Early snowmelt eases access to the high country
SUMMIT COUNTY — Rocky Mountain National Park officials say they’ll be able to open Trail Ridge Road a few weeks early this year, after warm conditions in March melted much of the high country snowpack.
The road will open May 14, weather permitting and road conditions will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis. The Alpine Visitor Center and the Trail Ridge Store, located along Trail Ridge Road, will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians due to heavy snow removal equipment working in the parking area. Restrooms will be open at Rock Cut and Milner Pass.
Trail Ridge Road is billed as the highest continuous motorway in the United States, with more than eight miles above 11,000 feet and a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet. The road follows a historic footpath used by indigenous Americans to cross the Rocky Mountains.
Trail Ridge Road generally opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year, due to historic snow accumulation, the road opened June 6. This year’s opening is the third -arliest opening since the road was completed in 1932.
The earliest day was May 7, 2002. In 1963, the road opened on May 11.
Because weather conditions cand change rapidly, park visitors 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. When the road status changes, park staff will update the recorded line during and after regular office hours.
Trail Ridge Road was designed to replace Fall River Road, which proved inadequate for modern motor travel as soon as it opened in 1920. Trail Ridge Road was designed to have more gentle grades, broader curves, and a greater variety of scenic experiences. The sunny, ridge-top location would also reduce snow accumulations and allow Trail Ridge Road to open earlier then its shady, snow-laden predecessor.
Trail Ridge Road was built between 1926 and 1932 by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Public roads (now the Federal Highway Administration). Construction crews had to contend with imposing terrain, harsh weather and short working seasons.
The road was also designed for low impact, displaying the region’s rich scenic diversity with minimal impact on the natural environment.