Canyon Driving

Driving in the canyon requires the standard driver safety precautions, and some extras precautions for the canyon.

  • Especially during the spring, upper canyon can be dry, but lower canyon road/curves remain icy, including black ice. Be wary of this, and look out for it. (See more.)
  • Beware the soft shoulder, but if you slip into one do not over-correct. Such a drastic move can lead to roll-over accidents and/or head-on accidents. (See more)
  • Spring mud is very slippery on our dirt roads. Slow down, especially at corners.
  • Take extra precautions around the new steep/rocky drop off into the creek.
  • Maintain your vehicle, especially the tires. Tire depth makes a significant difference in stopping distance.
  • Do not pass in the canyon when it is snowing or conditions are abnormal, including on the long straightaway. Passing speeds are not safe during such conditions.
  • Learn how your vehicle handles in adverse conditions. Learn about over braking, and how your vehicle (front or rear wheel drive) should be handled during a slide.
  • Keep a safe distance, and never tailgate the vehicle ahead.

Emergency Vehicles

When an emergency vehicle is approaching, yield in a safe place. Do not yield partially off the road, or at a blind curve. An emergency vehicle won’t pass if it cannot safely pass. Yielding safely is as, or more, important than yielding quickly.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

The map below shows some of the known dangerous places in Coal Creek Canyon (based upon Fire-Department response over the years.)


Additional Sources

See this additional information from CDOT & NHTSA.

Over correcting

When driving the canyon curves it is possible to slip into the soft shoulder at the side of the road. Do NOT attempt to rapidly turn the wheel out, back onto the road, because that often leads to an extreme over correction that can send the vehicle too far, perhaps into the opposite lane, perhaps onto it’s side. Accidents caused by this include roll-over accidents and head on collisions. The soft shoulder is typically no worse than a bumpy ride. Don’t panic. Take appropriate time to ease back out onto the road, and continue safely on your journey.

Spring melts make the soft shoulder softer, and can leads to deep soft shoulder gullies. These gullies can grab and tear at a tire. Keep out of them, but if the vehicle slips in, don’t panic. Make the right choice, and ensure you do not over correct.

Heavier vehicles cannot afford to stray onto the soft shoulder at any time. The soft shoulder can not support that weight.

Lower Canyon Ice

At times, especially in spring, the roads can be clear and dry at the top of the canyon leading to a false sense of security, and inappropriately fast speeds. Roads lower in the canyon, in the shadow of the steep canyon walls, can remain icy including with black ice. Accidents cause by this include roll-over accidents, often in the mornings and (perhaps surprisingly) early afternoon. Do not allow dry roads at the middle or top of the canyon to lower your guard about ice in the lower canyon.

Unprotected steep drop off into Coal Creek

Since the Coal Creek Flood of 2013, and the subsequent rapid reconstruction, we’ve lost the gentle bank to the creek, and the foliage in front of it. We now have a steep rocky/concrete drop-off with nothing to slow a vehicle from falling onto the rocks below. Motor vehicle accidents here can now result in far more damage to the vehicle, and trauma to the victims.

Road Grit

Motorcycles traveling the canyon regularly slide out due to grit on the road, at corners. Expect this, especially in spring (after the road grit applications during winter.) Go carefully on those corners.

Accident Locations

We’ve attempted to plot the locations of the accidents from the last year or so. Much as we’ve listed some known hazardous locations, this shows that anywhere in the canyon can be a challenge.