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Independence Pass

Mountain adventure with a patriotic touch

Article and photos by Susan Helton

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For something different to do for Independence Day, how about a unique adventure with a patriotic touch? High in the Rocky Mountains, in Independence Pass, the ghost town of Independence sits in a glacier-carved valley below Independence Mountain.

According to legend, prospectors discovered gold in the area on Independence Day 1879. While the town had many names in its brief lifetime, Independence was the only one that stuck. The town is the first mining site in the Roaring Fork Valley and sits at an elevation of 10,830 feet. It was a classic boom-and-bust mining town and was abandoned during the harsh winter of 1899.

Although few of the buildings still stand, informational signs throughout the ghost town give a glimpse of mining life there in the late 1800s. The old stage road connects the main town site to the Farwell Mill ruins. It’s a gentle hike of about a mile in each direction. The town is an archaeological site, so the Aspen Historical Society requests that visitors don’t pick up any artifacts there. The Society also requests a donation from visitors to help preserve the site.

Hunter’s Pass was the original name of Independence Pass. Part of Colorado State Highway 82, it crosses the Continental Divide at 12,095 feet above sea level. The summit provides a scenic overlook and amazing 360-degree view. In addition to the ghost town, the pass features several hiking trails and campgrounds. It’s also a popular route for road biking. Independence Pass is open to cars only from May to October. The road is very narrow in some sections, with sharp switchbacks, but the scenery is outstanding!

The pass and ghost town are a bit of a drive from Castle Pines. Take along a picnic lunch and plenty of water and plan to spend the day enjoying the area.

Independence Ghost Town is located roughly 16 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82. The summit of Independence Pass is roughly four miles further to the east. To get there, take I-25 north to C-470, then go west on C-470 to the I-70 junction. Take I-70 west into the mountains past Vail to Highway 24. Follow Highway 24 south through Minturn and Leadville to Colorado State Highway 82. Take Highway 82 to Independence Pass and beyond to Independence Ghost Town, which is on the left at mile marker 58.

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