This week in local history: Old Fall River Road to become motor nature trail |

This week in local history: Old Fall River Road to become motor nature trail

By Sky-Hi News
Cars entering Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park last year.
Courtesy / National Park Service

Superintendent Fred Novak has announced plans for the reopening July 1 of a mountain road in Rocky Mountain National Park originally constructed between 1913 and 1920 and closed to vehicle travel since 1953.

The old Fall River Road was the first auto highway across the Continental Divide in northern Colorado and the first highway through the park. The road was used a primary crossing until Trail Ridge Road was opening in the 1930s and served as an alternate passage until closed by landslides. Since 1953, the old road has served hikers either from Fall River Pass or Chasm Falls.

According to Novak, the narrow dirt and gravel surfaced road will serve as a one-way up hill only motor trail ideally suited to provide a wilderness threshold experience to travelers willing to venture off the paved roads. Due to the continuous grade and the sharp switchbacks, trailer and cumbersome vehicles not able to conveniently negotiate the primitive road will not be permitted. The one-way section will begin in Horseshoe Park near the entrance to Endovalley campground and end at the Alpine Visitor Center and store on Fall River Pass.

The motor trail may be used provide a loop trip from the Estes Park vicinity by way of Fall River Pass. The Trail Ridge section will exhibit the tundra and scenic over views of mountains and canyons and the Fall River road section will traverse a forested canyon along a sparkling stream and top out above timberline at Fall River Pass on Trail Ridge road.

Under a zoning concept for national park master planning purposes, the road would be included with the natural environment category of lands. These are the lands that provide the setting or transition or buffer for wilderness. The only development foreseen in these wilderness threshold areas is the minimum required for public enjoyment, health, safety, preservation and protection of the features.

The old Fall River Road, as a motor nature trail, will give the visitor a foretaste of the wilderness beyond. The park traveler then may seek the personal fulfillment of using the bordering wilderness on its own terms with no facilities provided for his personal comfort and convenience.

From the April 19, 1968 edition of Sky-Hi News

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