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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
||Location / Information (All elevations based on GPS)
||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.
||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.
||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.
||Road Closed from here west to Colorado River Trailhead from
mid-October to June. Elevation: 9,691.
||A MUST STOP! Excellent view of Horseshoe Park, Alluvial Fan
and the Beaver Ponds. Restrooms are accessible. Elevation: 10,875 feet.
||This is the current terminus of the Ute Trail
and only has parking for about 4 vehicles.
- Upper Beaver Meadows (6.5 Miles)
||ALSO, A MUST STOP! Excellent view of Forest
Canyon and the Mountains that make up the Continental Divide. Elevation: 11,758 feet.
|Tundra Communities Trailhead
|| Access to:
||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.
||Elevation: 12,135 feet.
||Overlook with views of Never Summers Mountains to the west. Elevation: 12,048 feet.
||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 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.
||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.