Before Fall River Road turns to dirt, you’ll pass trailheads at two parking areas. Both lead to the Alluvial Fan: a wide stream cascading down the rocky mountainside.
[tmt_info =””]There is more space at the second parking area, and the walk is shorter. If you don’t want to hike at all, you can still get a good view of the Alluvial Fan from the road.[/tmt_info]
Visitors are free to climb around on the rocks, all the way to the top of the waterfall. It’s not necessarily safe, though, since wet rocks are slippery!
In mid-summer, you’re also likely to find plenty of wildflowers growing in the park, including along the Alluvial Fan trail.
Old Fall River Road
As you make your way up Fall River Road, you’ll notice for part of the way, the road is running alongside a creek. Of course, as it runs down the mountainside, it’s basically one long waterfall. At the best part of the cascade, there are a couple of parking areas, with a very short hike over to the waterfalls.
[tmt_info =””]You’ll likely find several cars parked on the edge of the road at the base of the falls. If you continue up the road, you’ll find a much larger parking lot, with easier access to the water.[/tmt_info]
Continuing up Fall River road, you’re in for quite a climb. The road switchbacks several times, as it hugs the mountainside. This stretch of the road is one-way, so you don’t have to worry about encountering oncoming traffic.
You’ll have to strain your neck to see the mountaintops above.
[tmt_info =””]Fall River Road was the original route through the park. Trail Ridge Road, the two-lane paved route, was built once park officials determined Fall River was too steep and narrow to carry all the necessary traffic. And, it would have been nearly impossible to straighten and widen the old road.[/tmt_info]
Once the steepest part of Fall River Road is behind you, the road crosses into alpine tundra. The trees are gone, and the landscape opens up around you. With a wide valley and lake on one side…
… and a snowdrift-covered mountain on the other (even in August!), the road continues up to Fall River Pass. Along this stretch of road, you’re already well above 11,000 feet.
Note: This trip was first published in 2005.