The main road thru RMNP is CO Hwy 34 or Trail Ridge Road. It parallels the gravel Old Fall River Road and extends about 50 miles to Grand Lake on the western side of the park. It pretty much enters the park in Estes and climb to over 11,500 ft in the Alpine region to ride the “Hwy to the Sky”, and descends on the western side of the park to a valley following the Colorado River where the river is very small. Yes, the same Colorado River that carved the Grand Canyon is very small at this point high in the Rocky Mountains. Must have thousands of tributaries between here and there…
So basically, if you are not on Bear Lake Road or the Gravel Old Fall Road you are on Trail Ridge Rd. On the way up you get great views of the Alluvial Fan. This was created as a result of a private dam failure from further up the mountains and subsequent flood. This occurred in 1982 and was devastating to the entire area. It flooded downtown Estes and the water continued down Hwy 34 to Loveland, CO. We took this road up to Estes and it would be easily flooded with narrow winding canyons.
You snake up the mountains thru ponderosa pines and aspen, then enter subalpine forest of fir and spruce, finally reaching the tree line and alpine tundra. The views are simply unbelievable. Here are just a couple.
Being above the tree line with such grand views was very impressive, we are so fortunate to have access to such beauty complements of our National Park Service. The west side of the park, as mentioned above, follows the Colorado River thru the Kawuneeche Valley. We started with a hike on Coyote Valley trail, and before even getting started saw a female moose and her baby. Not sure if this was really a baby or an adolescent, but was definitely not an adult.
The moose was exciting and we did not complete the hike because it started raining pretty hard. We chased the rain or it chased us (depending on how you look at it) all the way down the western side of the park. At the west entrance to the park is Grande Lake the largest natural body of water in Colorado. Interesting fact, in the 1940 a 13.1 mile tunnel was constructed under the mountains connecting Grande Lake on the west with Lake Mary in Estes Park on the east. It goes directly under the continental divide and at the highest point if 3,800 feet below the ground. This tunnel provides much needed water to the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and the plains to the east. The tunnel is named for Alva B Adams a big advocate for the project. Adams falls near Grande lake provided a needed hike and out of the car time on the western side of the park.
The ride back brought a nice herd of mule dear. We saw most wild life on the Trail Ridge Road, could be because that is the main road??
Peace and love!!