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Destinations: Trail Ridge Road

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Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the United States, runs from Estes Park, Colo., through Granby, Colo., and is a unique and beautiful ride.

Rising more than two miles above sea level, Colorado’s Trail Ridge Road is motorcycling heaven. Located inside gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park a short 65 miles northwest of Denver, it’s the highest continuous paved road in the country, soaring to an elevation of 12,183ft. This cliff-hugging highway is an engineering miracle, and the 54 beautiful, twisty miles it runs from Estes Park, Colo., to Grand Lake, Colo., are unlike any you’ve ridden before. Slicing through the heart of the park, the ride enters a world of rare alpine beauty and offers unparalleled views. Believe it when we tell you, they don’t make roads like this one anywhere outside of Colorado.

Come prepared for drastic changes in temperature, as it can be as much as 30 F cooler at the top of the mountain than at the entry gate to the park, and even in the middle of July that can mean a chilly ride: snow is not uncommon. Though this might not sound appealing, the cool can be a welcome relief from summer heat since the park is only open from Memorial Day until Labor Day. And no matter the temperature at the bottom, you can always see some snow fields at the top. If you go on opening weekend, you may even ride past 10ft snow banks that still line the sides of the road as reminders of why the route isn’t open year-round.

Moose are a common sight when riding the western Granby side in the spring, and large herds of elk can always be seen somewhere along the way. In the hottest part of the summer, look for them closer to the top, but beware, as cars routinely stop as occupants photograph the herds and take in the spectacular views.

Estes Park marks the eastern gate, and while it’s a great place to eat and gas up before entering the park, it can be an expensive place to stay. On the other side of Trail Ridge Road past Grand Lake is Granby. Though not a large town, it has gas stations and food, and is much less of a tourist trap than Estes Park. — Mark Bolles

High-country Haulin’
Estes Park — 65 miles northwest of Denver

The Skinny

Where: 54 miles of paved heaven between Estes Park, Colo., and Grand Lake, Colo.
Why: Great roads and even better views from the highest continuous paved road in the United States.
Best Kept Secret: Riding the road at night under a full moon in July or August. The entry gates are unmanned after 7 p.m. due to overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Fees: $10.00 for a 7-day pass for motorcycles.
Scenic Routes: Look around. Do you see all those mountains? Pick one! Now go find a road that goes up it.
Avoid: Beware of elk crossing the road. They are especially hard to see at night, and, like deer, are unpredictable.
More Info: www.MotorcycleManiac.net, Colorado High Country Cruisers (www.cohcc.org)

Excerpted from the July/August 2006 issue of Motorcycle Classics. Subscribe today to read the full article and more!