ESTES PARK - Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park opened Friday.
The Mayors of Grand Lake and Estes Park cut a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the opening of the road that connects their two communities.
Due to heavy melting on the road during the day and freezing temperatures at night, visitors should plan for likely night closures in their travel plans. Alpine Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Road are expected to open sometime next week.
Trail Ridge Road historically opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year the road opened early on May 14. The earliest the road has opened was on May 7, 2002; the latest June 26, 1943.
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, climbing to 12,183 feet and connecting the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. Trail Ridge Road officially closed for the season last year on Oct. 17.
National Park Service plow operators normally begin clearing the snow in the middle of April. Crews from the west side of the park and crews from the east side of the park move along the road and eventually meet at the Alpine Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is the highest in the National Park Service, sitting at 11,796 feet above sea level. Spring storms often impact plowing activities. This year, plow operators encountered average snow drifts from 18 to 22 feet. Much of the snow came in the early spring.
Park staff expect a busy Memorial Day Weekend. The two reservation campgrounds in the park are full on Saturday and Sunday and the first come, first served campgrounds are expected to fill. From lower elevations the mountain peaks look majestic with blankets of snow. The park's backcountry still looks and feels like winter above 9,000 feet.
Because weather conditions may change rapidly, park visitors should be prepared to adjust travel plans accordingly and are encouraged to call the park's Trail Ridge Road recorded phone line at (970) 586-1222. Park staff will update the recorded line during and after regular office hours, when the road status changes.
For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park visit www.nps.gov/romo or call the park's Information Office at 970-586-1206.