One of the first adventure I went on upon moving into our new home was to go to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), my new playground as it is only about 1h from home.
I had heard about Trail Ridge Road when reading a cycling magazine but mainly from my former neighbor Dennis in Portland (who is a born and raised Coloradoan). At that time, he recommended it to me and described it as a beautiful and scenic road but warned me it would be dangerous and intimidating just riding in a car! I was intrigued as it sounded like a perfect challenge…
I attempted to cycle Trail Ridge Road on 09/24 but an unexpected night snowfall forced the Rangers to close the road within 8 miles of the Park entrance. I still rode as far as I could (until there was too much ice to cycle safely) and hoped to return with my bike soon as I knew would have only a couple of opportunities to do this ride with the snow coming very soon.
As I watched the RMNP webcams during the week, it looked like the snow had melted fast and that another attempt would be possible the following weekend.
A quick call to the Trail Ridge Road status line on Friday night confirmed it was open. Off I was on saturday morning !
I started from the Beaver Meadows entrance (8,200 ft) and rode to Grand Lake, CO. The ride was really nice, offering breathtaking views of the mountains including Long’s Peak. It is never really steep (the average grade is 4.2%) but it is long, sustained (20 miles with 4,400 ft of elevation gain to the alpine center) and at high altitude.
Having only been in CO for 2 weeks, I was still breathing from a straw. To explain better what I was feeling, I made a graph below showing the different % of my VO2Max I was exercising at for the different elevation sections of the ride. According to Tim Noakes’ book, “Lore of Running“, one’s VO2Max decreases for every 1,000 meters (3,300ft) above 1,200 meters (about 4,000ft) by about 10 % !!!!!
A very nice ride in one of my favorite local place so far.
Beaver Meadows Entrance to Alpine Center : 2h
Alpine Center to Grand Lake, CO : 1h15
Sorry Dennis, it was not as hard and scary as you depicted but thank you for the recommendation, I enjoyed the ride !
GPS Track available here (42.6 miles, +4,390 ft / –4,120 ft )