Snow Closes Trail Ridge Road In Rocky Mountain National Park For The Winter

Accumulating snows and gusting winds have shut down the Trail Ridge Road over the top of Rocky Mountain National Park for the season. These photos were taken October 18, 2013, by a ranger on skis. The top shot is of the Alpine Visitor Center, the lower shot just west of Medicine Bow Curve. The drifts in the middle of the road are about 6 feet deep, according to the park. NPS photos.

Right on schedule, Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park closed for the season Tuesday due to accumulating snow.

On average, the road closes for winter on October 23, making this year's closure just one day earlier than normal.

While the road, which crosses the Continental Divide above 12,000 feet, was closed, many other areas of the park remain open. The most popular destinations for this time of year, including Bear Lake Road, Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park and the section of Trail Ridge Road along the Kawuneeche Valley, are all open.

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.

Trail Ridge Road is not designed to be an all-season road; 11 miles are above 11,500 feet, and the road features few guard rails and no shoulder. There are winter conditions of drifting snow, high winds, and below-freezing temperatures above 10,000 feet. 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 Superintendent Vaughn Baker in a release. "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.”

Although often times the road closes earlier than October 23 and does not reopen, the previous ten years' official closure dates are: October 17, 2012, October 27, 2011, October 29, 2010, October 21, 2009, November 6, 2008, October 22, 2007, October 23, 2006, November 4, 2005, October 25, 2004, and November 6, 2003.

The central portion of Trail Ridge Road normally opens the last week in May, weather permitting. This year Trail Ridge Road opened on May 24.

Trail Ridge Road is now in "winter trail status" which means that bicycles and pets are not permitted beyond the closed gates. For current road conditions and other park information, please call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.