We drove into the park around 8:15 so we would be able to get a parking spot at the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road. The weather was perfect when we entered the park with beautiful blue skies. It’s a 23 mile drive to the Alpine Visitor Center with an elevation gain of almost 5,000 feet. The road is in very good shape, but there were many places along the way where there was no shoulder or guardrail and a very steep drop-off.
After parking at the Alpine Visitor Center, we hiked up the Alpine Ridge Trail to the top of the mountain, an elevation of 12,000'.
We then hiked back down to the Visitor’s center before crossing the road and hiking the UteTrail 4 miles down to the Continental Divide. We accidentally got off the trail at the wrong spot and ended up blazing our own trail down the side of the mountain until reaching the road about .75 miles before Milner Pass and the Continental Divide. Some of the way on the Ute Trail the path was covered with snow and we couldn’t see where the trail actually was. Although we lost out way in the final mile of the hike, we still reached our destination in four miles, the length of the entire correct trail. Ben was very scared when we were “lost” and forging our own trail. He started putting an “X” on each snow drift we passed, so if we had to hike back up the mountain, we’d know we had come that way. When we found the road, he was convinced that his "magic stick” pointed us in the right direction .
The Ute Trail
Bob and Donna Copper were picking us up at the Continental Divide to take us back up to get our car. As we were hiking the final .75 miles along the road, Ben spotted Bob’s car quite a distance away and commented that it looked like Bob’s car. As it came closer (and passed us), we realized it WAS Bob and we yelled at him, but he didn’t hear us. While waiting for us, another group of four women needed a ride back up to the Visitor’s Center and he offered to take them up. He then returned to get us.
At the Visitors Center we had some hot chocolate with Bob and Donna before heading back to Estes Park in our separate cars.