1) Why are you doing this road reconstruction project?
Bear Lake Road was completed in 1928 – until 2003 and 2004, when the upper 4.3 miles of road was reconstructed, no major roadwork had taken place. This two-year project began in 2012 and will widen 5.1 miles of the road and improve the road surface to better accommodate park shuttle buses and the heavy volume of traffic on this popular route. The project will improve safety and engineering conditions. In addition, in 2012, a 0.9 mile section was rerouted away from Glacier Creek in order to prevent impacts to wetlands and riparian habitat and minimize costs. The road is open year-round so the wider road will also assist with safer snowplow operations.
2) Why are you doing the construction during the busiest part of the year?
Due to weather, the best time for construction at high elevations is during the summer months. The contractor, working with Federal Highways, is also accomplishing as much work as possible during non-peak seasons.
3) Will I be able to access the Bear Lake Road during this major construction project?
Weekdays: On weekdays from May 28, through July 19, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Bear Lake Road, from approximately one mile southwest of Moraine Park Visitor Center to Bear Lake, will be accessible by free shuttle bus only. Private vehicles will be allowed both directions prior to 9:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. On weekdays, visitors in private vehicles who make the 9:00 a.m. cutoff time will be allowed to leave throughout the day. All visitors, in private vehicles or shuttle buses, should expect at least two 20-minute delays both directions through the construction area. There will be no construction delays between Park & Ride and Bear Lake. There may be night closures during the construction. Night closures will be announced at least two weeks prior to occurring and will only occur on weeknights. The 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. road closure is located in Moraine Park at the Kaley Cottage Road intersection, before crossing the Big Thompson River. An information kiosk at this location will be staffed by park rangers during the closure time.
Weekends: Private vehicles will be allowed all day on weekends. Although private vehicles will be allowed to travel on weekends through the construction area, shuttle buses will also be running. Visitors may experience some delays on weekends.
4) Will there be night closures?
Night closures may occur but will be limited and will only occur during the week. They will be announced two weeks ahead of time on the park's website Bear Lake Road Reconstruction page under night closures. If they occur, access to Moraine Park Campground and Cub Lake/Fern Lake Trailheads will not be affected.
5) So can I drive my private vehicle on Bear Lake Road?
Yes, all day on weekends. However, on weekdays from May 28 through July 19, only prior to 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. past the information kiosk roughly one mile southwest of Moraine Park Visitor Center. Visitors in private vehicles, who make the 9 a.m. cutoff time, are allowed to leave throughout the day. Be aware of the potential of night closures in your plans. Again, if you make the 9 a.m. cut-off time you may leave the Bear Lake area at any time, just plan ahead for delays and night closures.
6) If I am traveling Bear Lake Road early in the morning, or late in the evening will I miss the delays?
No. The delays may be occurring throughout the day due to the work crew's schedule.
7) Why can't I take my private vehicle up the road on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.?
There are more than 1 million visitors who access the Bear Lake Road annually. We also have over 400,000 riders on the shuttle routes that access the corridor each year. Because the entire road is only 9.4 miles and dead-ends at Bear Lake, the sheer congestion of vehicles would limit any construction work taking place on the road. With the number of vehicles delayed, mixed in with shuttle buses, there would be no semblance of a shuttle schedule.
8) On weekdays, if I miss the 9 a.m. cut-off, how will I know?
Park staff have a kiosk set up roughly 1 mile southwest of Moraine Park Visitor Center, before crossing the Big Thompson Bridge. Rangers will turn around vehicles that do not reach the area by 9 a.m. sharp. If you are hoping to access the area in your private vehicle before 9 a.m. give yourself plenty of time to reach the closure area early. Please do NOT expect to be allowed through after 9 a.m. Please plan ahead!
9) If I want to go to the Bear Lake area between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays what are my options?
For those visitors who want to access the Bear Lake area between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on weekdays, the best option will be to park in Estes Park at the Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride or the Estes Park Visitor Center and take the Hiker Shuttle in to Rocky Mountain National Park. Visitors should expect congestion. If you are staying in lodging in Estes Park please see question #19.
10) On weekends during the construction delays, how long might the shuttle ride be from the Estes Park Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride to Moraine Park Visitor Center and to Bear Lake?
From the Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride the ride will take approximately 30 minutes to Moraine Park Visitor Center due to stops at the Estes Park Visitor Center and the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. From the Moraine Park Visitor Center you will then have the option to board a bus for the Bear Lake Route or you can board a bus for the Moraine Park Route. From Moraine Park Visitor Center the shuttle ride to Bear Lake will be approximately 25 minutes, with stops at Hollowell Park, Park & Ride, Bierstadt Lake, Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake plus the possibility of at least two 20 minute delays in each direction. Plan accordingly with water, snacks and a bathroom stop before you board the bus!
