Rocky Mountain National Park: East Side, Sheep Lakes


From Interstate 25 you can take either US 36 or 34 west. Both will take you on a scenic drive through the foothills of the Rockies’ eastern front.

Highway, US 34 and 36, Rocky Mountain National Park

US 36 passes Lake Estes as it enters Estes Park.

Lake Estes, Estes Park Colorado

This was the only place I stopped in town, although there were plenty of interesting shops and galleries downtown.

Mountains above Estes Park Colorado

From Estes Park, you can take either US 34 or 36. I chose 34, which will take you to RMNP’s Fall River entrance. The two routes connect again inside the park, for the trip over Trail Ridge Road.

The visitor’s center at the Fall River entrance is nestled between mountains, offering a hint of the high-altitude scenery ahead.

Entering the park via US 36 allows easier access to the Bear Lake area of the park. The National Park Service has more information, including a PDF version of the map you’ll receive as you enter the park, on its website.

Meadow, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

Not far from the visitor’s center, you can pull of the road at Sheep Lakes, and take in this view of the valley.

Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

Watch for Fall River Road to turn off to the right. The pavement will run out in a few miles, and the road will become one-way. However, a 4wd vehicle shouldn’t be necessary under normal conditions.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.

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