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Independence Pass and Trail Ridge Road Closed

Trail Ridge Road and Independence Pass Remain Closed Over Memorial Day Weekend

BUENA VISTA, COLORADO – Late-season snowstorms have forced the closures of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and Independence Pass, with neither route reopening in time for Memorial Day weekend. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and RMNP officials have confirmed the closures due to significant snow accumulation and challenging weather conditions at higher elevations.

Trail Ridge Road Conditions

As of May 22, 2023, Trail Ridge Road remains closed due to ongoing and forecasted winter weather. RMNP snowplow operators have been working since mid-April to clear the road, but May’s severe storms have hampered progress. High winds, deep snow drifts, and ice have created hazardous conditions, particularly above the tree line.

Current vehicle closure points are set at Many Parks Curve on the east side and Colorado River Trailhead on the west side. Park officials warn that pedestrians and bicyclists should expect high wind gusts, snow accumulation, and icy conditions if they venture beyond the closures. Enforcement is strict, with citations and towing for those blocking traffic lanes or access gates.

Independence Pass Update

Independence Pass, which typically opens the Thursday before Memorial Day, will now remain closed until June 1. CDOT reports that recent snowfalls, including an additional four inches on May 22, have delayed clearing efforts. Despite good progress on both the east and west sides, the volume of snow and recent storms make it impossible to open the pass in time for the holiday weekend.

CDOT Communications Manager Elise Thatcher highlighted the challenges, stating, “Due to heavy snow, we know we won’t be able to complete clearing Independence Pass in time for the holiday weekend. We’re out there clearing the snow as quickly as we can.”

Weather Forecast and Expectations

The National Weather Service (NWS) notes that the recent storm, which brought 6-8 inches of snow to elevations above 9,500 feet, is expected to be one of the last significant snow events of the season. However, NWS Meteorologist Mark Miller cautions that surprises can occur, with snow possible as late as early June. The rest of the week’s forecast includes a chance of rain from Thursday night through Saturday, with lows in the 30s, leaving the possibility of additional snow.

Visitors planning to travel in these areas should stay updated on road conditions and prepare for winter-like weather, despite the approaching summer season.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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