Trail Ridge Road

Infobox road

alternate_name=Trail Ridge Road

terminus_a=Grand Lake
terminus_b=Estes Park
counties=Grand County, Larimer County

Trail Ridge Road is the name for the stretch of U.S. Highway 34 and is the highest continuous highway in the United States. It traverses Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park, Colorado in the east to Grand Lake, Colorado in the west. It crosses the Continental Divide at Milner Pass (elev. 10,758 ft/3,279 m) and reaches a maximum elevation of 12,183 ft (3,713 m), near Fall River Pass (elev. 11,796 ft/3,595 m). Near the highest point on the road is another pass, Iceberg Pass (elev. 11,827 ft/3,604 m).

Trail Ridge Road is closed during the winter, and often remains closed until late spring or early summer depending on the snowpack.

Route description

From Kawuneeche Visitor Center at the park's Grand Lake Entrance, Trail Ridge Road follows the North Fork of the Colorado River north through the Kawuneeche Valley. There are several trailheads along this section of the road, notably the Colorado River Trailhead, which is the western terminus of the road segment closed during the winter.

After the Colorado River Trailhead, the road goes through a series of switchbacks as it gains in elevation and turns to the east. The Farview Curve overlook provides an excellent view of the Kawuneeche Valley and the Never Summer Mountains. Milner Pass carries the road over the Continental Divide and the route rounds Medicine Bow Curve before coming to a junction with Fall River Road at Fall River Pass near the popular Alpine Visitor Center.

From the visitor center, Trail Ridge Road continues to the east and reaches its highest elevation of 12,183 feet (3,713 m) between the Gore Range and Lava Cliffs overlooks. Iceberg Pass, marked by pullouts on both sides of the road, is crossed between Lava Cliffs and the Rock Cut overlook.

Trail Ridge Road descends toward the east as it passes the Rock Cut overlook and the popular overlooks of Forest Canyon and Rainbow Curve. Many Parks Curve marks the eastern terminus of the road segment closed during the winter. Continuing toward the park's eastern boundary, Hidden Valley is a popular winter recreation area with a warming shelter and heated rest rooms.

The road's eastern end is at Deer Ridge Junction where US 36 and US 34 meet in Estes Park. West of the junction, US 36 provides access to Horseshoe Park and the old Fall River Road.


Fall River Road was the first road into the park's high country. It opened in 1921 and quickly proved inadequate for motor travel as a single-track road with steep grades (up to 16%), tight curves and a short annual season due to snowpack. [cite web |url= |title=Scenic Drives |accessdate=2007-08-23 |work=Rocky Mountain National Park |publisher=National Park Service ] Trail Ridge Road was planned to take advantage of a sunnier route with less snow accumulation and be built into and above the terrain as necessary to have a ruling grade of less than 5%, with a maximum grade of 7%. Construction began in 1926 as a collaborative effort between the National Park Service and the Bureau of Public Roads (now the Federal Highway Administration).

Trail Ridge Road from the Beaver Meadows Entrance to the Alpine Visitor Center opened in July 1932. Construction continued to the west, reaching the road's western terminus at Grand Lake in 1938.


*Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved continuous highway in the United States. State Highway 5, the road to the top of Mount Evans, is the highest paved road in North America but reaches a dead end at the summit.
*Hidden Valley (or Ski Estes Park) was a local ski area attraction, now in defunct status. [ [ Colorado Ski History: "Hidden Valley"] (Ski Estes Park)]


External links

* [ Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow Road Overview] on the National Scenic Byways website
* [ Trail Ridge Road] on the Colorado Scenic Byways website
* [ Video from Top of Trail Ridge Road] taken September, 2007. Shows how scary the road can be.

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