Colorado is known for amazing outdoor recreation year-round. But navigating the state’s most traversed mountain passes and roadways can be tricky as the seasons change. If you are towing a camper or trailer, changing driving conditions on roadways can create situations that can put you and your passengers at risk.
Spend a couple of minutes on these tips from the Colorado State Patrol, so you can safely navigate our mountains, valleys, plains and beyond:
1. Beware of Quickly Changing Temperatures. As you’re probably aware, temperatures change with altitude. Some mountain passes can bring you up and down thousands of feet within a short distance. When you start climbing a mountain it can be sunny clear blue skies, and by the time you reach the top of the pass, there can be blizzard conditions.
2. Fog can be a huge issue, especially in the valleys. Visibility can go from totally clear to being extremely limited, literally in seconds.
3. The colorful leaves may be pretty to look at, but leaves on the road can be dangerous when wet. Driving on slippery leaves can be similar to driving on ice! Leaves can also obstruct traffic lines, potholes, or pavement markings. Remember to use caution, drive slowly, and keep a safe following distance.
4. The days are becoming shorter which means visibility is reduced. Turn on your headlights and watch for pedestrians walking or biking on the roadway at dawn, dusk, or night. Also, remember to check that all of the lights on your car are working properly.
5. Even before the seasonal time change, the sun rises and sets at different times. The sunset and sunrise may even occur during the morning and evening rush hour, producing a dangerous glare at the same time that many cars are on the road. Keep a pair of sunglasses in your car that you can wear to reduce sun glare.
6. It might still be warm at night on the Front Range, but the cool overnight temperatures in the foothills and mountains bring morning frost. Keep a snow broom/ice remover in your car and give yourself extra time to clear your windows of frost before you start driving. Make sure your wipers and defrosters are working as they should.
7. Watch for deer and elk! Deer and elk accidents are common during the autumn months because it’s mating season. If you see a deer or elk, proceed with caution and slow down as they often travel in groups. Remember that deer are most active at dawn and dusk.
8. Don’t Give In to Tire Pressure. Temperatures fluctuate a lot in the autumn. It can go from double digits in the afternoon to zero (or lower) at night and in the early morning. This will cause your tires to expand and contract which can ultimately lead to a loss of pressure, something you don’t want to worry about when on the road. Monitor your tire pressure regularly.
9. Don’t park where it says no parking. Just don’t. Signs that say “no parking” say it for a reason and that reason is often related to safety or protecting the environment in the area. (For instance, parking your car in the infamous dip of CR 162 in Chalk Creek Canyon to go hiking isn’t just dumb, it’s dangerous.) Parking in restricted areas can compromise safety as the fall season is one of the busiest times of the year in the Rocky Mountains.