This looks like a beautiful place in the old postcard and also in a modern image on the
Estes Park website, which, under tabs at the top of the page, offers oodles of links to learn more about this marvelous place on the Earth and how you can enjoy it as a visitor. The website provides the following information about Trail Ridge Road:
Trail Ridge Road spans the Park and connects Estes Park to the town of Grand Lake on the western slope. It's the highest continuously paved road in the United States, reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet.
It is open to vehicle traffic from Memorial Day weekend until the Park Service closes it in the fall. Temporary closings may occur in early June or late fall because of snow. It's usuallly October before the Park Service gives up fighting the snow and turns the road back to Mother Nature for the winter.
The many turnouts along Trail Ridge Road provide scenic overlooks and tremendous photographic opportunities, day or night. The night time view from Rainbow Curve is spectacular. City lights from Fort Collins to Denver are visible.
Trail Ridge Road travels through forests, above tree line, over the alpine tundra, reaches the high point, and crosses the Continental Divide before winding its way down to the town of Grand Lake. There are numerous trails and short hikes available from Trail Ridge Road.
Just west of the high point is Fall River Pass, elevation 11,796 feet, and the Alpine Visitor Center. Many elk, deer and bighorn sheep move to the high country in the summer and can sometimes be seen from the deck of the Visitor Center. Rest rooms, a restaurant and a gift shop are also located in this area. The temperatures can be cool at this altitude, so you'll want to bring a jacket along just in case.
A note concerning the alpine tundra - This is an extremely fragile ecosystem. Please stay on the marked trails. Crushed growth takes many decades to heal.
The official website for Rocky Mountain National Park has a current announcement that reads:
Trail Ridge Road IS OPEN for the 2011 Season!The website is a wonderful, full-service resource with fantastic photos. In my opinion, it would be a "must-read" prior to planning a visit to the area.
For a high resolution panoramic view of Horseshoe Park, click here. This is the description for the panoramic image: Horseshoe Park is the marshy grassland either side of the Fall River as it exits the hills on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, 5 miles from Estes Park; this panorama is taken from an overlook of the valley along US 34, close to the US 36 junction. Bighorn Mountain rises up to the north, and the higher peaks of the Mummy Range visible to the west, above the treeline. To the south are the wooded slopes of Tombstone Ridge, crossed by the US 34 switchbacks.
I suppose that, because I was such an admirer of his, I will always think of John Denver when I think of the Rocky Mountains. While preparing this post I stumbled upon a touching website titled
Peace ~ John Denver by a woman in the UK, who created it to honor his memory. She offers up her own heartfelt poetry about John Denver and his affect on her life in the sweetest manner, and her first poem to him seems a perfect way to end this post:
To John - by Sylvia Ashton
From when I first heard your inspiring song,
And you became my very own bright star,
I followed you for more than half my life,
And, because of you, I travelled far.
Because you often told me of their beauty,
I crossed the ocean to the Rocky Mountains,
And once I bought a golden leaf in Aspen,
And threw a lucky coin into the fountain.
I watched a mountain storm strike firey forks
From Trail Ridge Road, high in the national park.
I saw a glacier and a frozen lake
Beneath cloud filled skies, frowning and dark.
You always lifted dark clouds in my thoughts,
Showed me the rainbow following on beyond.
You gave me faith and hope when times were bad,
And helped me celebrate the better ones.
You sang of 'Sunshine' when my first child was born.
Your 'morning bells' describe my second one.
At a concert you reached to my unborn child
And touched his soul while still within the womb.
Now you are gone and I have lost a friend,
But I still have your gifts to keep you near.
I will not think so much that you have gone
But how good it is that you were ever here.