Trail Ridge Road Through Rocky Mountain National Park Closes For The Winter

Trail Ridge Road has closed for the winter, due to snow, high winds, and freezing temperatures. This file photo shows just how deep the snow can pile up on the road. NPS photo.

If your guess for the date Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park would close for the winter was October 17, please step forward to claim your prize!

Wintry conditions that have been blowing snow across the two-lane road that climbs above 12,000 feet finally became too much for park crews to continue to battle, according to park officials. Since last Thursday the road has been closed due to consistent winter conditions of drifting snow, high winds and below freezing temperatures.

Trail Ridge Road, one of the most impressive alpine highways in the United States, is the highest continuous paved road in America and reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet. The road connects the park’s gateway communities of Estes Park on the east and Grand Lake on the west. The road is currently closed at Colorado River Trailhead on the west side and Many Parks Curve on the east side.

“We continue to get snowfall at high elevations combined with strong winds. The snow will continue to blow and drift at higher elevations, making snow clearing operations and driving conditions extremely hazardous," said park Superintendent Vaughn Baker. "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.”

The average winter closure date for Trail Ridge Road has been October 23. Although often times the road closes earlier and does not reopen, the previous ten years' official closure dates are: October 27, 2011, October 29, 2010, October 21, 2009, November 6, 2008, October 22, 2007, October 23, 2006, November 4, 2005, October 25, 2004, November 6, 2003 and November 1, 2002.

If you're looking ahead to visit Rocky Mountain next spring, the central portion of Trail Ridge Road normally opens the last week in May, weather permitting. This year Trail Ridge Road opened early on May 14, due to a dry and mild winter and early spring.

Old Fall River Road officially closed for the season on October 10. Old Fall River Road is an unpaved road that travels from 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.

Trail Ridge Road is now in "winter trail status," which means that bicycles and pets are not permitted beyond the closed gates. However, until signed otherwise, Old Fall River Road remains in "winter road status,” which means that cyclists and leashed pets are still permitted beyond the closed gate as long as signing does not indicate otherwise. This applies on Old Fall River Road to the Alpine Visitor Center and no further.

As always, pets are still prohibited on trails and outside of developed areas and road corridors. Signs at the closed gate on Old Fall River Road may be changed at any time, showing the road is closed to cyclists and pets based on weather and road conditions and/or heavy maintenance work being conducted on the road.