While Estes Park boasts many opportunities for exploring the beautiful Rocky Mountains on foot, there is no need to get out of your car to enjoy some of the most stunning destinations in Colorado. Fill up the gas tank, head out for the day and take one of these scenic drives near Estes Park.
As one of the most popular scenic drives in Colorado, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuously paved road in the United States, at its highest point of 12,183 feet. The road spans Rocky Mountain National Park, connecting Estes Park and Grand Lake. Wind your way through beautiful mountain scenery, including dense forests and alpine tundra, reaching its high point and crossing the Continental Divide. Travelers will typically come across various forms of wildlife such as elk, pikas, marmots, bighorn sheep, and the seasonally adaptive bird, the ptarmigan.
Total distance is 48 miles long, with 11 of those miles above treeline, taking about two hours to drive. Or take the entire day and stop off at one of the many overlooks and hiking trails along the way. Weather permitting, the road opens Memorial Day weekend and closes in October. Be sure to check Rocky Mountain National Park’s website for updated road openings and closings.
As Colorado’s oldest Scenic Byway, the Peak to Peak Scenic Highway is a beautiful stretch of road that guides you through some of the best mountain landscapes Colorado has to offer. Peaking at the delightful Lilly Lake, travelers are met with unforgettable views of Mount Meeker, Longs Peak, and Twin Sisters Peak.
A popular site that road trippers will come across is the St. Malo Church, better known as Chapel on the Rock. The road begins as Colorado HWY 7 in Estes Park, continuing south past Allenspark into Nederland and eventually passing through Blackhawk, where it meets I-70. From end to end, the Peak to Peak Highway is about a three-hour drive that brings you close to unique sites, ghost towns, and multiple aspen groves, making this a great drive during the fall.
Take a trip back in time and make the drive to the town of Glen Haven. Traveling along Devil’s Gulch Road (CR 43) out of Estes Park, head towards the charming village of Glen Haven. Keep your eyes peeled for views of iconic mountain peaks of Longs Peak, Twin Sisters Peak, along the Continental Divide, where you will approach steep switchbacks that empty into Devil’s Gulch.
Take the time to enjoy the historic town of Glen Haven by visiting the General Store and tasting their famous cinnamon rolls. Devil’s Gulch then follows the Big Thompson River the entire way to the town of Drake, where you will come across the junction of CR 43 and HWY 34, turn right and this loop will bring you back around to Estes Park. Without any stops along the way, total drive time is about one and a half hours.
Connecting Upper Beaver Meadows and Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Bear Lake Road offers Instagram worthy mountain views. There is ample opportunity to stop off and enjoy a leisurely afternoon picnic at Sprague Lake or join one of the many hiking trails sprinkled throughout the drive. The road ends at Bear Lake, where you can get out and stretch your legs with a walk around this popular lake.
As a one-way, dirt road, Old Fall River Road spans 11 miles through mountainous terrain and several points of interest. Despite its many narrow switchbacks, this is a beautiful and safe drive that can be enjoyed as a perfect afternoon outing. There are many stop-off points, such as the ever-popular Chasm Falls. Equipped with a convenient parking lot, you can park your car and make the short hike to the end of the falls.
Because of the rushing river, the lush scenery provides ample opportunities for wildflower viewing along with wildlife enjoying a water break at the bank of the river. The road is not regularly plowed, except the bottom portion, so the road typically opens around July 4th. Check website for most accurate opening date.
It’s time to pack your bags and hit the road with these scenic drives that are just minutes from your stay at Rocky Mountain Resorts.