Best time to visit Colorado

Old Fall River Road in Colorado

A historic high mountain road in Rocky Mountain National Park

Best time: early July–September

Old Fall River Road
Old Fall River Road
Old Fall River Road
Old Fall River Road

Old Fall River Road is a narrow dirt track winding through the Rocky Mountain National Park, north-central Colorado. The one-lane steep road with steep grades up to 16% has a length of 17.7 km (11 miles) from Sheep Lakes to the Alpine Visitor Center. It climbs up to the Fall River Pass, 3,595 m (11,796 ft) above sea level. The road is covered with gravel and sand with plenty of switchbacks and sharp curves. The maximum speed that's allowed is 24 kph (15 mph).

The road was opened in 1920, being the first high mountain auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park. But the trail had existed long before that since it was used by Indian hunters. Old Fall River Road goes through beautiful montane and subalpine forests, scenic peaks, and meadows full of wildflowers. The road passes near Willow Park, home to elks and one of the best places to admire a forest before entering the alpine tundra. Fall River Cirque is the birthplace of glaciers, a picturesque amphitheatre-like rock formation. Visitors will pass Estes Park and Grand Lake on the west side.

The road is a nightmare in the wet weather, so it is open to vehicles only in the summer, usually from the 4th of July to the end of September. Cyclers and leashed pets have access to the road between April and November.

Practical info

What is the best time to visit Old Fall River Road?

To enjoy the beauty of Old Fall River Road, the ideal time to visit is during the period between early July and the end of September. This is the only time the road is open due to the risks posed by the difficult winter conditions. The road's panoramic views are enhanced during the summer months by the blossoming wildflowers that adorn the surroundings. Show more

What is the altitude of Fall River Pass?

The Old Fall River Road reaches its highest point at Fall River Pass, which has an altitude of 3595 meters above sea level. Those who visit this point are presented with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding valleys and mountain peaks. The pass acts as an entry point into the alpine tundra ecosystems, hosting various animal and plant species, some of which are unique to the area's high altitudes. Show more

What are the notable scenic spots along Old Fall River Road?

Old Fall River Road presents a natural grandeur that encompasses exceptional spots such as Willow Park, where elks roam freely, and Fall River Cirque, an aesthetically pleasing rock formation enclosing a glacial valley. Other attractions on the road include Grand Lake and Estes Park, which are well-known places with significant historical importance, enabling visitors to have an unmatched view of the Rocky Mountains. Show more

Why is Old Fall River Road closed during the winter?

Old Fall River Road is closed to the public during the winter due to safety reasons caused by the road's high altitude making the weather unpredictable, and sudden snowstorms becoming common. The steep gradients on the trail become extremely dangerous in icing or slippery conditions, reducing the traction for vehicles on the narrow dirt track. Consequently, it becomes riskier to maneuver or stop safely, especially for inexperienced drivers. Show more

What is the allowed maximum speed on Old Fall River Road?

Old Fall River Road sets the maximum speed limit at 24 kilometers per hour (15 miles per hour) due to the trail's steep gradients, sharp turns, and narrowness. The road is best enjoyed by driving slowly and carefully, enabling visitors to have a breathtaking view of the surrounding scenery without compromising their safety and that of others. Moreover, the reduced speed presents a perfect opportunity for hikers and cyclists to savor the tranquility and beauty of the mountainous environment. Show more

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