Scenic Drives in Rocky Mountain National Park

These three roads pass by the most scenic park views that can be seen from a car: Trail Ridge Road, Bear Lake Road and Old Fall River Road.

If you thought the journey to Rocky Mountain National Park was beautiful just wait until you experience roads inside the Park. To help you out we’ve selected our favorite three and included the highlights. So why not jump in the car and start exploring? No matter what you’re looking for there is a good chance one of these roads will take you there.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road in Autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park
Trail Ridge Road in Autumn in Rocky Mountain National ParkBen Fullerton

Completed in 1933, Trail Ridge Road links Estes Park and Grand Lake, winding past countless 12,000-foot peaks, high-alpine tundra, and some of Rocky Mountain National Parks best views.

Known appropriately as the Highway to the Sky, Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide at a whopping 12,183 feet. Colorado has also designated Trail Ridge Road as a scenic and history byway.

Most Park visitors chose to drive Trail Ride Road, pulling over periodically to take advantage of countless turnouts and sweeping views along the way. The drive is fairly relaxing since the two-lane highway never reaches grades above 7 percent and has only a few hairpin turns.

If you plan on driving, heed our advice and start early. Tour buses, RV’s, and other drivers usually pack the road around 10 or 11 a.m. and an early start can mean enjoying the scenery at your own pace, while also photographing stunning sunrises and grazing wildlife.

To access Trail Ridge Road, start from either Estes Park on the eastern side of the Park, or Grand Lake to the west. The road quickly ascends 4,000-feet breaking tree line and emerging into open tundra resembling a baron moonscape of rock and jagged peaks.

Some of the most popular turnouts alone the way includes: Many Parks Curve, Forest Canyon Overlook, and Medicine Bow Curve.

Alpine Visitor Center sits close to the halfway mark, and is a perfect place to grab a cup of hot chocolate and soak in the views.

Watch a video of this drive

Bear Lake Road

Bear Lake reflection as the sun sets in Rocky Mountain National Park
Bear Lake Road predictably ends at Bear LakeKen Kolafa

This extremely popular section of roadway passes through Moraine Park and parallels glacier gorge creek en route to Bear Lake – one of the Park’s most popular alpine lakes. Driving Bear Lake Road is pretty straight forward, but a few turnouts are not to be missed.

Starting out at the Beaver Meadows Entrance and driving southwest on Bear Creek Road, one of the best views of Moraine Park can be found at the Moraine Park Museum just a few miles from Beaver Meadows. The museum has large picture windows looking out over the valley and surrounding peaks, as well as nature displays to help you interpret what you’re looking at.

After checking out the museum make sure to stop at Bierstadt Lake trailhead for a short hike to Bierstadt Lake. Several more turnouts dot the road to Bear Lake, but many typically fill up in by early morning. One of the best ways to experience Bear Lake Road is by the parks free shuttle, which during summer months can be accessed at a variety of parking lots inside the Park.

Old Fall River Road

Entrance sign to Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park
Cars traveling up Old Fall River RoadBen Fullerton

A stark contrast to the wide, low-grade Trail Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road is a steep one-way access road climbing up the north wall of Fall River Valley. The valley, one of the Park’s most spectacular remnants of damage done by massive glaciers, is rugged and steep, providing drivers with plenty to look at. 

More information about Old Fall River Road