Charles Kuralt famously said “Interstate highways allow you to drive coast to coast, without seeing anything”. For the most part, he was right. But it’s hard to believe he’d ever make a statement like that, if he had driven through Glenwood Canyon.
This narrow passage, cut by the Colorado River, is one of the most scenic sections on America’s Interstate highway system. It was also one of the most difficult to build, and one of the last links completed in the web of freeways that criss-cross the country. And it didn’t come cheap. The price tag for construction was just shy of half a billion dollars.
Work began in 1980, and wasn’t complete until 1992. Road crews had to dig three tunnels, and build 15 miles of retaining walls and 40 viaducts and bridges. And, they had to do it all in a way that protected and preserved the environment.
The end result was a marvel of engineering that’s still stunning to see. There are several rest areas located in the canyon — some of which also serve as trailheads for a path along the Colorado River.
I took the photo above on my first trip through Glenwood Canyon, back in 2005. You can see the Colorado River, and the entrance to the Hanging Lake Tunnels — two tubes, 4,000 feet long. These tunnels were the last part of this complex project to be completed.
From one of those rest areas (at exit 125), you can also access the excellent Hanging Lake Trail, which I hiked in 2005. A short but steep trail leads up to this incredible waterfall in a side canyon.
Aside from the rest areas, there really isn’t a good place to stop, get out, and take a picture that properly captures the majesty of this canyon, or the magnitude of the road project that conquered it. So on this trip, in 2012, I didn’t even try to photograph it. Instead, I let the Drivelapse camera do the work for me. Enjoy this clip, that starts in Glenwood Springs, and travels through the canyon, ending at Dotsero: