Trail Ridge Open For The Season
Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park opened last Friday morning, May 28. Park rangers correctly anticipated that the road would likely close overnight through the weekend, due to melting and freezing temperatures at night causing thick layers of ice. Due to heavy snowpack the Alpine Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Store, as well as restrooms affiliated with those facilities, did not open until this week. The Mayors of Grand Lake and Estes Park cut a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the opening of the road that connects their two communities.
Trail Ridge Road historically opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year the road opened on May 21. The earliest the road has opened was on May 7, 2002; the latest June 26, 1943. Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, climbing to 12,183 feet and connecting the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. Trail Ridge Road officially closed for the season last year on October 21; however, it never reopened after October 9.
National Park Service plow operators begin clearing the snow in April.
Crews from the west side of the park and crews from the east side of the park move along the road and eventually meet at the Alpine Visitor Center.
The Visitor Center is the highest in the National Park Service, sitting at 11,796 feet above sea level. Spring storms often impact plowing activities and this spring’s heavy storms certainly challenged snowplow operators. Plow operators can encounter drifts from 18 to 22 feet.
Because weather conditions may 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. Park staff will update the recorded line during and after regular office hours, when the road status changes.
During this summer and possibly the summer of 2011, a major resurfacing project is taking place on a 19 mile section of Trail Ridge Road from the Colorado River Trailhead to Rainbow Curve. This project will also involve resurfacing of all major overlook parking areas, pull offs and the parking lot at Alpine Visitor Center. The $17.2 million project is funded by the Federal Lands Highway Program.
Park visitors can expect 20 to 30 minute delays through the construction area on Trail Ridge Road. There may be multiple areas of construction occurring concurrently, and in that case the combined delay time will not exceed 60 minutes. There may be some temporary night closures as well, which will likely occur sometime after mid-July. Work will not take place on weekends or holidays. Cyclists and motorcyclists should expect extremely rough road conditions throughout the summer.
For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park please contact the park information office at (970) 586-1206 or check the park’s website at www.nps.gov/romo.
Call the Trail Ridge Road recorded phone line at (970) 586-1222.