With powder season underway, CDOT warns winter backcountry users: Watch where you park!

Travel Advisory

November 27, 2023 - Southwestern Colorado - Red Mountain Pass parking area has changed

Southwest Colorado — Backcountry users heading to Red Mountain Pass will see a change in parking this winter. The Colorado Department of Transportation advises recreators that the parking area and the snowplow turn around at the Red Mountain summit have been swapped. The new parking area will be on the southbound (west) side of US Highway 550. Drivers should park their vehicles “nose in,” and not parallel, to maximize the amount of parking spaces.

The new snowplow turn around area is now on the northbound (east) side of the highway. New bright orange signs have been installed that indicate no parking in the turn around area.

Map of the designated public parking and snow plow turn around areas located on the top of US 550 Red Mountain Pass.
Map of the public parking area located on the southbound (west) side of US 550 Red Mountain Pass. The snowplow turnaround is located on the northbound (east) side, with no public parking allowed.

“Backcountry skiers and snowmobilers need to understand the importance of these snowplow turn around areas," said Maintenance Superintendent Mike Watson. "These areas must be kept clear of any other vehicles so that maintenance operators can safely turn plows and other large pieces of snow removal equipment.”

CDOT also explained that winter maintenance crews' first priority is to clear the traveling lanes of fresh snow. Only after the roadways are cleared will plow operators then address shoulders and parking areas.

Backcountry users should only park vehicles and trailers in clearly marked and designated parking areas. While some areas along the highway may appear to provide ample room to park several feet away and off the asphalt, CDOT warns vehicle owners that they run the risk of being trapped with snow pushed by the plow. Vehicles left on the side of the road also make the plowing job difficult for road maintenance crews. Anyone leaving a vehicle unattended on the side of the road, runs the risk of breaking the law, being fined, and having their vehicle towed away by law enforcement.

Backcountry users should be aware of avalanche conditions as well as known slide path areas along the highway, which are clearly signed. These snow slide areas are at locations where avalanche control operations may be planned.

Backcountry users are urged to park in designated pullouts located off of the highway and away from known avalanche areas. This vehicle is parked in a hazardous zone.
Backcountry users are urged to park in designated pullouts located off of the highway and away from known avalanche areas. This vehicle is parked in a hazardous zone.

Obey the Law

Backcountry users are advised that when leaving vehicles on the shoulder of the road, they are at risk of being fined and their vehicle being towed away. Owners who leave vehicles unattended on the side of the road are at risk of obstructing avalanche control missions and the operation of heavy equipment. Obstructing highway operations is in violation of state law.

2016 Colorado Revised Statutes

Title 42. Vehicles and Traffic
Article 4. Regulation of Vehicles and Traffic
Part 18. Vehicles Abandoned on Public Property
§ 42-4-1803. Abandonment of motor vehicles - public property
(2) Whenever any… (law enforcement) …. or agency employee finds a motor vehicle... attended or unattended, standing upon any portion of a highway right-of-way in such a manner as to constitute an obstruction to traffic or proper highway maintenance, such officer or agency employee is authorized to cause the motor vehicle, vehicle, cargo, or debris to be moved to eliminate any such obstruction.

For more information or to read the Colorado law in its entirety, visit: https://law.justia.com/codes/colorado/2016/title-42/regulation-of-vehicles-and-traffic/article-4/part-18/section-42-4-1803.

Download the CDOT Backcountry Users: Watch Where You Park flier here.

Know Before You Go

Travelers are urged to “know before you go.” Gather information about weather forecasts and anticipated travel impacts and current road conditions prior to hitting the road. CDOT resources include:

Remember: Slow For The Cone Zone

The following tips are to help you stay safe while traveling through maintenance and construction work zones.

  • Do not speed in work zones. Obey the posted speed limits.
  • Stay Alert! Expect the unexpected.
  • Watch for workers. Drive with caution.
  • Don't change lanes unnecessarily.
  • Avoid using mobile devices such as phones while driving in work zones.
  • Turn on headlights so that workers and other drivers can see you.
  • Be especially alert at night while driving in work zones.
  • Expect delays, especially during peak travel times.
  • Allow ample space between you and the car in front of you.
  • Anticipate lane shifts and merge when directed to do so.
  • Be patient!

Download the COtrip App!

The new free COtrip Planner mobile app was designed to meet the growing trend of information on mobile and tablet devices for the traveling public. The COtrip Planner app provides statewide, real-time traffic information, and works on mobile devices that operate on the iOS and Android platforms. Visit the Google Play Store (Android devices) or the Apple Store (iOS devices) to download!