GOLDEN TO IDAHO SPRINGS
From DIA, you’ll navigate your way across the Denver Metro Area into the town of Golden, which represents the start of the “I-70 Corridor” to the Rockies. Before getting on the I-70, it is highly recommended to check the tread depth on your tires, poor tire condition is one of the biggest cause of accidents on the I-70. Check the CDOT website for a guide on tire tread tests.
From Golden, this is where the elevation starts to climb. So if you’re not from here (or anywhere with an elevation of 5,000 ft or higher for that matter), coffee-filled bladders and altitude sickness can already begin to cause discomfort. Most likely all you have heard upon arriving in our Mile High City is “drink lots of water!” That’s great advice, but you will pay the price if you don’t plan your restroom stops as a group.
From Golden, I-70 rises and falls with what may at first appear to be a very accommodating wide multi-lane highway. But the reality is during normal hours, this leg of the journey is a bit of a ‘choose your own adventure’.
Right Lane: The far right-hand lane is for slower traffic, but you will find yourself stuck behind semi-trucks or buses that can’t go any faster.
Middle Lane: The middle lane is the riskiest lane with cars dodging in and out of the right-hand lane as they come upon those slow moving vehicles. It’s most severe when one of the semi-trucks decides to overtake a slower vehicle by pulling unexpectedly out in front of you. You slow to an abrupt crawl, which is a screeching halt for the half a dozen cars behind and the start of an accident-prone scenario.
Left Lane: At this stage, you might be thinking the far left lane is the winner – if you rented a high-powered sports car or SUV version of one. In other words, you better have the horsepower, acceleration and James Bond coolness in high-speed chases. Driving in the far left lane, you are an unwilling link in a bullet train of tailgating cars. I kid you not! It’s all good if everyone in the lane has similar driving skills, vehicle performance, and understanding of the dynamics of high-speed drafting. Unfortunately, the drivers who don’t can cause a chain reaction that leads to terrible traffic accidents in a blink of an eye. That’s no way to start your vacation! So it’s best to use the left for passing only (provided you have the power, tires and gusto!) and get back over to the middle or right lane.
Sounds a bit daunting, but you can avoid all this by dodging peak travel times! Like I said earlier, be sure to be on the I-70 at Golden by 6:00am at the latest!
The next stop on the I-70 is Idaho Springs, a small mining town turned traveler stop. In fact, Gold Mine Tours are still possible at the ARGO Mine in this town. This is a welcomed relief stop for many, especially if you’ve started from DIA. So, take that much needed restroom break, grab some food and fill up your car if necessary! There are a few fast food eateries here (and a brand new Starbucks) if you need a quick bite.
You may choose to keep going another 5 mi up to pitstop at Dumont. This is recommended if Idaho Springs already looks congested. Dumont only has two exits, so don’t miss it or you might as well keep going to Georgetown. Dumont also has a Starbucks, which is conveniently located next to a Breeze Ski Shop for Ski & Snowboarding gear. The Taco Bell opens at 7:00am, but if you took my advice about avoiding peak traffic times, you’ll hopefully be long past Dumont by then.