Vail Pass

I-70 runs over Vail Pass, and this is a crucial artery for anyone that is traveling the east-west corridor through Colorado. The pass links Summit county on the eastern side with Eagle County on the western side.

Vail Pass is a popular spot for recreation, with a bike path traveling the full length of the path and plenty of terrain for snowmobiles and other winter recreational activities at the top.

Vail Pass rest area during the winter with view

Seasonal Info

Vail Pass is open year-round. The pass may close during the winter season for snowstorms.

Vail Pass Stats

Both of the panorama photos below were taken from Copper Mountain while looking towards the eastern side of Vail Pass. The high peaks of the Gore Range can be seen on the right side in the distance.

Vail Pass Panorama
Vail Pass Panorama Number 2 from Copper Mountain

Recreation on Vail Pass

Popular things to do on Vail Pass include:

snowmobiling sign near the Vail Pass rest stop parking lot

Biking Vail Pass

There is a paved bike path that runs the full length of Vail Pass on each side. The slope is moderate, mostly matching the slope of the interstate as it traverses over the pass.

Vail Summit Rest Area

Vail Pass rest area during the winter with view

The Vail Pass Rest Area is located just below the summit of the pass, just slightly toward the eastern side. There are exits from both the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-70 that can access the rest area. The main rest area parking here is for through-travelers. You’ll see parking for the recreation area along the road just outside of the rest area entrance. You may park there for hiking, snowmobiling, and for using the Vail Pass bike path.

Vial Pass rest area overpass near the summit of Vail Pass
Sunrise on Vail Pass with interstate in background during summer

Vail Pass FAQ

The avg. closure on Vail Pass is around 1.35 hours, but this figure includes closures for accidents. Closures for weather are much longer. If the snow has stopped, the pass should be open within a few hours. 

Vail Pass can be dangerous, especially in the snow. This is an interstate, so traffic will move much faster here in good weather than on other passes like Loveland Pass or Berthoud Pass.

Looking east from Vail Pass during summer early morning

Tips for Traveling over Vail Pass

Truckers use low gears – Get familiar with mountain pass safety before traveling here. Use low gears to keep your speed down without overheating your brakes. Vail Pass Has RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMPS for emergency use only.

Conditions are often worse at the top during bad weather – The elevation makes a big difference. The snow will come down harder. Cold rain can turn to snow. Slush can turn to ice. Take extra care at all times, but especially near the top of Vail Pass.

Watch out for wildlife – Especially deer that can get spooked and run across the interstate. There are wildlife underpasses along the way, but you can still expect to see wildlife on or near the roadway.

Photo of Vail Pass taken from Copper Mountain during Winter

Vail Pass closes more often than any other part of I-70 in Colorado. In a period of 4 years from the beginning of 2012 to the end of 2015, Vail pass closed 91 times while the Eisenhower tunnel only closed 68 times in the same period (CDOT).

Vail Pass going through East Vail showing East Vail backcountry skiing area
The terrain above East Vail. Photo taken while descending the western side of Vail Pass.
sunrise hitting top of Vail Pass
Sunrise hitting the top of Vail Pass in springtime