Drive the Country’s Highest Elevated, Paved Road Near Denver
We all know about the infamous scenic drives that rest along coastlines – such as Highway 1 in California or the Great Ocean Road in Australia – but what about Trail Ridge Road, the highest-elevated continuously paved road in North America?
Located just outside of Denver, it stretches on for 48-miles from Estes Park to Grand Lake, winding its way through scenic Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). The two-lane road was built in 1932 to replace the single-file Fall River Road that was constructed just twelve years prior in 1920 but proved to be almost impassable.
Regardless of whether you start in Estes Park or Grand Lake, Trail Ridge Road gains 4,000 feet of elevation very quickly, and boasts a stretch of 11 miles above treeline (11,500 feet) with a maximum elevation of 12,183, according to the National Park Service. Visitors will find incredible vistas, pullouts, wildlife, and over 200 species of plants that bloom vividly during the summer wildflower months (think reds, purples, yellows, and blues). The name "Trail Ridge Road" comes from its proximity to the old-school passages used by natives to cross the Rockies.
Driving during the day seems like common sense and is definitely best for taking in the views of the mountains, but those looking for something a little different might want to consider making the journey at night. This requires a bit more preparation -- seriously, make sure you bring supplies in case you break down and have to spend the night on the side of the road -- but the adventurous will be rewarded with an incredible display of stars as you are, according to RMNP, "above about 50% of the earth's atmosphere that reflects the light pollution."
Certain parts of Trail Ridge Road often close during the stormy, wintry months, so be sure to check with Rocky Mountain National Park Services if you find yourself in the area between October and June. If the road is open, though, it's worth the trip (again, be prepared!). The tall snow drifts might block out some of the view, but they become the main attraction as they tower over the roadway.