Tips For Colorado Mountain Driving

Driving in the Mountains

Colorado is a popular travel destination, particularly in the fall and winter months. People enjoy taking their families on trips to the mountains to watch the leaves change, to grab a peaceful hike, or to head out for a great ski adventure. Regardless of why you are heading up the mountains, there are a few things to know before you begin your trek.

Before You Begin

When planning your trip, it is a good idea to go ahead and spend some time preparing. Make sure your cell phone is fully charge, your tire pressure is within the suggested range, ensure your headlights and break lights are all functioning, and all fluids in your car have been checked. It is also important to make sure that your gas tank is full, because it may be a while before you find another gas station.

Related: Tips for Safe Road Trips

Driving through the mountains of Colorado can be a tricky, nerve-wracking experience. This is especially true if you are new at this. We are going to offer a few tips to keep you on track while exploring our incredible state.

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1. Watch Out for Wildlife

There are a lot of species living in our mountains. They have migration patterns that tend to stay in the same areas, so you may see a sign that says, ‘deer crossing’ or ‘bear in area’. These signs are important to pay attention to because they are alerting you to consistent animal behavior in an area. During the day, these signs may not seem as important, but when the sun sets, these signs can really be a valuable tool.

2. Be Aware of the Weather

A lot can change when you are climbing in elevation. These changes can happen quite quickly. One minute you are driving through a light drizzle, and a moment later, it is heavily snowing. Slow down, be aware of your surroundings, and drive with extra caution. (Keep in mind: every 1,000 feet you increase in elevation, the temperature decreases by approximately 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit. If you travel from 5,000 ft. to 14,000 ft, you’ll notice a temperature change of nearly 30 degrees!)\

3. Your Cellphone May not Work

Anytime you are planning a trip to the mountains, you should always tell someone where you plan to be. Cellphone reception in the mountains can be very spotty. If you find yourself on a quiet mountain road with no cell phone reception, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of supplies to pass the time until help arrives. This includes an abundance of water, snacks, and winter gear if weather permits. Plan and be prepared for a problem to arise.

4. Be Easy on Your Brakes and Engine

Mountain roads are steep, winding, and many back roads are not paved. In addition to this, you are bound to find a road or two with some switchbacks (these are very sharp turns). Slamming on your brakes when you’re driving at 30 miles per hour on an 8% grade is a lot of stress on your brake system. Your brake pads can get worn down, your calipers can become damaged, or your rotor can get hot and damaged. Do not be pressured to drive fast because someone else is. It is a common practice to pull to the right-hand shoulder and allow the vehicle(s) behind you to pass before making your way back onto the road.

5. Use Extra Caution in the Winter Months

You may notice roads with signs that say, ‘snow chains or tires required’. These roads are virtually impassable without the proper equipment. This can be due to the terrain, road conditions, grades in the road, or a slew of other reasons. If you do not have the proper tires, you may end up in a bad spot. A supply you may want to add to your collection is a tow strap, in case you ever need some extra help.

The mountains of Colorado are a stunning place and are something everyone should experience as often as possible. When planning a trip to a higher altitude, be sure you are spending the appropriate amount of time preparing and checking that you have everything you may need no matter what may happen.

Related: Top Safety Tips for Driving in Fall

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