11) Should I stay away from the Bear Lake area?
The Bear Lake area is a very popular destination with a variety of recreational opportunities and incredible hiking trails. You can still access the Bear Lake area if you keep the following in mind:
a) Plan Ahead
b) Hike Early
c) Hike Late
d) Carpool – limited space is available at the Park & Ride and all trailheads in the park.
e) If you want to access the Bear Lake area weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., take the Hiker Shuttle from either the Estes Park Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride or the Estes Park Visitor Center.
f) Expect congestion and the potential for long delays.
12) If I drive my vehicle to the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge parking lots before 9:00 a.m., can I assume I'll have a place to park?
No, on any summer day, these parking lots can fill early in the morning. You need to plan ahead and get an early start. If your parking area is full, please park at the Park & Ride and take the shuttle bus to the trailhead.
13) What's the status of Glacier Basin Campground this summer?
Glacier Basin Campground will be closed this summer due to the construction. It will remain closed after the construction is complete due to the budget sequestration.
14) How will fishing access on the Big Thompson River be impacted by this project?
Visitors should expect congestion and limited parking at the popular picnic and angler area in lower Moraine Park, north of the Big Thompson River. Through July 19, there is no public access to the Kaley Cottage Road, just south of the Big Thompson River.
15) Do I have to take the shuttle bus to the Cub Lake and Fern Lake Trailheads?
Although these areas are serviced by the Moraine Park Shuttle Route, shuttle buses are not required and you can drive to these trailheads. However, please keep in mind that parking is extremely limited at these trailheads and unless you arrive early in the morning, you will likely not find a parking space.
16) When does the shuttle run?
All three park shuttles start their summer schedules on May 25. All run daily through September 2. The Bear Lake and Moraine Park Routes continue daily service through October 13. The Hiker Shuttle will run weekends only September 7 through October 13. The park's three shuttle routes are modified during the construction through July 19.
The Bear Lake Route buses run between Moraine Park Visitor Center and Bear Lake with stops at Hollowell Park, Park & Ride, Bierstadt Bus Stop, Glacier Gorge Trailhead and Bear Lake.
The Moraine Park Route buses run between the Moraine Park Visitor Center and the Fern Lake bus stop with stops at Moraine Park Campground, Cub Lake Trailhead and Fern Lake bus stop.
The first bus departs from the Moraine Park Visitor Center at 7 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 7 p.m. The last bus of the day leaves Bear Lake and Fern Lake Trailheads at 7:30 p.m. Bear Lake Route buses run every 15 minutes but will be delayed during periods of road construction. Moraine Park Route buses run every 20 minutes.
The Hiker Shuttle Route buses make stops at the Estes Park Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride, the Estes Park Visitor Center, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, and the Moraine Park Visitor Center where passengers will transfer to either the Bear Lake Route or the Moraine Park Route. The first bus leaves the Town of Estes Park Visitor Center at 6:30 a.m. and the last bus leaves the Moraine Park Visitor Center bound for Estes Park at 8:00 p.m. The Hiker Shuttle runs on an hourly schedule early and late in the day, switching to a half-hour schedule from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Construction delays may affect the shuttle bus schedule as well but we are attempting to minimize this to the extent possible. If a bus is delayed getting to a shuttle stop, your patience and understanding are appreciated.
On July 20, the park transportation hub will move back to the Park & Ride. The Bear Lake Route buses will then run their regular routes between Park & Ride, Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, Glacier Gorge Trailhead and Bear Lake. Moraine Park Route buses will run their regular routes between Park & Ride, Hollowell Park, Tuxedo Park, Moraine Park Visitor Center, Moraine Park Campground, C Loop, Cub Lake Trailhead and Fern Lake Bus Stop. Hiker Shuttle Route buses will run their regular routes between Estes Park Fairgrounds Park-N-Ride, Estes Park Visitor Center, Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Park & Ride.
17) Where can I find a printout of the park shuttle map and schedule?
In a variety of places including the park newspaper as well as on the park's website at www.nps.gov/romo under the Bear Lake Road Reconstruction section.
18) Is the park shuttle free?
There is no fee for the shuttle, although park entrance fees apply. Entrance passes can be purchased ahead of time at park entrance stations as well as automated pass machines at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and the Estes Park Visitor Center. Buses will not be stopping at entrance stations. If you have entered the park before your shuttle ride and already have a pass, bring it with you when boarding the shuttle bus at the Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride or the Estes Park Visitor Center. Starting July 20, if riding the Hiker Shuttle, passes may be purchased at the Park & Ride in Rocky Mountain National Park.
19) If I am staying at lodging in Estes Park, how can I access the shuttle system?
