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

Horace Wilkinson Bridge (Baton Rouge, LA)

Standing tall across from downtown Baton Rouge, the Horace Wilkinson Bridge carries Interstate 10 across the lower Mississippi River between West Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parishes. Unusually, the bridge is actually named for three separate people; three generations of Horace Wilkinsons who served in the Louisiana State Legislature over a combined period of 54 years. Constructed in the 1960s and opened to traffic in 1968, this is one of the largest steel bridges on the lower Mississippi. It’s also the tallest bridge across the Mississippi, with its roadway reaching 175 ft at the center span. Baton Rouge is the northernmost city on the river where deep-water, ocean-going vessels can operate. As a result, this bridge is the northernmost bridge on the river of truly gigantic proportions. Altogether, the bridge is nearly 2 ½ miles long and its massive truss superstructure is 4,550 ft long with a center main truss span of 1,235 ft. The Horace Wilkinson Bridge is one of the largest

Veterans Memorial Bridge (Gramercy, LA)

When we think of the greatest engineering achievements and the greatest bridges of North America, we tend to focus on those located in places familiar to us or those structures that serve the greatest roles in connecting the many peoples and cultures of our continent. Greatness can also be found in the places we least expect to find it and that 'greatness' can unfortunately be overlooked, due in large part to projects that are mostly inconsequential, if not wasteful, to the development and fortunes of the surrounding area. In the aftermath of the George Prince ferry disaster that claimed the lives of 78 people in October 1976 in nearby Luling, LA, the state of Louisiana began the process of gradually phasing out most of its prominent cross-river ferry services, a process that remains a work in progress today. While the Luling-Destrehan Ferry service was eliminated in 1983 upon completion of the nearby Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge, the ferry service at Gramercy, LA in rural St.

Sunshine Bridge (Donaldsonville, LA)

Located about halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in southern Louisiana, the Sunshine Bridge spans the lower Mississippi River near the city of Donaldsonville as part of the longer Louisiana Highway 70 corridor, which connects Interstate 10 and Airline Highway (US 61) with US 90 in Morgan City. In the years following World War II, the only bridges across the lower Mississippi River in Louisiana were located in the area of the state’s two largest cities – Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Postwar agricultural and industrial development along the river in this region led to the planning of a series of infrastructure projects in southern Louisiana that were aimed at spurring this development and modernization of the Delta region. One of these projects was known as the Acadian Thruway and was developed in the 1950s as a toll road intended to connect greater New Orleans with Lafayette and points west while providing a high-speed bypass of the Baton Rouge metro area. The Thruway, which