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Old Fall River Road In Rocky Mountain National Park Not Expected To Be Open By July Fourth


Heavy snow covering the Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park likely won't be cleared in time for traffic to use the road before the Fourth of July. NPS photo taken June 10 at the top of the road.

One of the joys of veteran visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park, that of driving up Old Fall River Road, likely won't be possible by the Fourth of July.

Park officials said Monday that in some places the old road is buried beneath an estimated 15 feet of snow, incredible mounds that, in places, make it impossible for snowplow operators to see guide poles.

Trail Ridge Road, the main route across the national park, opened just a week ago. With that road open, crews now are focusing on Old Fall River Road.

Not only are the hefty snowdrifts slowing the task, but the risk of avalanches is contributing, as well, according to park officials.

"Avalanche activity is typically encountered along several slide paths that cross the road, and this year these events are anticipated to be larger with the potential for significant deposition and debris that will have to be cleared from the road corridor," park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said in a release.

Old Fall River Road was built between 1913 and 1920.  It is an unpaved road that travels from Endovalley Picnic Area to above treeline at Fall River Pass, following the steep slope of Mount Chapin’s south face.  Due to the winding, narrow nature of the road, the scenic 9.4-mile route leading to Trail Ridge Road is one-way only.

As with travel in many areas in the park this year, park officials urge you to be mindful of lingering hazards due to the abnormally heavy snowpack.

"As some of the avalanche paths that cross the Old Fall River Road still have the potential to slide, users should be aware of their location along the road and valley corridor and conditions that might increase exposure and risks," Ms. Patterson said. "For those who are accustomed to hiking or cycling the road before it opens to motor vehicle traffic, please pay close attention to road status as avalanche potential and possible road damage may influence temporary or long-term closures not normally in effect. 

"Currently the snow is only melted on approximately the lowest 2.5 miles of Old Fall River Road, about a mile above Chasm Falls."


For the last 2 seasons it has been difficult to use either Trail Ridge Road or Old Fall River Road due to late snows to get to the Alpine Visitor Center. It makes me appreciate more and more the ability to explore the Alpine area and both of these roads in 2009 in early July. Ironically I was just looking over pictures from that trip today and then this article is released on the same day. I'm sure all of this snow makes for great views of snowcapped mountains...if you can get near the top safely.

Bummer.  I'm up here too.  Oh well.  I'll console myself with a dinner at the Dunraven Inn at Estes Park.  I had lunch at the Baldpate Inn earlier in the week and enjoyed the view of Long's Peak, still snow-covered.

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