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Hike-in Required
No
Open Year-round
?
ADA accessible
Yes
Guided tours
No
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Rocky Mountain National Park was created in 1915, so 2015 marks its centennial. In 1920, the first road was built into the high country deep in the park. The Old Fall River Road is a historical remnant of the early days of the park, but it had issues that ultimately required a replacement road to be built in 1932. There were several very tight switchback turns, and in places the grade was nearly 20%. It was also as narrow as 8-feet wide in places, and two-way traffic was challenging. Today the road is a 9-mile, one-way alternate route to the Alpine Visitor Center that has completely different scenery than the parallel paved Trail Ridge Road (CO-34).

Starting at the Endovalley picnic area just past the Sheep Lakes turnout, the road is well-maintained gravel that is fine for passenger cars. Quickly climbing above the beautiful Horseshoe Park, the road reaches Chasm Falls in about a mile. The first parking area is below the falls, and the trail up is a bit rough and steep, but the view is great. A short way past this is a larger parking area and a paved path down to an overlook. Winding switchbacks quickly pass the tree line and offer magnificent views of Sundance Mountain to the south and the Mummy Mountains to the north. Soon the visitor center is seen high above, perched on the edge of a beautiful glacial cirque. The alpine tundra is home to elk and bighorn sheep, which can often be seen from the road turnouts.

At the top of the climb the Old Fall River Road meets the main highway at the busy visitor center (the highest in the national park system), where there are exhibits, restrooms, a store, a small cafeteria, and the highly-recommended Alpine Ridge Trail that leads to a 360-degree view of the park's high country. Driving back down the Trail Ridge Road makes a great loop with fabulous overlooks and some nice short trails on the tundra.

 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Pros

Well-maintained gravel road. Great views. Might see bighorn sheep and elk.

Cons

Windy and steep road.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Features

Wildflowers
Big vistas
Geologically significant
ADA accessible

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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