Rocky Mountain National Park
Trail Ridge Road: The Second Time
I began Day 7 with lofty goals: travel over Trail Ridge Road and through Rocky Mountain National Park, then continue east across Colorado on US 40, arriving at Dinosaur National Monument with enough time to hike a trail, and finally ending the day in Vernal, Utah. For the first step on that journey, Trail Ridge Road, I was hopeful that I would find better weather than I did on my first drive over Trail Ridge Road, on Day 6. Instead, the weather was much worse.
For most of my climb up America's highest continuous road, I was pushing through a thick fog. I stopped at Rainbow Curve -- usually one of the best views in the park -- but saw nothing at all. So I continued on, hoping I would eventually break through the top of the clouds.
And I did! For a while, near Trail Ridge Road's highest point, I saw some blue sky and sunlight. The clouds were hit-and-miss, but still thick enough to obscure most of the mountain peaks towards the Continental Divide.
Trail Ridge Road darted in and out of the fog...
... but at the Gore Range Overlook, I caught another break, allowing a nice view of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley formed by the Big Thompson River.
After passing the visitor center, as the road dropped, I plunged back into fog for a while...
... but on the park's west side, the weather was getting better. Hopefully, there would be no need for this snow plow for a few more months. Beyond it, Specimen Mountain...
... and the Never Summer Mountains were in clear view.
One viewpoint on this side of the park provides a glimpse at the birthplace of the Colorado River. The mighty river begins here, on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. A bit further down the road, there are trails that will take you closer to the river, which is still quite tiny at this point.
As soon as you leave Rocky Mountain National Park, you'll pass through the town of Grand Lake. As the name suggests, it's on the edge of a picturesque mountain lake. I stopped here in 2005 for dinner, but on this trip, I drove through without stopping. After all, I had a long way to go before the end of the day.
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