 340; eastbound eccess via Spruce Street
I-70 BL (Ute Avenue)One-way street, inbound access only; mileposts change to reflect US 50 mileage

I-70 BL east (Pitkin Avenue east) to I-70 east – Denver
One-way street, outbound access only; eastern end of I-70 Bus. concurrency

Riverside Parkway to US 50 / I-70 BL
34.20655.049B½ RoadInterchange; eastbound exit and westbound entrance; former SH 340 east

SH 141 north (32 Road) to I-70 east – Clifton, Denver
Western end of SH 141 concurrency
SH 141 south – Gateway, Naturita
Eastern end of SH 141 concurrency

SH 92 east (1st Street) to SH 65 north / SH 133 east – Grand Mesa, Black Canyon National Park North Rim
Western terminus of SH 92
71.428114.952 SH 348 (6th Street)

US 50 Bus. east – Olathe
Western terminus of US 50 Bus.
SH 348 west – Olathe
Eastern terminus of SH 348

US 50 Bus. west – Olathe
Eastern terminus of US 50 Bus.
US 550 south (Townsend Avenue south) – Ouray
Northern terminus of US 550; former US 50 east
SH 347 north – Black Canyon National Park
Southern terminus of SH 347
GunnisonCurecanti NRA131.129211.032
SH 92 west – Crawford, Hotchkiss
Eastern terminus of SH 92
SH 149 south – Lake City, Creede, South Fork
Northern terminus of SH 149
SH 135 north (Main Street) – Crested Butte
Southern terminus of SH 135
165.601266.509 SH 114 – Saguache
SaguacheNo major intersections
Continental Divide199.277320.705Monarch Pass Summit
GunnisionChafee county line
ChaffeePoncha Springs216.770348.857
US 285 north – Buena Vista, Leadville
Western end of US 285 concurrency
US 285 south – Monte Vista
Eastern end of US 285 concurrency
SH 291 north (Oak Street) / CR 105 – Salida National Historic District
Southern terminus of SH 291; former US 50 west
FremontTexas Creek252.663406.622
SH 69 south – Westcliffe
Northern terminus of SH 69
SH 9 north – Guffey, Hartsel
Southern terminus of SH 9; USBR 76 west
Cañon City278.704448.531
SH 115 east (9th Street) – Florence
Western terminus of SH-115

SH 67 south / CR 67 north (Phantom Canyon Road) – Florence, Victor
Northern terminus of SH 67; southern terminus of CR 67
Penrose289.769466.338 SH 115 – Penrose, Colorado Springs, FlorenceInterchange
294.339473.693 SH 120 (R Street)
PuebloPueblo West312.088502.257
SH 45 south (Pueblo Boulevard)
Partial interchange; northern terminus of SH 45

I-25 north (US 85 / US 87 north) / SH 47 east – Colorado Springs, La Junta
Western end of I-25/US 85/US 87 concurrency; western terminus of SH-47; I-25 exit 101; mileposts change to reflect I-25 mileage
100.681162.030100B29th StreetExit number follows I-25; no westbound entrance

I-25 south (US 85 / US 87 south) – Trinidad
Southern end of I-25/US 85/US 87 concurrency; I-25 exit 100A; mileposts change to reflect US 50 mileage

SH 47 north (Cesar Chavez Boulevard) / SH 96 west (4th Street)
Western end of SH 96 concurrency; eastern terminus of SH-47; interchange
321.640517.629Pueblo Memorial AirportInterchange
SH 233 south
Northern terminus of SH 233
SH 231 south (36th Lane)
Northern terminus of SH 231
329.135529.691Pueblo Chemical DepotInterchange
North Avondale329.334530.012
SH 96 east – Ordway, Boone
Eastern end of SH 96 concurrency

US 50 Bus. west – Avondale
Eastern terminus of US 50 Bus.
SH 209 north – Boone
Southern terminus of SH 209
OteroFowler350.909564.733 SH 167 (Main Street)
SH 207 north (Park Street) – Crowley
Southern terminus of SH 207
SH 71 north – Ordway
Western end of SH 71 concurrency
Rocky Ford368.109592.414 SH 202 (2nd Street)
SH 71 south / SH 266 (12th Street)
Eastern end of SH 71 concurrency
La Junta378.419609.006
SH 10 west – Walsenburg
Eastern terminus of SH 10
US 350 west (Grant Avenue) / Santa Fe Trail Scenic Byway – Trinidad
Eastern terminus of US 350
SH 109 (Bradish Avenue) to SH 194 – Cheraw, Kim, Bents Old Fort National Historic Site
BentLas Animas398.769641.756 SH 101 (Carson Avenue) – Boggsville National Historic District
SH 194 west – Bents Fort
Eastern terminus of SH 194; interchange
SH 183 south – Ft. Lyon
Northern terminus of SH 183
420.744677.122 SH 196 – McClave
US 287 north – Limon
Interchange; western end of US 287 concurrency

US 287 south / US 385 south – Springfield
Eastern end of US 287 concurrency; western end of US 385 concurrency

US 385 north (Main Street) / US 400 begins – Bristol, Sheridan Lake, Cheyenne Wells
Eastern end of US 385 concurrency; western end of US 400 concurrency; western terminus of US 400
Holly463.506745.941 SH 89 (First Avenue) – Lycan

US-50 east / US-400 east – Syracuse, Garden City
Continuation into Kansas
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also

Related U.S. Routes


  1. ^ Colorado Department of Transportation, Highway Data Archived October 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, accessed July 2007
  2. ^ Colorado Department of Transportation, Highway Data Explorer Archived September 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, accessed November 2013

External links

U.S. Route 50
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