The town of Estes Park shuttle routes start daily operations June 21 through September 8, and September 14-15. All routes stop at the Estes Park Visitor Center. Check their shuttle routes and schedule at www.estes.org/shuttles to see how you may leave your car behind and access the Hiker Shuttle in to the park.
20) What kind of buses will be used for the shuttle routes and what is their capacity?
The park's fleet of shuttle buses are used on all routes. Bus capacity is 45 total; 28 seated and 17 standing. The Moraine Park Route uses smaller buses with a 20 seat capacity.
21) Are the buses accessible to persons with disabilities?
Most park shuttle buses are accessible and can accommodate wheelchairs. Contact shuttle staff or rangers if accommodation is needed. For town shuttle buses, call Rocky Mountain Transit to arrange for an accessible town shuttle bus, 970-577-7477.
22) Does the bus stop at Sprague Lake?
There is no shuttle stop at Sprague Lake, as there is not adequate room for shuttle buses to maneuver. To access Sprague Lake during the construction project, visitors will need to drive their vehicle there on weekdays before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
23) Will the Tuxedo Park shuttle bus stop reopen when the construction is completed?
The shuttle stop at Tuxedo Park will reopen once the road construction is completed, but the bus shelter may not be constructed until next year.
24) Are there restrooms available at all the shuttle bus stops?
There are restrooms available at all the shuttle stops within the park except for the Cub Lake Trailhead, Moraine Park Campground stop along the Cub Lake Road, and at the Moraine Park Campground stop. Restrooms are available at the Estes Park Visitor Center and Estes Park Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride.
25) Where can I get water along the park shuttle routes?
Please bring your own water. If you need to fill your water bottle the best locations are the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and the spigot outside of Moraine Park Visitor Center. There is water available at Bear Lake from a drinking fountain during the middle of the summer. There is also water available at the restroom sinks in the Estes Park Visitor Center.
26) Can I take my bike on the bus up to Bear Lake?
Shuttle buses cannot accommodate bikes. Bikes are not allowed on backcountry trails in the park and are discouraged on Bear Lake Road during the construction.
27) Will bicycles be allowed on any section of Bear Lake Road in 2013?
Bicycles are strongly discouraged from riding on the Bear Lake Road during this project due to road conditions, traffic and delays. Bicycles are treated as private vehicles and only allowed to ride past the kiosk on weekdays before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
28) Can I take my dog on the bus?
Only service dogs are allowed on the bus.
29) Can I take a stroller on the bus?
Strollers are allowed on park shuttle buses, but can only be used on the trail around Bear Lake; strollers are not allowed on any backcountry trails.
30) Will my backpack equipment fit on the bus?
31) If there is bad weather, will the buses still run?
32) Do you have other suggestions as to where I should go?
Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 square miles. There is a list of numerous trails, including family-friendly and accessible trails, in the park summer newspaper that you can choose from. As with any summer at Rocky Mountain National Park, it is likely that from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. you will encounter congested areas in many areas of the park. The west side of the park is not as highly visited as the east side of the park.
33) Will tour buses, recreational vehicles and vehicles pulling trailers (including horse trailers) be allowed on the Bear Lake Road during construction?
They will be allowed during the same time as private vehicles on weekdays before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. However, they are discouraged from accessing the area due to narrow, winding roads and limited parking.
34) Will overnight parking be allowed at Park & Ride or Bear Lake?
Overnight parking/camping is not allowed at Park & Ride, Bear Lake, nor any other area in the park unless authorized with an overnight backcountry use permit.
35) Will backcountry campers be allowed to take their private vehicles up the road at any time?
Yes, visitors who have an overnight backcountry camping permit will be given access. The rangers at the kiosk on Bear Lake Road will verify the permits.
36) What if I want to take a horseback ride with Glacier Creek Stables located near Sprague Lake?
Reservations are strongly recommended. When making a reservation you will receive a confirmation code that you will give to the rangers stationed at the kiosk on Bear Lake Road. There are horseback rides from a variety of other locations. You can find a list of providers at www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/goodsandservices.htm
37) Can I take a private horse trailer on Bear Lake Road?
Through July 19, you can take a private horse trailer up Bear Lake Road before 9:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m.
38) How much does this reconstruction project cost, and who is paying for it?
The Federal Highway Administration awarded a $23.4 million contract to American Civil Constructors and is administering this project on behalf of the National Park Service. American Civil Constructors is based in Littleton, Colorado. The overall cost of the project is $27.7 million. This program is being funded through the Federal Lands Highway Program.
39) Do you have a plan to "reveg" this area?
When the project is completed, roughly $1,000,000 will be spent on revegetation along the Bear Lake Road corridor. This work includes collecting native live plants and seeds, greenhouse propagation and nursery care, outplanting, and exotic plant control. Native topsoil and rocks will be saved and reused on the road shoulders by the contractor. Remaining on-site native plant restoration will be done by a NPS crew and the Natural Resources Conservation Service who produce the park's native seed.
