Rock Cut

snow patched mountains
View from Rock Cut

NPS / John Marino

Quick Facts

Toilet - Vault/Composting

At 12,110 feet, this stop along Trail Ridge Road is on the “Roof of the Rockies.”

Weather can be severe up here – temperatures remain below freezing almost all winter, and wind speeds can exceed 150 miles per hour. The growing season is only 6-12 weeks long, allowing the tiny but mighty plant life to thrive. Despite severe conditions more than 100 species of flowering plants live on the rich alpine tundra. Common species include alpine avens and american bistorts.

The fence near the parking area protects an ecological research plot established in 1958 by alpine botanist Beatrice Willard (1925-2003). For 40 years she monitored tundra plants and the rate of how trampled alpine habitat could recover. The plot was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 as the first ecological plot in the country to be so recognized. Due to her research, Rock Cut is a Tundra Closure Area which limits all hiking to paved asphalt trails to protect the fragile tundra plants. Thank you for enjoying the rare flowers and not picking them. Most alpine plants take several years to produce a single flower, and many are food to pikas and marmots. These small creatures can usually be seen bouncing up and around rocks throughout the area. 

Note: Trail Ridge Road closes mid-October to Memorial Day. Extreme weather can change the status of Trail Ridge Road at any time—be ready to adjust your travel plans if needed, and always check the weather before you start your drive.

Altitude Warning: Altitude sickness affects many visitors every year. Symptoms include headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, vomiting, and even unconsciousness. Altitude can also aggravate pre-existing conditions like heart and lung disease. Take your time, drink water, eat, and rest. The only cure for altitude sickness is to go down to a lower altitude.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Last updated: March 24, 2022