Old Fall River Road
See Map Below
The Fall River Road was the first road to cross the
Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado. Starting by Larimer and Grant counties in
1913 before the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park, the early
construction was carried out by state prison inmates. The convicts made little
progress and contractors completed the road in 1920. The unpaved mountain road
climbed from Horseshoe Park up the steep Fall River Valley over a series of
tight switchbacks to reach Fall River Pass at 11,796'; from there, the road
continued down the west side of the mountains to Grand Lake. Despite the
popularity of the route, the road proved difficult to traverse and maintain.
Automobiles had trouble mastering the steep grade and tight curves and
avalanches often buried the road forty feet deep. Following the completion of
Trail Ridge Road in 1932 the eastern Half of Fall River Road became a one-way
scenic drive from Endovalley up to Fall River Pass; the western half was
abandoned or overbuilt by the Trail Ridge Road.
GRADE: The road climbed
to Fall River Pass on steep grades sometimes reaching 16%. Some early
automobiles had to climb in reverse due to their weak engines and gravity-fed
fuel system. Surface materials washed off quickly.
Motorists had to negotiate sixteen switch-backs with radii as tight as 20'.
Some vehicles had to turn back and forth repeatedly to make the
ROAD WIDTH: The road width rarely exceeded 14', too narrow for
cars to pass safely. Passing turnouts were provided, but these were few and far
ELEVATION GAIN: The roadway was largely built out from the
hillside. In the steepest places, multiple switch-backs were stacked one above
PULLOUTS: Few pullouts were provided to allow motorist to
stop; some were located on switch-backs, making the curves even more
Before you take this drive, stop by one of the Rocky Visitors
Center and pickup a copy of the $1 guide called "Old Fall River Road". When you
do take the ride, stop frequently and often as every "pull off" or parking area
has much to offer. Enjoy this area by exploring the trails, the river and the
animals as you make the trip. Can you find the old cabin that was build almost
100 year ago? Karl Snyder, Webmaster.
||Location / Information
|5 Mile Canyon
|Chaplin Creek Trailhead
||Elevation 10,640 feet.
- Ypsilon Mountain (3.5 Miles, 2,874 feet)
|Old Fall River Road is a one-way dirt road from
Horseshoe Park to Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road. The
ONE-WAY road is nine miles long and is NOT OPEN UNTIL JULY 4 of
each year. (July 3 for 2003)