Independence Pass, Twin Lakes
Categories: Scenic Drives, Biking Trails, Nature & Parks, Tourist Spots, Outdoor Activities
Independence Pass, originally known as Hunter Pass, is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado in the United States. It is at elevation 12095ft on the Continental Divide in the Sawatch Range. The pass is midway between Aspen and Twin Lakes, on the border between Pitkin and Lake counties.State Highway 82 traverses it, in the process reaching the highest elevation of a paved Colorado state highway on a through road. After Cottonwood Pass to the south, it is the second-highest pass with an improved road in the state, the fourth-highest paved road in the state and the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the U.S. Because of the heavy snowfall at its elevation, it is closed in wintertime, isolating Aspen from direct access from the east during the ski season.When the pass is open in warmer weather, it is a popular destination. A scenic overlook near the pass allows visitors to take in the alpine tundra environment above treeline, and offers excellent views to the east of Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest peak and the second-highest mountain in the contiguous United States. Rock climbers are drawn to nearby bouldering opportunities, and informal paths lead to nearby mountain summits of even higher elevation. Backcountry skiers make use of the slopes during the late spring and early summer. Since 2011 the pass has been on the route of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.Make Independence Pass a centerpiece of your Twin Lakes vacation itinerary, and find what else is worth visiting using our Twin Lakes family vacation planner.
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Independence Pass is a great place to do a little hiking. It also affords nice views of the mountains and sunset. There are restrooms at the spacious parking lot.
Approached Independence Pass from Twin Lakes heading towards Aspen. Fall colors were at peak along with some snow-capped mountains. The trip would be well worth it regardless of this!
We crossed the pass both ways. Aspen trees are in full color and look luminescent. Words simply can't describe the beauty. The road is in good shape and safe at a reasonable speed.
One of the best drives in the country. The road spans the Twin Lakes area to the east and Aspen on the West crosses the Continental Divide above timberline. The trip has some of the best views, roads and driving possible. There are some very cool trails at the top, and there is almost always still snow in patches even in the middle of the summer.
On our last day in Colorado, we drove from Aspen to Twin Lakes on SH 82. Midway through this stretch, we stopped at Independence Pass, a popular scenic overlook at an elevation of 12,095 feet. Wonderful views of Mount Elbert, the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains and in Colorado, La Plata Peak, the alpine tundra above the treeline, open grassy slopes with wildflowers and shrubs. It's a very short walk around this overlook, but it's also very spectacular. For us, it was one of the last views we had of the Rocky Mountains before we headed home. Driving through the pass can be somewhat challenging if you're not used to navigating sharp turns and switchbacks on a mountain road. Luckily, my parents and I are experts having driven through many difficult mountain roads while traveling so we didn't think this was too bad. However, I have read some reviews where folks found this drive to be taxing and vowed to never do it again. I'd be aware of the ever-changing weather like thunderstorms or snow and altitude changes. During the winter, SH 82 through the pass is closed. If you're driving through, Independence Pass is a great stop to stretch your legs and admire the scenery.
Independence Pass has a beautiful look of the Collegiate Range from the perspective of the highest paved road in the continental United States. The drive can get pretty scary at some points when the road gets close to the edge, but this is pretty well respected by other drivers, so as long as you drive slow, you will have no issues. There are trails on either side of the pull-off area that lead you to the top of the two adjacent mountains. I didn't take the hike because I was ill-prepared (bring warm clothes, food, and bear spray any time you go), but I am determined to soon.
Slowly driving the winding mountain road approaching this location you can feel the anticipation built as you reach the top and see nothing but mountains going on forever in all directions. At the base of the pass are two somewhat small parking areas, that are usually full of cars and people given its popularity, but is surprisingly east to find places to park as the visitors rotate out fairly quick. At the base is a small building with restrooms that on my visit were a total mess and unclean from the overwhelming amount of visitors. Going up the hill is a paved walkway that forks to multiple sides leading to viewing areas that overlook the valley, with signs and visual references to all the peaks and to the continental divide which is just a few hundred yards from the viewing area. At the summit in the summer (mid august) the temperature was about 45 degrees and the wind was blowing a little making it a cold location, so a good jacket and cold protection is highly advised as well as sunscreen given the altitude, as you are engulfed by the majesty of the view you can sunburn quickly. The pathway is also a somewhat steep incline and some visitors might want to bring a travel oxygen breather if you have breathing difficulties. On both sides of the pass down the highway before you make the drive up there are businesses that sell the small canned tanks, or they can be purchased in Aspen or any of the ski resorts.
The beauty and splendor is unrivaled. Yes you are up as high as you will ever be in the continental U.S.. Yes the road is a bit challenging, but believe me it is totally worth it. Do not just drive through, get out of your car and walk the trail to the "Scenic Overlook" it is unmatched.
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