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Trail Ridge Road

copyright William Doyle

Trail Ridge Road covers the stretch of U.S. Highway 34 from Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado in the east to Grand Lake, Colorado in the west. The road reaches a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet near Fall River Pass. Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved continuous highway in the United States, spending 10 miles above the tundra line. The road is closed from late fall until early summer due to the snowpack at the higher elevations.

Travellers on Trail Ridge Road climb 4,000 feet in a matter of minutes. The changes that occur en route are dramatic. The drive begins in a forest of aspen and ponderosa pine, but the terrain will soon change to forests of fir and spruce. At 11,000 feet, drivers will encounter treeline and the last stunted trees which soon yield to heavy winds and the alpine tundra.

As you drive, be sure to stop and take in the views at Rainbow Curve, Many Parks Curve, and at Forest Canyon Overlook. On clear days, you can gaze north to Wyoming and east down to the cities along the Front Range. Looking south and west you can gaze further into the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Reserve at least half a day for the drive between Estes Park and Grand Lake.