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Highway 82 Bypass #1: The Real Deal

Todd Hartley's picture

If you’ve spent a lot of time in the Aspen area, chances are you’ve spent a lot of time on Highway 82, and by now you’re probably tired of it. Unfortunately, Highway 82 is an unavoidable fact of life in the Roaring Fork Valley. If you need to get up or down the valley in a hurry, you basically have no other choice. But if you’re willing to set aside some extra time for a scenic drive, it is possible to get from Aspen all the way to the I-70 exit in West Glenwood without having to drive on 82 at all other than to cross it once.

Start at the intersection of Mill and Main in downtown Aspen.
Go north one block on Mill Street.
Take a left on West Bleeker Street and drive through Aspen’s historic West End. The roads in this neighborhood are laid out like a grid, so feel free to take whichever streets you want, as long as you end up heading west on West Smuggler Street.

Stay on Smuggler past Eighth Street, where it turns into Power Plant Road, which winds down into a narrow canyon and crosses Maroon Creek before climbing back up the hill on the far side.
When you reach the end of Power Plant Road, take a right on Cemetery Lane.

Cemetery Lane goes down a hill before crossing the Roaring Fork River and becoming McLain Flats Road on the far side. Stay on McLain Flats Road for a few miles until it heads down a large, steep hill back toward the river. At the bottom of the hill take a right on Upper River Road and drive through the quirky hamlet of Woody Creek.

A couple of miles past Woody Creek, Upper River Road ends. Stay right here on Lower River Road and go roughly four miles to where it makes a 90 degree turn to the left and crosses the river to reach the Old Snowmass stoplight. This is the one point where your wheels will touch Highway 82, which you will have to cross to get to Snowmass Creek Road.

Stay on Snowmass Creek Road for a couple of miles until you reach a T intersection. Go right on Capitol Creek Road for about a quarter-mile and then take another right on East Sopris Creek Road. The road turns to dirt but is easily passable for any cars.

Follow East Sopris Creek past where it turns back to pavement until you reach a stop sign. At this point go straight ahead on West Sopris Creek Road, which will turn to dirt and take you by the base of Mount Sopris before switchbacking up to the top of a low divide and turning into Prince Creek Road, which is also dirt.

Stay on Prince Creek Road to its end, and take a right on Highway 133 to reach the stoplight at Carbondale’s Main Street.
Take a left on Main, which will wind past the Colorado Rocky Mountain School and across the Crystal River, becoming Thompson Creek Road on the far side.

Thompson Creek Road goes up a hill and winds back into a small valley. After a couple of miles, look for Dry Park Road on your right. This dirt track can be driven in a passenger car, but high clearance and/or four-wheel-drive is recommended.

Follow Dry Park Road to where it ends, and then take a right on Four Mile Road, which will lead you down a hill and into Glenwood Springs before turning into Midland Avenue.
At 27th Street, stay left on Midland instead of crossing the river and follow it past the Glenwood Meadows shopping area. Beyond Glenwood Meadows, Midland will go down a hill and cross the river to reach the West Glenwood exit of I-70.