ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo (CBS4) — Highway 34 between Grand Lake and the winter closure point of Trail Ridge Road was re-opened Thursday by Rocky Mountain National Park authorities, seven weeks after the wind-propelled East Troublesome Fire roared through the town of Grand Lake and into the park.

Travelers are not permitted access to trailheads, picnic areas or other parking spot along the lower portion of the re-opened highway, however, due to what the park refers to as “hazard trees,” or fire-damaged trees that have fallen or are at risk of falling.

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A number of trails on both west and east sides of the park were re-opened as well, but campgrounds and sections of trail near the burn area and in the interior of the fire zone remain off-limits for similar safety reasons.

Specific closures and re-opening can be found on the park’s website.

Fire damage near the Harbison Picnic Area, which remains closed. (credit: Rocky Mountain National Park/Facebook)

The East Troublesome Fire was first reported Oct. 14th in Grand County. A week later, high wind pushed the fire into beetle-killed pine trees and carried flames across the north side of Grand Lake, forcing a rapid evacuation of the town. The fire exploded from 18,000 acres to almost 188,000 in less than a day as it encroached on the western side of RMNP and approached the Continental Divide.

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Wind carried burning forest debris over the Divide and a spot fire started farther east at the top of Spruce Canyon. That fire continued down the canyon in the coming days and at one time forced the evacuation of Estes Park.

A ranger cabin and the toll booths at Rocky Mountain National Park’s west entrance burned to the ground by the East Troublesome Fire. Thursday, RMNP officials re-opened the highway here. The Kawuneeche Visitor Center here is closed until Dec. 19th. (credit: Rocky Mountain National Park)

Park officials said Thursday that nine percent of the park’s land has been impacted by the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires this year. Those two blazes were the two largest in Colorado’s recorded history, as judged by acreage.

Pockets of smoke and heat still exist inside the containment lines of both fires.

 

The blackened areas of the East Troublesome Fire’s excursion into Rocky Mountain National Park, with Spruce Canyon on the left and Mt. Wuh on the right. The bare, tan hillside in the center is a previous burn area from the 2012 Fern Lake Fire. (credit: CBS)

 

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Logan Smith