Trail Ridge Road
See Map Below

Trail Ridge Road provides spectacular view of the majestic scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park. It is the highest continuous motorway in the United States, with more than eight miles lying above 11,000' and a maximum elevation of 12,183'. The name "Trail Ridge Road" derives from it proximity to historic pathways used by native peoples to cross the Rocky Mountains.

Trail Ridge Road was designed to replace Fall River Road, which proved inadequate for modern motor travel as soon as it opened in 1920. Trail Ridge Road was designed to have more gentle grades, broader curves, and a greater variety of scenic experiences. The sunny, ridge-top location would also reduce snow accumulations and allow Trail Ridge Road to open earlier then its shady, snow-laden predecessor.

Trail Ridge Road was constructed between 1926 and 1932 through the collaborative efforts of the National Park Service and the Bureau of Public roads (now the Federal Highway Administration). Construction Crews had to contend with imposing terrain, harsh weather, short working seasons and stringent design criteria, which were intended to ensure that the road would "lie lightly on the land" displaying the region's rich scenic diversity with minimal impact on the natural environment. Trail Ridge Road opened in July 1932, providing motorists with access to impressive, views, memorable wildlife viewing opportunities and spectacular high mountain Terrain.

GRADE: The road was designed with a ruling grade generally less than 5% and never exceeding 7%, less that half as steep as the Fall River Road.

TURN RADIUS: Minimum radii for open curves were 100' and 200' on blind curves. Many curves were designed to sweep across but not dominate the landscape.

ROAD WIDTH: Unlike the single-track Fall River Road, Trail Ridge Road was designed as a two-lane with a 22' roadbed and 3' ditches in cut sections.

ELEVATION GIAN: The roadway was largely built into the hillside, elevated on rock fill once it reached tundra. Long continuous curves were used to gain elevation.

PULLOUTS: The commodious stone-wall turnouts, often located on major curves, provided ample space for visitors to take in the views.

A visit to Trail Ridge Road at night:
Two-thirds of the world's population can no longer look upwards at night and see the Milky Way -- a hazy swath of stars that on warm summer nights spans the sky from horizon to horizon. The Milky Way is dimming, not because the end of the Universe is near, but rather as a result of light pollution: the inadvertent illumination of the atmosphere from street lights, outdoor advertising, homes, schools, airports and other sources. Every night billions of bulbs send their energy skyward where microscopic bits of matter -- air molecules, airborne dust, and water vapor droplets -- reflect much of the wasted light back to Earth.

Atop Trail Ridge Road at night you can still see the Milky Way as you are far from the city lights of the Front Range and above almost 50% of the earth's atmosphere that reflects the light pollution. On a clear night take a late evening ride and enjoy one of nature's greatest light shows. Be sure to dress warmly and give your eyes a chance to adjust after you exit your vehicle. Can you find the Big Dipper, North Star, Orion, Sirius (the brightest star) and Virgo. You may have forgotten how many stars your can see: billions and billions.
Area Name Location / Information (All elevations based on GPS)
Deer Ridge Junction  Photos Here The East end of Trail Ridge Road. The junction of US 36 and US 34. US 36 is access to Horseshoe Park and US 34 is access to Upper Beaver Meadows, Bear Lake Road and Beaver Meadows Park Entrance. Elevation: 8,978 feet.
Beaver Ponds Picnic Area Actually this is a "no-name" picnic area on the official RMNP Map as just a picnic symbol. It is the first right turn after leaving Deer Ridge Junction. There are 5 picnic tables and restrooms. Elevation: 8,800 feet.
Beaver Ponds  Access No beaver at the Beaver Ponds. No restrooms. Walkway is being removed as the ponds are no more and the area is returning to a meadow. Elevation 9,209 feet.
Hidden ValleyPhotos Here Access Area is now open year around. The warming area of the shelter is open on weekends during the winter. Rest rooms open all year and are heated. In the winter this area is often referred to as the "Hidden Valley Snow Play Area". Elevation: 9,325 feet.
Many Parks Curve Road Closed from here west to Colorado River Trailhead from mid-October to June. Elevation: 9,691.
Rainbow Curve  Photos Here Access A MUST STOP! Excellent view of Horseshoe Park, Alluvial Fan and the Beaver Ponds. Restrooms are accessible. Elevation: 10,875 feet.
Ute Trail This is the current terminus of the Ute Trail and only has parking for about 4 vehicles.
Access to:
  • Upper Beaver Meadows (6.5 Miles)
Forest Canyon  Photos Here ALSO, A MUST STOP! Excellent view of Forest Canyon and the Mountains that make up the Continental Divide. Elevation: 11,758 feet.
Rock Cut  Photos Here Access Elevation 12,178.
Tundra Communities Trailhead  Access Access to:
Iceberg Pass Iceberg Pass is nothing more than a dip in the tundra between Rock Cut and the Lava Cliffs. You will know when you are there because there are pullouts on both sides of the road.
Lava Cliffs  Photos Here Elevation: 12,135 feet.
Gore Range  Photos Here Overlook with views of Never Summers Mountains to the west. Elevation: 12,048 feet.
Alpine Visitor Center  AccessPhotos Here Store and Park Visitors Center. Elevation: 11,799 feet.
Alpine Ridge Trailhead  
Medicine Bow Curve Elevation 11,659 feet.
Milner Pass / Poudre Lake At Milner Pass you will cross the Continental Divide. All the water on the east side will flow down to the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Ocean and all the water on the west side will flow down the Colorado to the Pacific Ocean. Elevation: 10,775
Lake Irene Lake Irene is small by lake standards. I've been unable to find a way to photographic it. To me it is just a small pond surrounded by trees. It is nice area for a picnic. Construction project at this location includes a new vaulted restroom facility. Elevation: 10,714 feet.
Farvew Curve  Photos Here Pull out with excellent view of the Kawuneeche Valley, The Colorado River and the Never Summer Mountain range. Elevation: 10,148 feet.
Colorado River Trailhead Road Closed from here east to Many Parks Curves from mid-October to June. Elevation: 9,090 feet.

Trail Ridge Road Map

RMNP Trail Ridge Road Map

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