Fall River Road is paved until near the Alluvial Fan, then becomes a fairly well maintained dirt road for nine miles. It is one-way going up, so the only way down is on Trail Ridge Road. The road is very twisty and it is slow going with all the traffic. Another problem is that the scenery is so spectacular that everyone (including me) wants to stop every ten feet and take a picture. There are many turn offs that allow this, but it is still a problem.

The map at left shows the route and the general area (click on the map to bring up a more readable version). The solid red line is Fall River Road. The dirt section of the raid is nine miles long and rises from about 9000ft to 11,800ft at the Alpine Visitors Center. The road is fairly flat except for a couple of areas where there are a number of switchbacks to gain altitude. The road runs through the forest most of the way, giving a much better sense of security than, say, the Pikes Peak Toll Road. I've noticed that Peaches has lost her fear of heights, but still has trouble with hairpin turns. I suspect this may have more to do with my driving style than anything else.

On the map, Horseshoe Park is to the right. The Mummy Range is the white area to the north. Trail Ridge is the white area to the south. Just off the map to the left is the Alpine Visitors Center where Fall River Road reconnects with Trail Ridge Road (the red dashed road south of Fall River).

Our first stop was under Mount Chapin at 3.4 miles on the dirt section of the road. These images give some idea of the scale of the mountains in the Park. They show some spires on the south face of Chapin. The three images were taken from east to west. We were so close to the mountain that we couldn't see the peak, or the rest of the Mummy Range.

This is a particularly interesting area geologically. The main mass of Chapin is biotite schist, a metamorphic rock that was formed 1,700 million years ago. This is the core of the Rocky Mountains. Below this mass, and east down the valley, the exposed rock is Silver Plume Granite, an igneous intrusion about 1,400 million years old. This is what pushed the schist up during the Ancestral Rockies orogeny. There is an exposed intrusion of granite that trends east-west at this point.

There are other smaller intrusions in this area. The first and second photos show what is probably part of the Gabbro of the Iron Dike. This sounds like a new video game, but is an igneous rock that was forced up a crack in the underlying granite. It is estimated to be 1,300 million years old. This is part of a dike system that trends southeast-northwest through the Park. This little section is an arc northeast of the main dike. The third picture shows an exposure of white pegmatite in the schist on the face of Chapin.

This picture is the Fall River Valley looking back east to Horseshoe Park. It was taken at mile 4.0 from the start of the dirt road. The Fall River Valley was carved by glaciers. I had a lot of trouble with clouds on this day, so the exposures are not very consistent. At this point we were about 10,000 feet up.
This is a picture of a waterfall on the south side of the valley at mile 4.8. It is fed by a snow field on the face of Sundance Mountain. It was late in the season when we took this trip, so there wasn't much snow left. I suspect that the water flow is much more spectacular in the spring when the runoff starts. I took another picture trying to show the relationship between the mountain and the waterfall, but the difference in scale was too great.

It was starting to get late at this point, so we decided we had better continue on to the top so we could get down before the sun.

On to the Alpine Center