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Trail Ridge Road

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1933. Grand Lake to Estes Park (NR)

When the park was newly established, Superintendent Oliver Toll toured the 40-mile route of the proposed Trail Ridge Road with Arapaho Indians to collect their place names. They called it the Dog Trail, for the beasts of burden who helped them travel it. Also known as the Ute Trail, for the other tribe that pioneered the route, it was a foot and wagon road before it became a major tourist drive in the 1930s. Landscape architect Charles Eliot protested: “It is much better to build no roads than to run the risk of destroying wilderness areas.” National Park Service director Horace Albright countered that such roads served “the great mass of people who because of age, physical condition, or other reason would never have an opportunity to enjoy, close at hand, this marvelous mountain park.”

W. T. Lafferty, district engineer for the Bureau of Public Roads, helped two private contractors build the road with curves, switchbacks, and rustic stone retaining walls designed to do as little violence to the landscape as possible. Log cribbing, hand-laid rock walls, and trenches help prevent erosion. The highest continuous paved highway in the United States, this two-lane scenic drive climbs from forested mountain valleys to alpine tundra as high as 12,183 feet. Snowplows open the road for Memorial Day and snowstorms close it soon after Labor Day.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel


What's Nearby


Thomas J. Noel, "Trail Ridge Road", [Estes Park, Colorado], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Colorado, Thomas J. Noel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, 457-457.

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