Independence Pass, at an elevation of 3.692m (12,112ft) above the sea level, is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado in the United States. The road over the pass is not for those who fear heights. Not only is it the highest paved lane in Colorado, it's also full of steep drop-offs, tight curves, and narrow stretches that can fit only one car at a time. It's one of the highest mountain roads of Colorado.
The pass connects the upper valley of the Roaring Fork River upstream from Aspen with the headwaters of the Arkansas River near Leadville, is traversed by State Highway 82 and crosses the Sawatch Mountains between Twin Lakes and Aspen. The eastern side has 3 big switchbacks but the road is good, 2 lane, paved. The western side, the descent into Aspen, has a couple of stretches of one lane dirt. Portions of the road are a bit tight for most of the RV's travelling through. And meeting one of these in a one lane section is exciting.
This is an exquisite winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. The pass lies at the summit of the ridge of the Sawatch Range between Aspen and Leadville, on the border between Pitkin and Lake counties and is located within the confines of the White River National Forest.
The surface of the road is asphalted, and chains or snow tyres can be required anytime. This stretch of road should not be attempted by novice drivers. The road is narrow and steep with a 6.5% gradient, including tight switchbacks on each approach. Trucks and other large vehicles are prohibited from driving on the pass; large RVs are allowed, however.
The pass is always closed in winter, from the first heavy snow fall in autumn, often opening only in late May or early June. Anytime it can be closed when the access is not cleared of snow. Avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. The road was not paved until 1967 and it's in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it.
Located in Pitkin County, the road to reach the pass is narrow, twisting and often without guardrails. At an elevation of 12,100ft (3.700m) above the sea level, Independence is the highest paved mountain pass in Colorado. Highway 82 is usually open for only six months of the year, from late May to late October, and the trip between Aspen and US 24 takes at least 90 minutes.