Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

FINALLY.  I’ve lived in Colorado for the better part of the last 40 years, my lady for over 17 years.  Until last Sunday, 23 Sep. 2012, neither of us had been on the Trail Ridge Road between Estes Park and Grand Lake, CO.  This is perhaps akin to living in central Paris and never having been to the Louvre Museum.

You can drive the road in either direction between the two towns although it is snowed in and closed during the winter.  Getting there and back takes much longer than the 48 miles between the towns.  From the south Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch to Estes Park took 90 minutes by driving north on I-25 then west on Hwy 66 at the Longmont/Lyons turnoff.  The return trip from Grand Lake south past Granby and Winter Park to I-70 east and C-470 home took 2 hr. 20 min.

Estes Park is a beautiful little town in a small but broad valley surrounded by mountain peaks.

Estes Park mtn. view

Estes Park mtn. view

Wikipedia tells me the elevation is 7,522 ft. and the population was 5,858 in the 2010 census.  It is the home of the historic Stanley Hotel which Stephen King used as an inspiration in his horror novel The Shining, subsequently made into a movie of the same name starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duval.  (“REDRUM! REDRUM!” “Heeere’s JOHNNY!”) But I digress.  I’m pretty sure neither the hotel nor the town are snowbound and isolated during the winter like in the novel and movie.

In front of the Stanley

In front of the Stanley

Great old antique interior
Great old antique interior

The Stanley staircase
The Stanley staircase

The Stanley pictures were actually taken a week earlier after our drive up the Peak-to-Peak Highway, someplace else we had never been before. Leaving town westward for Trail Ridge Road you can take either Hwy 34 or 36. They both converge in a very few miles inside the park. We opted for the south entrance to RMNP. As you first rise up there are alpine meadows and scattered fir trees. We saw deer but no elk.

First looks outside of Estes Park

First looks outside of Estes Park

The day was slightly cloudy plus there was haze from wildfires far to the north, thus the blueish tint to the photos.  Yes Virginia, that is the north side of 14,255′ Long’s Peak in the distance.  We can see the south side from our south Denver house some 50-60 miles distant as the proverbial crow.

Long's Peak

Long’s Peak

Long's Peak info
Long’s Peak info

Looking east, still below treeline

Looking east, still below treeline

(Photos can be clicked to enlarge.)

Eastward too

Eastward too

Road and distance

The road just traveled.

Yes, THAT road.
Yes, THAT road.

Pikas eat from your hand

Pikas eat from your hand

Fun for the tourists, spoiled and possibly fatal behavior for the pika that becomes too dependent on human handouts.  (A lesson?)

It's cooler above treeline!

It’s cooler above treeline!

Long range views near the top.

Long range views near the top.

The high point of the highway is somewhere just ahead, in the following picture.  At 12,183 ft it is the “highest paved continuous road” or highway in the U.S.  Google and Wikipedia will confirm elsewhere that the paved road to 14,000+ ft. Mt. Evans in Colorado is the “highest paved road” and is also a dead end.  There is no marker or pull off at the Trail Ridge high point.

The highpoint of Trail Ridge is there.  Honest!

The highpoint of Trail Ridge Road is there. Honest!

The Rockies and a lake

There’s a reason they call it the ROCKY mountains. Can you see the lake?

Yes THAT lake. Yes THAT lake.
The lake in between.

The lake in between sizes.

At the visitor center, a little over halfway to Grand Lake.

At the visitor center, a little over halfway to Grand Lake.

Elevation dropping.

Elevation dropping. (ONLY 11,796′.) Actually a decent cafeteria and gift shop here. Unexpected.

Back into the treeline toward Grand Lake.

Back into the treeline toward Grand Lake.

A bit of autumn color.

A bit of autumn color.

At the historic Grand Lake Lodge.

At the historic Grand Lake Lodge.

Beautiful views of the lake.

Beautiful views of the lake.

Two lakes actually.

Two lakes actually. This one is Grand Lake, the previous was Shadow Mountain Lake. Lake Granby is just down the road.

Painted wagon at the Lodge.

Painted wagon at the Lodge. Where’s Lee Marvin? (Paint Your Wagon, Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg, Harve Presnell. Nevermind.)

It's official.

It’s official. We were there!

Finally!  I hate these bucket lists.  It was a nice drive and the traffic wasn’t bad considering it was an autumn Sunday.  Definitely a must-see for a great perspective of the Rocky Mountains.  (The drive back past Granby and Winter Park to I-70 and on to the suburbs south of Denver took 2 hr. 20 min.  The colors in the Fraser Valley were beautiful.  Have to put them on next years autumn bucket list.)

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About JohnRH

Retired, avid winter skier, avid reader, traveler (avidly). :)
Gallery | This entry was posted in Colorado, Colorado roads, Photography, Recreation, Travel, Travel photography, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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