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Trail Ridge Road and Sightseeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Alpine flowers in the Rocky Mountains

Alpine flowers in the Rocky Mountains

Rocky Mountains Vacation

Many Rocky Mountain photos will be shared in this post showcasing Upper Beaver Meadow and Trail Ridge Road while addressing one very scenic day that my mother and I enjoyed on a Colorado vacation some years ago in July.

Four days of our vacation were in Estes Park, and each day we ventured out in different directions to absorb as much of the beauty as was possible in that length of time. Estes Park provided a breathtakingly beautiful portion of our eleven days spent in Colorado.

We read about these areas of the Rocky Mountain National Park ahead of time while planning our vacation. Hopefully, the pictures in this post will show what awaits visitors to this part of the world.

Upper Beaver Meadow

We spent the first part of our day exploring Upper Beaver Meadow by car and by doing a bit of strolling through the meadow. Upper Beaver Meadow is on the East side of the Rocky Mountain National Park and sits at an elevation of around 7800 feet. People regularly see elk and deer. Other animals occasionally sighted include badgers, fox, coyotes, mountain lions, and even bears.

The high meadow derives its name for good reason. It is easy to see evidence of beavers building their dams along the waterways. These Rocky Mountain beavers are truly busy ones! In view were some busy beavers swimming and diving down into the water around one of their dams with a branch in tow. My mother and I wondered just how often these waterways take a new path through the meadow due to the beaver's actions?

The trees one commonly finds ringing Upper Beaver Meadow are aspens that have leaves that turn a glorious golden color in the Fall, plus Douglas fir and lodge-pole pines.

People who like to fish can find plenty of trout. Rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and German brown trout are in the park's streams, rivers, and lakes.

One could spend much more time in Upper Beaver Meadow. Some people were enjoying this area by riding horses. Hikers can enjoy taking different trails. One of them takes one to Deer Ridge Junction and is one mile in duration. If one wishes to go a bit further, a 2.7-mile-trail takes one to Morraine Park. For those enthusiasts who want to experience more, a 6.5-mile hike takes one to Trail Ridge Road.

The road into Upper Beaver Meadow is dirt and goes just a little over 1 1/2 miles to the end, which is how my mother and I viewed the meadow. In the winter, the road is closed to vehicles. Access is by walking in with skis, snowshoes, and the like.

Trail Ridge Road

My mother and I were about to take one of the most spectacular 40-mile drives ever, the Trail Ridge Road. U.S. 34 is the numbered highway that takes one on this spectacular sightseeing journey on the highest continuous paved road in the United States.

From the literature that we picked up, it said to allow four to six hours to drive to the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road and return to Estes Park. Being a bit of a "camera bug," I knew to allow the maximum or even more time to enjoy this wondrous drive which takes one through multiple life zones.

As we kept driving and going up in elevation, the trees were more stunted in growth and eventually ceased growing altogether.

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This drive is only done in the summertime because deep snowdrifts generally have the upper elevations of Trail Ridge Road closed the rest of the year. The lower portions of this road are at 8,000 feet elevations, and over 10 miles of it are more than 11,000-feet, with the highest altitude reaching 12,183 feet above sea level.

There are multiple parking areas provided for one's vehicle as one traverses Trail Ridge Road. One can gaze upon the surrounding scenery from different vantage points and take pictures as I happily did.

Alpine Visitor's Center

At the uppermost elevations of Trail Ridge Road, whether one initiates the drive from the east entrance of Estes Park or the west entrance near Grand Lake, one finds the Alpine Visitor's Center. This area is a great stopping point where one can get out and walk and view the beautiful alpine tundra vegetation.

The profuse vegetation blankets this high elevation of the Rocky Mountains Continental Divide in the summer with thick and often multicolored flowers. Some of the plants that grow on the tundra include the following from literature that we acquired: anemone, saxifrage, dwarf and alpine clovers, snowball, sky pilot, and king's crown.

The visitor's center offers people a place to get out and stretch their legs, and it also provides a place where one can purchase food and refreshments, use restrooms and buy souvenirs if desired.

My mother stayed at the Alpine Visitor's Center. I walked up higher and took some photos of the tundra plants. Living in Houston, Texas, which is not that far above sea level, we noticed the altitude difference. At those sky-high elevations, most people took their time walking, and one could become sunburned if one spent much time there on a bright day such as we enjoyed.

Lava Cliffs

We were to see many more gorgeous views as we followed the Trail Ridge Road back down, often pulling over to take more pictures. One of these was at the Lava Cliffs turnout. From this vantage point, different mountains are in view.

  • Desolation Peaks at 12,949 feet
  • Mount Chapin at 12,454 feet
  • Mount Chiquita at 13,069 feet
  • Ypsilon Mountain at 13,514 feet.

Whoever named Mount Chiquita (Chiquita in Spanish meaning "very small") must have had a sense of humor!

At some times of the year, people do technical climbing on these 300-foot tall lava cliffs! But it was July at the time of our visit, and they were still closed due to snow.

I hope you enjoyed these photos taken on my mother's and my Colorado vacation the one day we spent enjoying the Upper Beaver Meadow and the amazing Trail Ridge Road. For your enjoyment, I added a few extra photos that other people took.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

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