The other day I was driving north on C-470, and I wanted to go east on the 6th Avenue Freeway towards downtown Denver. That movement is shown on the map below:
I rarely drive that direction along C-470, but I have lived in Denver for a long time, and I'm pretty confident about knowing my way around. So as I approached, I was quite certain that I would need to follow eastbound I-70, and that the exit for eastbound US 6 would come up shortly after that.
But then I saw this: the first sign that references US 6 on northbound C-470:
One of the many interesting things about this segment of US 34 is that it essentially follows the valley of the Colorado River between its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park and its confluence with the Fraser River in Granby. Consequently US 34 also provides access to all of the major water collection components of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Those include Grand Lake (Colorado's largest and deepest natural lake) and three artificial impoundments (Shadow Mountain Lake, Lake Granby, and Willow Creek Reservoir). Since there are many examples of highways which were originally built parallel to rivers, but which later had to be realigned because of water storage projects that were built in those valleys, I set out to explore whether US 34 had any historic alignments that existed prior to the reservoirs in the Middle Park area.
(Most recently updated 4/13/2021.) Today, Denver is served by seven different US routes (shown above), but when the US highway system was first commissioned in late 1926, only three routes went through Denver. AASHO officials acknowledged the city's importance by placing it at the junction of a major north-south route (US 85, which ran from a Canadian port of entry almost to Mexico) and a transcontinental east-west route (US 40, which connected Atlantic City NJ to the San Francisco Bay Area):
Shrine Pass was not considered to be a good candidate for development into a primary state highway, so US 6 traffic was directed further south from Copper Mountain, along today's SH 91. Drivers had to go over Fremont Pass and all the way down to Leadville. There, traffic was directed north (overlapped with westbound US 24) over Tennessee Pass and up to Minturn.