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Trail Ridge Road picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Carolyn Hebbard / Getty Images

Key Info

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  • Sightseeing Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.9
Overall
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  • Value
    5.0
  • Facilities
    5.0
  • Atmosphere
    4.5

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Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service between 1929 and 1933, once said about Trail Ridge Road, "It's hard to describe what a sensation this new road is going to make. You will have the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions." Trail Ridge Road was a sensation when it debuted back in 1932 and it remains so today for the travelers that make the 48-mile drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake, rising above the tree line for 11 miles at an elevation of nearly 11,500 feet. Visitors should keep that in mind when they're stopping at the lookout points that the road experiences temperatures that are 20 and even 30 degrees lower than both Estes Park and Grand Park. 

Most travelers call Trail Ridge Road a must-do while in Rocky Mountain National Park. One recent traveler, who said she spent a full day taking in the "stunning views" along Trail Ridge Road, saw elk, marmots and moose. Stopping at the pull-offs yields some spectacular photo ops, and some offer restrooms. 

The road, which is free to access with park admission, is open from late May to mid-October; the rest of the year, it is buried under snow. You can access Trail Ridge Road – also known as Highway 34 – via the east side of Estes Park. For more information, visit the National Park Service's website

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More Best Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Bear Lake picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Downtown Estes Park picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Emerald Lake Trail picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Stanley Hotel picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
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#1 Trail Ridge Road Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service between 1929 and 1933, once said about Trail Ridge Road, "It's hard to describe what a sensation this new road is ... Read more » Carolyn Hebbard / Getty Images

#2 Beaver Meadows Visitor Center To get an educational overview of the park, it's wise to stop in at one of RMNP's visitor centers, such as Beaver Meadows. According to recent visitors, the ... Read more » Rich Crowder / Getty Images

#3 Bear Lake Bear Lake is encircled by a nearly 1-mile trail that visitors enjoy for its ease and beauty, especially during the fall when the aspens turn gold. Spruce, fir and pine ... Read more » Rhona Wise / Getty Images

#4 Downtown Estes Park Estes Park is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, and it is home base for many visitors. It contains a host of accommodations, ranging from inns and motels to ... Read more » Ronda Kimbrow Photography / Getty Images

#5 Emerald Lake Trail This popular 3 ½-mile, round-trip hike winds past Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Tyndall Creek, and offers some breathtaking views of Longs Peak, Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain before reaching ... Read more » Brad McGinley Photography / Getty Images

#6 Moraine Park Museum Housed in a converted log cabin built in the early 1900s, the Moraine Park Museum is filled with exhibits on the natural environment of Rocky Mountain National Park, from its ... Read more » Jasperdo / Flickr

#7 Stanley Hotel Tour Not only is the grand Stanley Hotel a member of the Historic Hotels of America, it's also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Aside from its historic ... Read more » RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

Trail Ridge Road picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Bear Lake picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Downtown Estes Park picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Emerald Lake Trail picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Moraine Park Museum picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Stanley Hotel picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Trail Ridge Road picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Bear Lake picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Downtown Estes Park picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Emerald Lake Trail picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Moraine Park Museum picture in Rocky Mountain National Park
Stanley Hotel picture in Rocky Mountain National Park

Eleven miles of Trail Ridge Road sit above the tree line. Carolyn Hebbard / Getty Images

A visitor's first stop at Rocky Mountain National Park should be one of its visitor centers, including Beaver Meadows. According to recent visitors, the park rangers are extremely helpful and knowledgeable and can help you decide which trails to take, depending on your time and skill level. Rich Crowder / Getty Images

When the aspens change color in the fall, Bear Lake is an especially glorious sight.  Rhona Wise / Getty Images

For many travelers, Estes Park is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. It's also the starting point for the must-see Trail Ridge Road. Ronda Kimbrow Photography / Getty Images

While on the Emerald Lake Trail, you'll pass by a series of lakes, including the subalpine Dream Lake.  Brad McGinley Photography / Getty Images

The Moraine Park Museum doubles as a gallery and a visitor center, and it's also on the National Register of Historic Places.  Jasperdo / Flickr

Back in 1980, the Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King's "The Shining." These days, visitors can experience the hotel that made "Jack a dull boy" while on a tour or a stay.  RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

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