When Trail Ridge Road opened end-to-end on Monday in Rocky Mountain National Park, it marked the latest opening of the road in more than 20 years, according to park officials.
It indeed has been a long, snowy year in the Rockies and the High Sierra, where deep snowpacks and lingering snows have challenged snowplow operators and disappointed park goers who had to rearrange their schedules to cope with snowed-over roads.
At Rocky Mountain, plow operators reported that they encountered the most snow they have seen this late in the season for 30 years, according to park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson, who added that the "amount of winter snowpack that faced park snowplow operators when plowing began, combined with late spring storms, hampered park snowplowing efforts."
Trail Ridge Road traditionally opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year the road opened on May 28. The latest the road has opened in the past 20 years was June 4, 1994; the latest the road has ever opened was June 26, 1943.
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, climbing to 12,183 feet and connecting the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. Trail Ridge Road officially closed for the season last year on October 29; however, it never reopened after October 22.
While the road has opened for the summer season, park officials warn that because weather conditions may change rapidly, travelers should be prepared to adjust travel plans accordingly and are encouraged to call the park’s Trail Ridge Road recorded phone line at (970) 586-1222. Park staff will update the recorded line during and after regular office hours, when the road status changes.
Additionally, park staff say visitors planning to recreate in the park’s backcountry should be prepared for heavy/wet snow, slush and ice. Avalanche danger remains a concern as well, they add, and backcountry users should expect to encounter conditions that present additional hazards and risks than what is typically encountered this time of year such as steep snow slopes, thin ice over water, snow cornices, snow bridges over moving water, and fast moving streams.