There is no shortage of good roads in Colorado, but this one stands out and up above the rest. Trail Ridge Road (or U.S. Highway 34) is a slow two-laner that winds from Grand Lake, Colorado, over to Estes Park, with much of its length above the tree line. In fact, it's the highest continuous road in the USA, topping out at 12,183 feet (there are other, higher roads that dead-end at mountain tops).
Its grandeur is directly linked to its elevation. Its 48 miles average a 5 percent grade, occasionally hitting 7 percent. The climbing and descending is relentless; either end of the road is at about 8,000 feet, so beware to riders on carbureted machines, as they're bound to run poorly somewhere along the route. While it is a road that caters to minivans and motorhomes, riding is still spectacular, as the slower tourists will stop frequently at the scenic overlooks to allow passing.
For that matter, you might want to check out some of the overlooks yourself, as a typical view from the road plunges hundreds or thousands of feet down ... not the best place for those afraid of drop-offs, but there are few true cliffs. Up along the ridgeline, the vistas across to the other mountains provide clear views to some white-clad glaciers, even in the warmth of summer. Be aware that the temperature drops quite a bit from bottom to top, so pack a few layers. Braving the relative cold is fully worth it, though, as there is nothing in the world like looking down on a lofty mountaintop up among the clouds.
It's a tough road to get to due to the extremely mountainous terrain. If you'd like to make it a day trip, loop out of Denver; you're in for some serious miles. But for those coming from or going to the north or west, it's a scenic way to avoid the Denver traffic.
US-34's western terminus is US-40, which is a beautiful ride in itself up from I-70 in the middle of the state. US-40 heads west from here, heading off into the rugged and remote northwestern quarter of the state.
On the east side, there are two choices: the old Fall River Road (US-34) or the more direct US-36 that goes straight to Estes Park. We recommend experienced riders stay with 34, as it tends to have less traffic and offers a more challenging ride. Continuing down 34 past Estes and on to Loveland is a fun canyon ride next to an occasionally raging river.
US-34 is closed until late spring or early summer depending on snowpack, so check with the park rangers prior to embarking on this trip. You will need to shell out a few clams with those same rangers for access; last we checked it was $10.
Junction of US-34 and US-40 in Granby (west end)
GPS: Lat 4005'24"N, Long 10557'28"W
Junction of US-34 and US-36 (Fall River Road)
GPS: Lat 4023'13"N, Long 10536'39"W
Another junction of US-34 and US-36 in Estes Park
GPS: Lat 4022'40"N, Long 10531'01"W
Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Office & Information