Trail Ridge Road opens, then closes

The Rocky Mountain National Park Alpine Visitor Center, located at 11,796 feet in elevation along Trail Ridge Road, on May 25. The store is scheduled to open sometime this week.
NPS/Courtesy Photo

Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road opened for the summer season on Friday, May 27, and then closed again on Sunday due to winter storm conditions along the road at higher elevations. Winter weather has persisted at higher elevations in the park since Sunday.

On Tuesday, Rocky’s snowplow operators and trail crews encountered drifts of 1 to 3 feet. Due to the amount of snow on the road above 10,000 feet and a large boulder that fell in the road, Trail Ridge Road is still closed on the east side of the park at Many Parks Curve and on the west side of the park at the Colorado River Trailhead.

The road is the highest continuously paved highway in the United States, climbing to 12,183 feet at its uppermost point. It connects the towns of Estes Park on the east and Grand Lake, on the west. It typically opens on Memorial Day weekend and closes in October.

The road opened two days before three climbers were caught in an avalanche and rockfall on the east side of the park. One man died in the slide; stormy weather prevented rescuers from retrieving his body until Tuesday. A Colorado National Guard helicopter from Buckley Air Force Base was used to extricate him via a hoist operation, using a winch-operated cable.

On May 19, a 21-year-old Illinois woman slipped into Adams Falls, on the west side of the park, and died.

As always, visitors should practice caution when traveling in the park. This pertains to driving Trail Ridge Road as well as climbing, backpacking and doing other forms of recreation.

Addressing the avalanche on Sunday, park spokesperson Kyle Patterson said recent storms have brought more snow to Rocky’s high-elevation areas. As the sun warms, natural avalanches can occur. The investigation for Sunday’s tragic rock fall and avalanche incident on Dreamweaver Couloir on Mount Meeker is ongoing.

“When heading into the backcountry, park visitors should avoid traveling across or under steep snow slopes unless you have the equipment and knowledge to do so,” she added. Visit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s website for avalanche forecasts and safety information at

“This is also the time of year to beware of walking on thin ice on Alpine lakes,” said Patterson. “Snow bridges can collapse under your weight as well when crossing streams, rivers and creeks.It’s always important to be cautious around any swift-moving water, particularly during the spring runoff. Rivers, creeks, streams and waterfalls are all moving fast and cold due to spring snowmelt. River banks and rocks can be icy, wet and slippery. While water may appear inviting, remember that the current is faster than it looks. Especially keep an eye on young children, who are naturally drawn to water.”

It’s critical to know before you go when recreating and traveling by vehicle in the mountains. Trail Ridge Road has seen its share of winter storm conditions in the last two weeks with low visibility, snow accumulation, ice and freezing temperatures.

To see the weather forecast specifically for Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road, visit To get the most up-to-date closures and openings, call the park’s recorded phone line at 970-586-1222 or follow on Twitter @RockyNPS.




Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.