Historic west endpoints of US Highway 36

View a map showing this route.

Photo credits: me

Approx. time period West Terminus
1926-1929 Colby, KS
1929-1933 Byers, CO
1933-1937 Strasburg, CO
1937-1946 Denver, CO (Colorado)
1946-1951 Denver, CO (Larimer)
1951-1958 Denver, CO (Broadway)
1958-1968 Denver, CO (I-25)
1968-1978 Estes Park, CO
1978-present (near Estes Park, CO)

The original west end of US 36 was near Colby KS, but I can only guess exactly where the terminus was located. At the curve where US 83 bends due south towards Oakley today, I imagine old US 36 would've been signed a bit further west along the railroad, through Gem, and then south to US 40-N (two miles west of the current US 24/US 83 junction). It could've ended there:

me, Nov. 2001

That's looking east on US 24 (or historic US 40-N). Colby is about 7 miles behind the camera; US 83 is two miles ahead. CR 439 to the left goes north 2 miles to Gem, and then turns northeast along the railroad, eventually aligning with US 83. So I'm guessing original US 36 followed that road - if so, then its west beginning was probably here.


By 1929, the west end of US 36 had been extended to Byers CO. This first photo is looking mostly east but also slightly south on CO hwy. 36:

me, Oct. 2003

Today the CO 40 designation begins straight ahead, while eastbound CO 36 turns left on Main and almost immediately has an interchange at I-70 (and becomes US 36 at exit 316). Historically this was all US 40, but according to maps, it wasn't at this intersection where US 36 split off from US 40. Note in the distance the CO 40 marker, the green mileage sign, and the trees at far left - those are shown closeup in the photo below:

me, Oct. 2003

The gravel road off to the left is now CR 10; it heads due east from here. Best I can tell from old CDoT maps, that was the original route of US 36: it went east five miles, then north 2 miles on today's CR 197, then east again on its present route. If correct, then that photo shows one of the old west beginnings of US 36. Below is a view from a bit further ahead:

me, Dec. 2003

Eastbound US 40 continued to the right via modern CO 40, and old US 36 began heading due east via the road at left. Today, about a mile ahead, I-70 interrupts the alignment of CR 10... but there is a paved overpass, which to me further suggests the historic importance of that road. Below is a view from the opposite perspective:

me, Dec. 2003

That's looking at the former west end of US 36; historic US 40 runs diagonally across the photo, and "downtown" Byers is just to the right.


In 1933, US 36 was slightly rerouted such that it bypassed Byers about 2 miles to the north - it stayed on the county line road straight into Strasburg, ending at its junction with US 40:

me, Aug. 2006

That's looking west along CR 2. The paved road is CO hwy. 36 today, but historically it served as US 40. US 36 came west to this point and ended at this junction. Below we're looking the opposite direction (east on historic US 40):

me, Aug. 2006

Where US 40 curved to the southeast ahead, US 36 began by continuing due east, straight ahead along the county line road (CR 2). That was the alignment of US 36 for about 20 years: the highway wasn't rerouted through Byers again until 1955. But at that time modern US 36 (which heads on a diagonal north and east from Byers) hadn't been built. Instead the highway used Xmore Rd south to CR 10, then west into Byers. 1964 was the first map showing today's diagonal road. But none of these changes are relevant to the endpoint of US 36, because long before any of them had taken place, US 36 had been extended west with US 40 into Denver.

The 1937 map is the first one to indicate that US 36 had been extended into the city via Colfax Avenue (Denver's east-west "Main Street"), and it ended in town for the next three decades. Historic CDoT maps are not clear with regard to exactly where the designation terminated during that 30-year period, so if you've seen any maps or photos that shed light on the question, or have any personal recollections, please let me know. Until then, I'll go with what's presented on the chart at the top of this page. Following is my explanation for those endpoints and timeframes:

First of all: for about nine years US 36 ended at its various junctions with US 40 in small towns on the high plains east of Denver. So what was it that prompted officials in 1937 to co-sign the designation west with US 40 into the city? My theory is that it had to do with US 6. You see, 1937 was also the year that US 6 was extended through Denver and on to southern California. In other words, Denver suddenly found itself served by another transcontinental highway. Officials may have reasoned that many travellers would be using US 6, and it therefore made sense to connect other routes to that one.

