ESTES PARK – Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park opened today, Friday, May 29. Due to heavy melting on the road during the day and freezing temperatures at night, visitors should plan for night closures occurring at 8:00 p.m. until conditions change. This May’s snowy and wet weather patterns hampered this year’s efforts to get the road open by Memorial Day. Road crews and rangers will reassess conditions each morning and reopen the road when and if conditions allow. Alpine Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Store are expected to open soon.
Trail Ridge Road historically opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year the road opened on May 23. The earliest the road has opened was on May 7, 2002; the latest June 26, 1943. Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, climbs to 12,183 feet and connects the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. Trail Ridge Road officially closed for the season last year on November 4.
National Park Service plow operators normally begin clearing the snow in the middle of April. Crews from the west side of the park and crews from the east side of the park move along the road and eventually meet near the Alpine Visitor Center. The visitor center is the highest in the National Park Service, sitting at 11,796 feet above sea level. Spring storms often impact plowing activities. This year, plow operators encountered average snow drifts from 18 to 22 feet. Significant storms on the east side of the divide in May provided additional challenges for park snowplow operators.
Because weather conditions may change rapidly, park visitors should be prepared to adjust travel plans accordingly and are encouraged to call the park’s Trail Ridge Road recorded phone line at (970) 586-1222. Park staff will update the recorded line during and after regular office hours, when the road status changes.