Driving across Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is an unforgettable experience that every nature lover should add to their bucket list. The road, which stretches over 48 miles, is one of the most scenic routes in the United States, offering breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, alpine meadows, and wildlife. Trail Ridge Road is a section of Highway 34 and traverses Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park, Colorado in the east to Grand Lake, Colorado in the west. Also known as the “Highway to the Sky,” Trail Ridge Road is actually the highest continuous paved road in North America, with elevations over 12,000 feet.
The first road across Rocky Mountain National Park was Fall River Road, which opened in 1921 and was a single-track road with steep grades up to 16%. Construction of Trail Ridge Road was completed in 1932, with a maximum grade of 7%.
Driving across Trail Ridge Road is an adventure like no other and is a bit of a “white knuckle drive.” You will want someone behind the wheel that is not afraid of heights! The road winds through the mountains, offering stunning views at every turn. As you ascend higher into the alpine tundra, you’ll witness a dramatic change in the landscape as the trees become smaller, and the air becomes thinner, but the views become more expansive. Bring layers of cloths as it can get cold at the higher elevations.
The best time to drive across Trail Ridge Road is from late May to mid-October, as the road is closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. During this time, you’ll have the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, and marmots, among others. You can check with the National Park Service to find out the specific dates of opening and closing as it is dependent upon the weather and the amount of snow.
One of the highlights of driving across Trail Ridge Road is stopping at the various overlooks and pullouts along the way. These areas offer incredible views of the mountains and are great spots for taking photos as is the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of the mountain.
The road offers a unique and unforgettable way to experience the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and the stunning views will leave you in awe. So, if you’re planning a trip to Colorado, be sure to add this incredible drive to your itinerary.