Independence Pass

Independence Pass, a legendary drive in Colorado

Independence Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.692m (12,112ft) above the sea level, located in Pitkin County, in central Colorado, USA. 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 roads of Colorado. 

How many miles is Independence Pass?

The road is about 32 miles long. It connects the upper valley of the Roaring Fork River upstream from Aspen with the headwaters of the Arkansas River near Leadville. It 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 lanes, and 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.

Is Independence Pass dangerous?

The road is narrow and winding with steep inclines. 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 paved.  The road is narrow and steep with a 6.5% gradient, including tight switchbacks on each approach. Oversized and overweight vehicles are strictly prohibited. Absolutely no vehicles over 35 feet in length may use the road at any time; large RVs are allowed, however. Always keep your eyes on the road and drive slowly while remaining prepared to yield. The tight curves and single lane segments of the highway require heightened attention by drivers.

Is Independence Pass open?

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 target reopening date each spring is the Thursday before the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Rockfall remains an issue on this road with occasional rocks in the roadway and even the infrequent road closure.

How long does it take to drive Independence Pass?

Located within the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado, 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, it is said to be the highest paved mountain pass in Colorado. The trip between Aspen and US 24 takes from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half with stops along the way to enjoy the scenic views. The road was not paved until 1967 and it's in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it.


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