Skip to main content

2016 Sumer Mountain Trip Part 2; Rocky Mountain National Park and US 34 the Trail Ridge Road

Following crossing Berthoud Pass on US Route 40 I took it westward to Granby to the western terminus of US 34.  My next destination was on US 34 over the top of Rocky Mountain National Park on the Trail Ridge Road.





The previous entry in this series can be found here:



The Trail Ridge portion of US Route 34 is 48 miles long from the Grand Lake Entrance east over the crest of the Rockies to the Fall River Entrance.  The Trail Ridge Road travels over the Continental Divide and several high passes in the Rockies such as; Milner Pass at 10,758 feet above sea level, Fall River Pass at 11,796 feet above sea level and Iceberg Pass at 11,827 feet above sea level.  The high point on the Trail Ridge Road is near Fall River Pass at 12,183 feet above sea level which I believe is the highest point in the US Route system.  US 34 and Trail Ridge close seasonally unlike many of the high passes in the Rockies.

The Fall River Road was the precursor route into Rocky Mountain National Park and was completed by 1920 west from Estes Park.  The Fall River Road is still accessible to traffic as a one-way westbound roadway from near Sheep Lake up to the Alpine Visitor Center.  Work on the Fall River Road apparently began in 1913 but was interrupted by the First World War.  The Fall River Road can be seen on the this 1924 Four Corners Trail Map as the through route over Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park west to Grand Lake.

1924 Four Corners Auto Trails Map 

The Fall River Road has grades as steep as 16% and was not built to a standard to allow two-way traffic to travel easily.   Work on the Trail Ridge Road begun in 1929 and was completed south of the Fall River Road to Fall River Pass by 1932.  Work on improving the road west to Grand Lake and Kawuneeche Valley was completed by 1938.  The Trail Ridge Road had a much more shallow 7% Grade which eventually was incorporated into US Route 34 when it was extended into Colorado in 1939.  USends provides more detail on the endpoints of US Route 34 and the map below shows the recently extended highway in 1941 ending at US 40 in Granby.  US 34 in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the few through routes in a National Park that is clearly US Route or even a State Highway.

USends on US 34

1941 Colorado Highway Map 

Before entering Rocky Mountain National Park I stopped at the location where the Colorado River enters Shadow Mountain Lake.  The Shadow Mountain Lake Reservoir was created in 1947 upon the completion of the Shadow Mountain Dam.  The Shadow Mountain Reservoir is the largest in Colorado.  The filling of the Shadow Mountain Reservoir backed up water to Grand Lake which is the largest and deepest natural lake in the state.




Upon entering Rocky Mountain National Park from the Grand Lake Entrance I took the Trail Ridge Road to Ditch Road in Kawuneeche Valley.  Ditch Road really isn't truly a roadway anymore but rather a trail that crosses the Colorado River to the Holzwarth Historic District.



Holzwarth was a district of cabins just outside the original 1915 boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park which was settled in 1917 by the Holzwarth family.  The guest cabins on the ranch lands were in use until the Nature Conservancy bought the lands in 1974.  By 1975 Holzwarth was transferred to the National Park Service and annexed into Rocky Mountain National Park.









Lots of critters to be seen around Holzwarth and the Colorado River.





North of Holzwarth Trail Ridge begins to ascend east away from the Colorado River.  There is nice view of Kawuneeche Valley from Farview Curve Viewpoint.






At Poudre Lake Trail Ridge crosses the Continental Divide at the 10,759 foot Milner Pass.



The Cache la Poudre River can be seen looking northeast from the Medicine Bow Curve along with the Trail Ridge Road ascending to Fall River Pass.




Lots animals up high above Trail Ridge. 





The view of the Cache la Poudre River from Fall River Pass and the Alpine Visitor Center is pretty nice.




To the east the Old Fall River Road can be seen descending easterly towards Sheep Lake north of the Fall River.


A sign for Fall River Pass and the Alpine Visitor Center.





East of Fall River Pass is the Gore Rand Overlook.  The 12,183 foot high point on Trail Ridge is just to the east.





