Independence Pass is a wonderful way to reach Aspen in the summer. It begins its climb over the Continental Divide just west of Twin Lakes, which is by Leadville. The summit is 12,095 feet, making it Colorado’s highest paved pass.
There is a lot of recreation on both sides of the pass, including two national forests and a couple ghost towns. The drive takes about an hour.
Biking – Serious cyclists trek up and down the pass.
Boating – Twin Lakes is open to boating. boat tours, kayak and canoe rentals are available.
Camping – There are a several national forest campgrounds on each side of the pass.
- Dispersed car camping can be found along many of the dirt roads near Mt Elbert, close to the lake.
Fishing – Twin Lakes is a massive lake on the east side of the pass.
Hiking – The highest in Colorado, Mt Elbert, is located at the start in Twin Lakes. It’s 6-7 hours to get up and back. The hike is mostly straight up the spine of the mountain, few switchbacks.
- There are also shorter hikes at the lakes and at the base of Mt Elbert. The semi ghost town town of Twin Lakes is a nice place to walk around.
- One of the best places to stretch your feet is around the ghost town of Independence on the Aspen-side. There’s also point of interests along the Roaring River, like the “Grottos” – cavern like creek bed.
Picnicking – Twin Lakes has picnic areas near the lake, while the Aspen side has a few wooded picnic areas on route.
Take CO 82 west from Twin Lakes or east out of Aspen.
Season: May to October
Length: 36 miles
Roads: 2WD, Free