From Mexico to Alaska, the great Rocky Mountain chain forms the backbone of North America for 2,700 miles, the world’s longest mountain barrier. Herein lies Rocky Mountain National Forest.
To get to Rocky Mountain National Park, our travels began with two new friends, Lynn and Ruth. We ventured along Hwy 24 from the western side of I-25 until we reached CO9. This beautiful drive took us through Woodland Park, Florissant, Lake George, and Hartsel. CO9 took us through Fairplay and Alma before reaching our first stop, Hoosier Pass.
Hoosier Pass, elevation 11,539 feet, is located on the Continental Divide at the northern end of the Mosquito Range, in a gap between Mount Lincoln (west) and Hoosier Ridge (east). It sits on the boundary between Park (south) and Summit (north) counties.
Once back on the road, we continued on CO9 to and through Breckenridge, the home of world class skiing. CO9 took us through Frisco where we passed Frisco Bay, which is part of Dillon Reservoir, until we reached I-70.
Taking I-70 east, where we went through the Eisenhower Tunnel (that was a first on the Hog) and passed the Loveland Ski area. Somewhere in there was Loveland Pass I think, but traffic cared not that we might want to stop for a picture.
I-70 took us past Silver Plume, a former silver mining camp in its glory days. Just up the road was Georgetown, which was established in 1859 during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush by two prospectors from Kentucky, George and David Griffith. We passed a few more towns on our way to Hwy 40, but I’ll cover those down the road in other posts.
Hwy 40 took us through the little town of Empire where they were having frog races. Yep, you read that right, frog races. I cannot confirm it, but I believe they have these races every year on June 21st because we have traveled through Empire on the exact date to find they were having frog races. I’ll have to do some research on this event and get back with you.
Hwy 40 was the first real twisting and turning road we encountered, and by real twisting and turning, I mean serious switch backs with 15 mph turns uphill and down. Looking at it on the map does not give it any justice, but we climbed the mountain until we arrived at Berthoud Pass.
With an elevation of 11,307 feet, Berthoud Pass was once a ski resort, and claimed by some to have been the first resort and lift in Colorado. The resort was closed down in 2002, and the lifts removed in 2003.
Back on the twisting and turning road, we rode into Winter Park. Winter Park isn’t the biggest, nor the best ski resort in Colorado, but it is a nice place. Winter Park is owned by the city and county of Denver. Winter Park is also a mecca of sorts for world class mountain biking.
We were still on Hwy 40 when we left Winter Park until we reached the target road, the road of all roads, Hwy 34. Hwy 34 is better known as Trail Ridge Road and the road that will lead you into Rocky Mountain National Park.
On the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, we passed two lakes, Granby Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake. We didn’t see any skiers or anyone playing in the water (must have been a bit chilly), but there were a few pontoon boats floating around. The views along the way were pretty nice, but we finally made it to the west entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.
A few nuggets of gee whiz stuff, Rocky Mountain National Park has 72 named peaks above 12,000 feet in elevation. Rock people say the Rockies were thrust skyward 70 million years ago, but exposed granite in the park are older than 1.3 billion years old or more. Rocky Mountain National Park was dedicated in September of 1915.
Trail Ridge Road was spectacular to say the least. We had experienced it before, but nothing like that of on a motorcycle. I’ll leave it to you and your imagination, but the trees and shrubbery started leaving us somewhere between 9,000 and 11,000 feet, giving way to breathe taking scenery and don’t look down for the faint of heart views.
Trail Ridge Road is the highest major highway in North America. The highest point on the road is 12,183 feet. We stopped at two of our intended passes: Milner and Trail Ridge. Iceberg Pass was another pass we wanted to stop at but we missed it. Guess we were looking for an iceberg that wasn’t there.
Weather was starting to move in as we made our way into Estes Park, so we made an impromptu decision to stay the evening. Probably not a bad decision due to the ride back was unknown weather wise, but we knew weather was coming the following morning. Sure enough, we awoke early to 60 degrees, wind, and mucho clouds.
Up and about, we hit the road for home. We took Hwy 36 down to Boulder, and on to Denver. We were soon reminded of last year’s flooding. The flooding spanned from Estes Park to the Boulder area. Twice we rode though areas where the roads had been completely washed out and were now dirt roads, having been repaired. The loss of homes and property, and the damage to the terrain were plain to see. One could only imagine the devastation when it actually occurred.
Home, after over 400 miles, we made it home! And, it’s the 22nd wedding anniversary for my bride and me. Happy Anniversary my love.
Until next time, cheers.