Rocky Mountain National Park Road Trip

Photo by Kim Grant

Breathtaking views, even from the comfort of your car in the Rocky Mountains

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A Rocky Mountain National Park road trip along Trail Ridge Road is worth the effort. The highest continuous paved highway in the world climbs more than 4,000 feet to reach 12,183 feet above sea level. Around every bend is another chance to photograph breathtaking scenery.

Visitors normally start the 3-4 hour drive in Estes Park after picking up a Trail Ridge Road Guide at the visitors center. If time is limited, you’ll still get dramatic views if you drive partway, turn around and head back to Estes Park.

For a shorter drive take the Old Fall River Road, which climbs to 10,640 feet. It’s a nine-mile, one-way (no turning around) dirt road from Horseshoe Park to the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road. It usually opens on July 4 and closes in late September; check with the visitor’s center.. The scenery is spectacular and there’s a good possibility you’ll see wildlife.

Bear Lake Road is a nine-mile drive from Upper Beaver Meadows to Bear Lake. Along the way are numerous trail-heads, picnic areas, glaciers and waterfalls. Parking at the lake usually fills up by 9am in the summer but shuttles provide an alternative way to get to the lake from remote parking.

Tle section of Trail Ridge Road is closed from about mid-October to early June because of heavy snow, but the lower portion out of Estes Park remains open.

TIP: Cars can be bumper to bumper on Trail Ridge Road in the summertime. Leave early in the morning, when the traffic is lightest and the light is the terrific for photographs. Explore on a weekday if you have the option. Denverites and Boulderites also visit the park on weekends.

To learn more, see Rocky Mountain National Park.

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