Whatever the rationale, maps I've seen from the late 1930's and early 1940's (with cartography by two different organizations) make a fairly strong case for US 36 ending at its junction with US 6 in Denver. At the time, US 6 traffic came into the city on Colorado Boulevard and then turned west on Colfax. So US 36 came in on Colfax, and ended at Colorado Blvd:

me, Aug. 2006

That's looking west on Colfax - the signal ahead is at Colorado Blvd. US 6 came in from the right and continued straight ahead, so US 36 ended there.

In the mid-1940's, US 6 was rerouted through the city, such that traffic was directed to stay with US 85 down Brighton Boulevard and then south on Broadway. At Larmier Street, US 6 split off, heading southwest to Colfax*, and then west. The 1947 CDoT map was the first to include a US 36 marker west of Colorado Blvd. It certainly could've ended at Broadway (US 85-87). But again I ask: what was it that prompted this extension? My guess is it was a result of the rerouting of US 6. If so, then US 36 probably didn't end at Broadway - it probably continued west of there on Colfax, ending at Larimer.

*Incidentally, you can't do that anymore - in recent years, Auraria Parkway replaced the functionality of Larimer, which no longer goes all the way through the Auraria Campus. In fact, the area has changed so much since the 1940's that today it's pretty much impossible to get a photo at that junction.

In 1952, US 6 was rerouted again: now it continued with US 85-87 south on Broadway, past Larimer, all the way to 8th Avenue, where it split off and headed west (eventually curving into 6th Avenue). So at that point, US 36 was most likely truncated back to Broadway:

me, Aug. 2005

That's looking west on Colfax at Broadway. Colfax is not only US 40, but also US 287 and Business I-70. Broadway is no longer a state highway, but during the 1950's it was US 6-85-87, so US 36 ended at this junction.

In 1959, the "Valley Highway" was completed past downtown (today it's a segment of I-25). US 6-85-87 traffic was redirected onto this new freeway, and Broadway hasn't been used as a US highway since. So US 36 was probably extended west of Broadway, ending at the new US 6-85-87:

me, Aug. 2006

That's looking west on Colfax at its junction with I-25. Today Colfax traffic uses this viaduct, but I don't think that had been built during the 1960's. But most of the surface portion of Colfax is gone now, so that photo is about as close as I can come to showing where US 36 used to end.

By 1968 US 36 had been extended west from Denver. For the next ten years, the west end of US 36 was right in Estes Park; you can view photos from there on this page. In 1978 the US 36 designation was extended west of Estes, along former CO hwy. 66, to its current terminus in Rocky Mountain National Park. You can view photos and get more info on my main US 36 page.

Now, we'll turn around and head back east on Colfax, taking a look at the former beginning points of US 36. We'll start with this overview shot, which was taken looking east on Colfax at Federal:

me, Aug. 2006

This is eastbound US 40 / Business I-70, which both continue ahead, as does southbound US 287. Northbound 287 is to the left on Federal, while right on Federal is southbound CO 88. In the distance on the right you can see the gold-domed State Capitol, and just in front of it, the City and County Building. Colfax runs just to the north (left) of those buildings. In the left background is part of Denver's central business district. Not far ahead is the interchange with I-25:

me, Aug. 2006

US 36 began straight ahead from 1958-1968. (And really from 1946-1951 as well, because this is right about where Larimer (and US 6) split off from Colfax.) About another mile in that direction is the Broadway intersection:

me, 2000

Ahead was the west beginning of US 36 from 1951-1958. Continuing ahead just over two more miles, we reach Colorado Blvd:

me, Aug. 2006

From 1937-1946, eastbound US 6 came to this intersection and then went north (left). So US 36 began straight ahead during that timeframe.

To view more info about other endpoints of US 36, please refer to my main US 36 page.