Rocky Mountain National Park's Trail Ridge Road Closes; Can Winter Be Far Off For Us in the Lowlands?

Winter has arrived in the high country of Rocky Mountain National Park, as this photo taken the other day near the Ute Crossing area of Trail Ridge Road shows. NPS photo.

Wintry conditions have become too frequent at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park for crews to keep Trail Ridge Road open any longer this year. But that doesn't mean you couldn't ski or snowshoe across the Continental Divide, if you're hardy enough!

The road, which happens to be the highest-elevation continuous paved road in the country, was closed by Superintendent Vaughn Baker on Wednesday due to the inclement weather that's been blasting it. However, it really has been closed since October 4 due to drifting snows, high winds, and below-freezing temperatures above 10,000 feet in the park. His announcement Wednesday just made things official for the winter.

“After recent snowfall accumulation at high elevations in the park, with the accompanying wind and ice, as well as the forecast for periodic storms at high elevations, we have decided to officially close Trail Ridge Road for the season. The snow continues to blow and drift at higher elevations, making snow clearing operations and driving conditions extremely hazardous," Superintendent Baker said. "During the winter season, weather permitting, we will keep Trail Ridge Road open to Many Parks Curve on the east side of the park and to the Colorado River Trailhead on the west side of the park.”

Trail Ridge Road, for trivia fans, was opened in 1932 and reaches a high point of 12,183 feet above sea level, according to park officials. The road connects the park’s gateway communities of Estes Park on the east and Grand Lake on the west. This year's closure comes just a few days before the average winter closure date of October 23. The previous ten year’s closure dates are: November 6, 2008, October 22, 2007, October 23, 2006, November 4, 2005, October 25, 2004, November 6, 2003, November 1, 2002, October 18, 2001, November 2, 2000, and November 22, 1999.

Come spring, the central portion of Trail Ridge Road normally opens the last week in May, weather permitting. This year Trail Ridge Road opened on May 21.

Another route towards the top of the Continental Divide in the park, Old Fall River Road, was closed for the season back on October 8. This route is an unpaved road that travels from the Endovalley picnic area to above treeline at Fall River Pass, following the steep slope of Mount Chapin. Due to the road’s narrow nature, the scenic 9.4-mile route leading to Trail Ridge Road is one way only. The Old Fall River Road was built between 1913 and 1920.

Both roads have reverted to trail status; therefore bicycles and dogs are not permitted. For current road conditions and other park information, please call (970) 586-1206.