40) Once the reconstruction project is complete, will private vehicles be allowed back in the area?
41) I noticed numerous parking spaces available at Park & Ride when it was shuttle access only. Why don't you wait until the parking lots fill up before requiring shuttle access only?
The park is limiting cars due to congestion on the road and construction activity - not based on parking space capacity. Maintaining a consistent, daily schedule is also important to the construction process and accurate information to visitors.
42) Why do you have to build so many retaining walls?
To allow for drainage ditches and road shoulders, the total width of the road will increase. Currently, in the areas where the walls will be built, the slopes meet the road edges with no ditches or shoulders. As a result, rocks often roll down on the road creating safety hazards. Building the road out a few extra feet will provide the needed width to meet modern safety standards.
43) Is the road widening? If so, how much and why?
The new width of the travel lanes will be 11 feet. This will be the same as the existing width for about half of the project. The other half will increase in width by one foot. However, because there will be new 1 foot shoulders on both sides and new drainage improvements, the total width will increase. The park has worked closely with road designers at the Federal Highway Administration to minimize impacts to the environment while meeting current safety standards and providing drainage for road longevity. The end result will be very similar to the final width of the improvements that were constructed on upper Bear Lake Road in 2003-2004.
44) Why the need for a reroute?
In 2012, as part of the project a 0.9 mile section was rerouted away from Glacier Creek in order to prevent impacts to wetlands and riparian habitat and reduce costs. The park studied several alternatives for the road in the area where it paralleled Glacier Creek. The road was very narrow, lacked guardrails, and was not designed to accommodate today's shuttles, large RVs and trucks. There was no drainage ditch, and runoff from the road drained directly into the creek. The Environmental Assessment that was prepared for Bear Lake Road examined four alternatives for the section of road along Glacier Creek. If the road would have been reconstructed adjacent to the creek, retaining walls would have been needed to be built directly in the creek edge for almost a mile. This would be very expensive and would have negative environmental consequences. Because of these issues, other alternatives were considered including shifting the alignment into the hillside and rerouting the road away from the creek. A comprehensive analysis of the alternatives showed that the environmental impacts were less if the road was built in the forest rather than adjacent to the creek and wetlands, and it was actually less expensive to reroute the road.
What is the status of the old road? Can I walk it, can I ride my bike on it?
The old road section along Glacier Creek is currently closed to use, as this is a construction area. Once it is safe to do so, we will open the road to walking and hiking. Bikes will not be permitted.
46) Why weren't bike lanes built along the new road?
Accommodating bike lanes both uphill and downhill in the park's challenging terrain would have resulted in significant environmental impacts. The park is exploring the possibility of a multi-use trail system on the east side of the park that would ultimately connect with the trail system that is being developed in the Estes Valley. The trail system would accommodate bikes, would likely be separated from the road, and could potentially provide access all the way to Sprague Lake. Park staff will be engaging the public in the planning process for the potential multi-use trail in the future.
47) Why is Glacier Basin Campground closed this summer?
The contractor is staging large equipment and paving and other road materials in the campground, plus noise and potential night work would make use of the campground unpleasant. Park staff were planning to reopen Glacier Basin Campground when the construction project was complete but due to sequestration budget impacts we will not be reopening the campground this season.
48) What if I have a reservation at Moraine Park Campground, will the construction impact my access to this campground?
No. Most of the work on the road leading to the Moraine Park Campground was completed last year.
49) Should I make reservations to camp in the park this summer?
Reservations are strongly advised this summer, as the Glacier Basin Campground is closed and all campgrounds are expected to be very busy. Have peace of mind knowing a campsite is waiting for you in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park! Reservable campgrounds can fill by reservation, so plan ahead. Two drive-in campgrounds take reservations: Aspenglen and Moraine Park. Reservations for late-May through September can be made six months to one day ahead and online at www.reserveamerica.com, or by calling 1-877-444-6777. International callers can phone 518-885-3639. Visitors who reserve early have the best opportunity to secure the type of site and location preferred. Three group sites are reservable at Moraine Park Campground.
50) If park campgrounds are booked, are there alternatives to reserve in the area?
Yes. On the east side near Estes Park, there are Larimer County Open Space, US Forest Service, and private campgrounds. On the west side near Grand Lake there are US Forest Service and private campgrounds.
51) How many miles of road does this construction project affect?
There are 110 miles of road in Rocky Mountain National Park; this project involves 5.1 miles of road and access to another 4.3 miles of road.
Thank you for taking the time to read these questions and answers. If you still have further questions that were not answered, please call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. seven days a week.
Thank you for your patience and understanding during this final phase of major road reconstruction on Bear Lake Road.