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Big Thompson Canyon and Trail Ridge Road

Kara Westerlund
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This is one of the most singularly stunning drives in the United States, peaking at 12,183 feet – that’s above the treeline – and featuring a combination of river, canyon, and sweeping mountain views. The Big Thompson Canyon drive is spectacular all the way to Estes Park and the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. From here, you’ll ascend the mountain passes. Trail Ridge Road travels from the east side of the Park across the top of Colorado, crossing the Continental Divide. From the various pull-offs, you can view Denver and the Great Plains to the east, Wyoming to the north, and the southern Rocky Mountains to the south and west. You’ll travel through everything from alpine to subalpine to tundra and back, and a range of wildlife – from the diminutive pica to elk and bighorn sheep – can always be seen if you keep watch. There are numerous opportunities to explore, hike, bike, fish, and kayak along the way.

Scenic Drive Tips

Plan to stay a day or two at each end of this tour, as there is a tremendous amount to be seen on both the east and west sides of Rocky Mountain National Park. Explore the very charming town of Estes Park, where you’ll find places to shop and eat as well as hike, bike, or kayak. In fall, the elk herds roam around town and you’ll hear bugling males. On the eastern side of the Park, Sprague and Bear Lakes are popular spots for wildlife viewing and hiking. Alpine Visitor Center at the summit offers amazing views from the top of the world – dress warmly. Grand Lake is an idyllic place to kayak. This road is above the treeline, steep, and seasonal – be sure to do your research before traveling. 

Submitted By

Don Edwards, Douglas Ratcliffe, Kathy Imel, Tamra Schrock

Photo Source

My Colorado Parks, Tamra Schrock, Colorado.com, Visit Grand County

Important Note:

As indicated above, this scenic drive was submitted by an independent third party and has not been verified by Triple E Recreational Vehicles. Please do your own research on suitability, road conditions and road safety before attempting to drive this route.

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