Being on Trail Ridge Road feels like you have reached the top of the world! Learn about the unique features you will encounter along the way and the landmarks you can view from this legendary roadway. Take a drive along the famous Trail Ridge Road in your own vehicle or hop on a guided bus adventure with our guest blogger, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy:
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park is such a treat for every visitor. There are many ways to see the park; hiking, biking, driving, fishing, horseback riding, etc. But there is something special about driving through Rocky Mountain National Park compared to other national parks. You can drive through the entire park from the East side to the West side using Trail Ridge Road. The reason this highway is so unique is because it is the highest paved continuous highway in North America, reaching 12,183 feet. Trail Ridge road also goes through the largest Alpine Tundra ecosystem in the lower 48 states, filling roughly 1/3 of the entire park.
Experiencing Trail Ridge Road should definitely be on your bucket list. One of the spectacular views you will see from Trail Ridge Road is Rainbow Curve. This spot allows you to view almost the entire East side of the park with landmarks like Mount Chapin (12,454), Mount Chiquita (13,069), Ypsilon Mountain (13,514), Mount Fairchild (13,502), Hagues Peak (13,560), Mummy Mountain (13,425), Bighorn Mountain (11,463), and Deer Mountain (10,013). Head a little further and you'll pass through Knife's edge; which is a section of the road that drops off on either side.
Further ahead there is another stopping point called Rock Cut. This is a prime spot to see Pika, the adorable alpine mammal who resembles rabbits but are about the size of large hamsters. You may also see marmots running around or sun bathing on a rock, as well as Bighorn Sheep, the symbol of Rocky Mountain National Park. Rock Cut is also a great place to see Arrowhead Lake which is the biggest lake visible from that point.
Other sights to see on Trail Ridge Road are the Elk and wildflowers. The elk love to hang out on the tundra during the summer to escape the heat. And the wildflowers you can see are just breathtaking, especially the white flower with a hint of lavender called phlox. This flower smells like honey! Plants that grow on the tundra are very strong because they withstand up to 200mph winds, which is why they are all so low to the ground.
As you pass through the gorgeous tundra above tree line and sometimes above clouds, you will have the chance to visit the Alpine Visitor Center. This visitor center has a café in one building where you can enjoy a tasty lunch. In the actual visitor center, you can purchase many different types of guide books adults and children, as well as T-shirts, post cards, children's games and books, and even stuffed animals.
After enjoying a lunch at the Alpine Visitor Center, keep going on Trail Ridge Road and you will discover the Continental Divide. There is a great big sign there you can take a picture with, which is a very important landmark when understanding this watershed. At the divide, you will see a big lake next to the sign. This is where the Poudre River begins.
The great thing about all these experiences you can have on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is that you do not have to drive this yourself. With the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, you can take a bus tour in a comfortable 14-passenger bus or a 12-passenger van and learn about all the special spots previously mentioned and even more! We offer two different tours: Journey to the Top which leads you to the Continental Divide and back, as well as Grand Lake Safari which leads you to the West side of the park to the historic town of Grand Lake and back to Estes Park in one day.
For more information or to register for any of these bus adventures visit The Rocky Mountain Conservancy Website or call (970) 586-3262.