Immediately east of the Trail Ridge High Point is the Lava Cliffs Overlook.





Trail Ridge over the 11,827 is surprisingly flat and level.  Trail Ridge descends easterly towards the Forest Canyon Overlook via a large cut in the rock face.  The lack of trees above 11,000 feet really make Trail Ridge visually striking as it is apparent how high up you're really driving.  The Forest Canyon Overlook probably is the widest overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park looking west towards the Big Thompson River.





East of Forest Canyon Trail Ridge begins to descend towards Estes Park.  There is one additional substantial viewpoint looking east at the Rainbow Curve Viewpoint.



The Trail Ridge Road meets the western terminus of US Route 36 near the Deer Creek Trail head.  I continued on US Route 34 eastward towards the Fall River.  Ahead is a westward view of canyon the Fall River and Old Fall River Road ascend to Fall River Pass.





I took Trail Ridge to the Fall River Entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.  I continued eastward on US 34 to I-25 in Loveland.  I took I-25 northward into Wyoming but I'll continue from there in Part 3.

Part 3 of this blog series can found here:

Part 3; the long road to the Black Hills

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 58/Old California State Route 178 west of CA 43

This past week I drove California State Route 58 west of CA 43 in Kern County over the Temblor Range and La Panza Range to US Route 101 near Santa Margarita of San Luis Obispo County.


CA 58 west of Bakersfield and CA 99 in general is a mostly two-lane highway that traverses some very remote territory of Central California.  I chose to cover CA 58 west of CA 43 specifically due to the changes in the alignment that are to come when the West Side Parkway connects to the Centennial Corridor project.  The Centennial Corridor will connect CA 58 west of CA 99 to the already completed segment of Freeway on the West Side Parkway.

Westside Parkway and the Centennial Corridor; Future California State Route 58

CA 58 from Barstow west to Bakersfield was carved out of what was US Route 466 during the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.  CA 58 west of Bakersfield to Santa Margarita was carved out of what was part of CA 178.  The change from CA 178 to CA 58 west of Bakersfield to Santa Margarita can be ob…

California State Route 118

This past month I drove the entirety of California State Route 118 from Ventura County east into Los Angeles County.


CA 118 is a major 47 mile State Highway which begins in the City in Ventura County and traverses east into Los Angeles County by way of Simi Valley and Santa Susana Pass.  From Santa Susana Pass CA 118 continues eastward through San Fernando Valley within the City of Los Angeles and terminates at Interstate 210.  CA 118 contains within it's right-of-way some of the most historic highway corridors in California history.

The precursor route of CA 118 was Legislative Route Number 9 which was first added to the State Highway System during the First State Highway Bond Act of 1909.  The original definition of LRN 9 was from San Bernardino westward to LRN 4 in San Fernando. LRN 9 was extended westward to LRN 2 near Montalvo (modern day Ventura) in 1933.

In a August 1934 Department of Public Works Guide the Signed State Highways were announced.  CA 118 was announced to be a…

California State Route 225; the Zombie Highway of Santa Barbara and presently shortest in California

This past month I visited the Santa Barbara Area and drove the many short State Highways located there.  The shortest and the strangest is the 0.081 mile California State Route 225.


As noted above CA 225 is presently only 0.081 miles in length and is located completely on Castillo Street in Santa Barbara between Montecito Street and US 101/CA 1.  Fortunately the Caltrans Post Mile Tool illustrates that CA 225 still exists despite almost being relinquished to death.



At present moment CA 225 is the shortest State Highway in California.  By the definition of actual field mileage the following State Highways are the five shortest in California:

1.  CA 225 at 0.081 miles
2.  CA 275 at 0.14 miles
3.  CA 283 at 0.36 miles
4.  CA 77 at 0.40 miles 
5.  CA 153/CA 265 at 0.50 miles each

The origin of CA 225 was back in 1933 when Legislative Route 150 was added to the State Highway system as a loop of US 101/LRN 2 between Santa Barbara east to near Montecito according to CAhighways.org.  As orig…