Denver, Colorado City Escape

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The highest continuous paved road in the United States is in Rocky Mountain National Park—Trail Ridge Road. Connecting Estes Park (the town that inspired Stephen King’s novel, The Shining) to Grand Lake, home of … well, a pretty big lake! But then again, why settle for ghost stories, big lakes, and pavement when riders can also go off-road?

Length

Approximately 203 miles

Meet-up Spot

Table Mountain Grill & Cantina, 1310 Washington Ave, Golden, CO 

Lunch Stop

The Estes Park Brewery serves up plenty of pub food, from salads to sandwiches to pizza, in a casual setting. If the weather permits, dine upstairs on the patio and take in the view. Find it at 470 Prospect Village Dr, Estes Park, CO, (970) 586-5421.

Scenery (5 out of 5)

The ride into and out of the park offers days worth of detours, but peaking at 11,796 feet at Fall River Pass is really one for the bucket list. A short hike from the visitor center gives access to the 12,183-foot summit. For the more adventurous riders, they can climb to the top via Old Fall River Road—a one-way (up) dirt road that connects to the visitor center parking lot. For non-dual sport riders, simply follow the paved turns to the same parking lot. 

Traffic (3 out of 5)

The park can be crowded with tourists on the weekends. There is minimal passing in the park, so go on a weekday if possible.

Difficulty (2.5 out of 5)

The paved sections in and around the park are easy and full of twists to keep riders engaged. There is a lack of guardrails in many places so be cautious. Old Fall River Road has several tight, sandy switchbacks, but it is certainly feasible for less experienced riders. Follow the park map to the Alluvial Fan/Old Fall River Road to access the trailhead.

Road Conditions (4 out of 5) 

The pavement is well-maintained throughout the ride. The dual sport Old Fall River Road detour has been recently rebuilt and regraded after the devastating floods in 2013.

Points of Interest

  1. Coors Brewery Tour—Golden, CO
See and taste traditional brewing at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The brewery experience includes a free 30-minute self-paced tour showcasing the company’s history and brewing process; www.millercoors.com.
  2. The Stanley Hotel—Estes Park, CO
The Stanley Hotel boasts spectacular views in every direction and is less than six miles away from Rocky Mountain National Park. The hotel, while known for its architecture, magnificent setting, and famous visitors, may be best known today for its inspirational role in Stephen King’s novel, The Shining. The hotel has also been featured as one of America’s most haunted hotels; www.stanleyhotel.com.
  3. Alluvial Fan—Rocky Mountain National Park
Explore the Alluvial Fan Trail and see the natural wonder that is the Alluvial Fan—the result of a huge flood that took place in 1982 when the dam at Lawn Lake broke and unleashed an estimated 228 million gallons of water. A scar five miles long, where the water snaked down the mountain, created a large fan-shaped deposit made up of broken trees, boulders, and silt. The debris that formed the Alluvial Fan also produced a shallow wetland and Fan Lake; www.rmnp.com/RMNP-Areas-HorseshoePark-AlluvialFan.html.