As we drove Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park the first time, we stopped at a few of the stunning scenic viewpoints, but a huge thunderstorm was rolling and by 3:00 pm the whole sky was dark gray and brooding.
As we approached the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Estes Park, we passed a roadside pullout and scenic vista point with a HUGE rock outcropping that was begging to be climbed. Carter loves climbing rocks, exploring, and reaching places no one else goes, so we promised to come back the next day.
On our third day in the park, we stopped to checkout the overlook on our way to the Moraine Park Discovery Center, Bear Lake, Alberta Falls, and Sprauge Lake. The roadside pullout isn’t marked and there is no signage. An interpretive sign near the side of the road is labeled The Longs Peak Viewpoint, but it isn’t on any of the Rocky Mountain National Park Maps. Thankfully there is that giant rock outcropping that makes it easy to find!
Only after doing an insane amount of research online after our summer road trip and comparing my photos to other peoples’ photos did I discover the real name of this overlook…
3M Curve, also referred to as Longs Peak Viewpoint, is a scenic viewpoint in Rocky Mountain National Park with a giant rock outcropping and majestic views of Longs Peak, open meadows, and Moraine Park.
While we took in the views of 14,259 foot Longs Peak, the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and the lush green meadows below, Carter took off to explore the giant outcropping, intent on getting to the top of it. He found a dirt trail that led behind the rock and discovered that on the backside, there is a fairly easy way to climb to the very top.
After snapping a few photos, he came back down and we saw a few other families stop, their kids also trying to climb the large rock formation — but they were all trying to climb from the front side and couldn’t do it. We let the parents know that hidden from the road, on the backside, even their smallest kids could climb up and they were thrilled! As we drove away, we could see their kids standing on the rock just as Carter did with huge smiles.
NOTE: 3M Curve is located 3.5 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on the south side of US Highway 36, between Deer Ridge Junction and the Visitor Center. While some people say 3M Curve is located on Trail Ridge Road because it is widely said to stretch from Estes Park to Grand Lake, Trail Ridge Road doesn’t officially begin until Deer Ridge Junction.
Getting Married at Rocky Mountain National Park
3M Curve is a very popular destination for engagement and wedding photographers, and one of 13 elopement and wedding ceremony sites in Rocky Mountain National Park. It offers no seating, has a maximum of about 15 people, and room for only a few vehicles.
About Longs Peak
Located 9.6 miles south of Estes Park, Colorado, Longs Peak is a mountain peak in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The 14,259 foot fourteener is the northernmost fourteener in the Rocky Mountains and the highest point in Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Longs Peak is named for Major Stephen Harriman Long who explored the area on behalf of the U.S. Government in 1820 and was the first to see the grand peak.
Sitting at the base of the Eastern Face, just above Chasm Lake, is Mills Glacier. It is the last remaining glacier on the peak, making Longs Peak one of less than 50 mountains in Colorado that have a glacier.
Know Before You Go
- 14,259 foot Longs Peak is located in the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness, 9.6 miles south of Estes Park, Colorado in Larimer County.
- The 3M Curve scenic viewpoint is a roadside pullout along the south side of US Highway 36 between the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Deer Ridge Junction. It is a popular spot for weddings in the park.
- Longs Peak has one remaining glacier, Mills Glacier, that sits at the base of the Eastern Face, just above Chasm Lake at around 12,800 feet elevation.
- As the only fourteener in Rocky Mountain National Park, the mountain is featured on the Colorado state quarter.
- Longs Peak is the northernmost fourteener in the Rocky Mountains and the highest point in Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Download the Longs Peak Trail Guide.