We had our eye on this route for awhile and finally did it in July 2020 for a couple of reasons: We noticed both friends and followers of the blog had done it recently and they were able to give us some info and tips (thanks especially to Caroline!), and Rocky Mountain National Park is currently limiting entry and requiring reservations for cars (not bikes or pedestrians) so the park is slightly less crowded than usual.
We picked the perfect day to do this Old Fall River Road Ride! There was limited car traffic and no lines to get in. Colorado is having particularly warm temperatures right now, and by starting early in the morning (7:30 am) it was cool at the start and surprisingly not that cold at the top. (Our Machines for Freedom Summerweight Long Sleeve Jerseys and All Weather Vests were the perfect thing to wear for the day.)
We saw tons of wildlife: turkeys, elk, big horn sheep, a deer and her adorable bounding baby, marmots and more!
The views are truly incredible. This is a ride to use those car pull outs and overlooks to stop and savor the view or take pictures.
The dirt road surface of Old Fall River Road is really smooth. (Like it was once paved and now has gravel and dirt on top of it.) Trail Ridge Road was recently repaved so it is in pristine condition and makes for a screaming fast decent.
We only wish there was more gravel on this ride. You don’t hit the dirt until about mile 9, and Old Fall River Road is only about 10 miles long.
Do this ride NOW. This may be the only time that Rocky Mountain National Park is at a capped capacity each day. If you can’t squeeze it in right now, the ideal time is definitely mid July/August to attempt the climb without snow.
It cost us $15 per person to enter the park on bike. The pass is valid for seven consecutive days including date of purchase, so you can do back if you want. (At the time we did it, because of covid-19 they only accepted credit card payment- no cash.)
There are pesky mosquitoes and flies at the top, so if you plan to hang out for any length of time, you might want to have some bug repellent.
The top of this route is at 12,183 ft and is typically 20-30º cooler than down in Estes Park. Be prepared with extra clothes like gloves, wind jacket and leg warmers.
Thanks to the advice we got from a follower of this blog, we parked at the Estes Park Visitor Center Parking Garage. Parking was wide open and free when we parked there on a Sunday morning. The actual visitor center and it’s bathrooms were closed when we started at 7:30 am. Estes is closer than you think to Denver and Boulder. It only took us about an hour and a half to drive up from downtown Denver!