Opened in 1920, Old Fall River Road earned the distinction of being the first auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park offering access to the park’s high country. It follows a route traveled long ago by Indian hunters who came to the park area in search of game.
Primarily gravel, the 11 mile, one-way uphill road is punctuated by tight switchbacks and wonderful views. The old road quietly leads travelers from Horseshoe Park (a short distance west of the Fall River Entrance which is just two miles from Boulder Brook) through the park’s wilderness to Fall River Pass, 11,796 feet above sea level. Old Fall River Road is not for the impatient — The posted speed limit is 15 miles per hour. There are no guardrails. The road is narrow. In some places the trees of the montane and subalpine forests are so close that motorists can touch them.
Early in the trip, travelers pass the alluvial fan – a waterfall scoured out by the 1982 Lawn Lake Flood. Visitors pass the site of a labor camp that housed state convicts who, as part of their rehabilitation, were required to build the three-mile stretch of road to the scenic respite of Chasm Falls with no more than hand tools at their disposal.
After passing Willow Park, where elk often are seen feeding on the foliage, the road enters the alpine tundra. Awaiting there is the Fall River Cirque, birthplace of glaciers that once worked their way up and down the mountain valleys. The road traverses the headwall of this amphitheater-like formation before joining Trail Ridge Road near the Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass.
Ahead lie the wonders of Trail Ridge Road, which leads travelers east to Estes Park or southwest to Grand Lake. For more information about Old Fall River Road or Rocky Mountain National Park, please visit http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/old_fall_river_road.htm