Leaving the Aspen, Colorado area I wanted to drive Independence Pass so we could stop and explore the Independence Ghost Town along the way. I have been on this road before and explored this back in the late 1990’s when my kids were little and I was excited to explore the ghost town again.
Independence, Colorado is located on Independence Pass, Highway 82. This road connects Aspen to Leadville but is closed late October until late May, or when it is able to clear the snow to open the pass.
History of Independence, Colorado
Independence, Colorado is a ghost town that is easily assessable in the summer, but not in the winter. Even now, Independence Pass is closed during the winter so imagine how hard it was living here when the town was started. The town was founded in July 1879 after having a successful gold strike. By 1890, most of the gold panned out and most of the community left for other areas such as Aspen. Since Independence is located at 10,830 feet, it is covered in snow from October to May, making it a very difficult place to live in. In 1899, there was a huge blizzard and the remaining residents, all except one person, skied to Aspen when food became scarce. For more information on the town you can click on this Aspen Historical Society Link.
If you are driving from Aspen towards Leadville, the Farwell Mill is the first ruin you will notice, as it is located just before the town of Independence. With this in mind, if you are driving from Leadville towards Aspen and you come across the mill, turn around, you just passed the town of Independence!
The Farwell was one of the mills to crush gold ore. The mill was powered by a waterwheel, steam engine and boilers. Now all that is left are a few boards and skeletal remains.
Wandering Around Town
After the Farwell Mill you will come across a pull out parking area about a half mile further down the road. This is where you will park to walk down to Independence. However, if you are not looking for it, you could easily miss seeing the remains of the town. On the other hand, if you prefer, you can find the path from the Mill and walk to the town.
Above all, I really enjoyed wandering around the town grounds and imagining what life was like here. In addition, there are many interpretive signs which give good information on the buildings, lifestyle and area. If you have the time, they are worth the read. Also remember to stay on the marked trails as this is an active archeology site. Also because of this, any nails, artifacts, old cans, etc. that you may see should remain in place and not touched.
At one time the town had over 40 businesses including stores, restaurants, saloons and also a newspaper! Although this may be true, it is hard to imagine these remains being a busy little town over 100 years ago.
All in all, this was a fun stop. This is a great area to walk around and also imagine life how it was! Independence in Colorado is one of the many great ghost towns in the state. I love history and for this reason, I want to visit more of these in future travels.
Follow more of our Colorado adventures at these links:
Crystal Mill, Colorado October 2020
The Grottos Trail Aspen, Colorado October 2020
Silver Lake, Telluride, Colorado October 2020
Odessa and Fern Lakes Aug 2020
St Mary’s Glacier Hike Aug 2017
Our Rocky Mountain National Park Trip Aug 2018
My Favorite Colorado Road Trip Aug 2016
33 thoughts on “Independence Ghost Town, Colorado”
That’s truly interesting, and in fact that ghost had a town just for him/herself ahah cheers from Portugal 🙂 PedroL
So much history. Glad that someone is telling it. It looks like a hard life to live up to the name of Independence. I love your description of passing the mill and telling people they have missed the town. This is how the Irish give direction. “You see that yellow house up ahead? Well, if you pass it, you’ve gone too far.” Thanks for sharing Lori. Allan
Thanks for reading! I have a bit of Irish in me so I guess I am giving directions true to my nature?!!!?lol. Take care!! Lori
Love your pics!
From this post’s I suddenly got curious to ask you something about. While traveling have you ever come across to strange haunted stories or something like that by the people living there for years? I couldn’t help myself asking 😅😅 I’m just curious to hear 🙂
Not really. We stayed at the haunted Stanley Hotel a few years ago but didn’t see anything. We also toured a haunted jail in Charleston and there were great stories there but again, we didn’t see any hauntings!
I see! Thanks for sharing!
I meant from this post’s *title actually!
hard to imagine that it was once a thriving town. I guess you had to be pretty hardy to live there – especially the one person who decided to stay after the blizzard…
I agree. I was not able to find out what happened to the one person who stayed after the blizzard! I bet it is an interesting story!
I am sure it is; there must have been a reason…
For some reason, I imagined that much of the ghost town was still intact, but it looks as if most of the buildings were torn down and only a few remain…all the same, it is fascinating to check out sites that once were, and to imagine a time when they were thriving!
It did look like some of the buildings were being restored.
What a neat area to explore with so much history. It’s hard to imagine what life would have been like up there in the middle of nowhere.
It was a lot of fun!
That is crazy that it’s now completely deserted having once been so busy. I always find things like that eerie. Thanks for sharing 🙂
It is pretty crazy that a place can build up
And then just go away! The area felt more peaceful than eerie though, which was good!
Interesting history! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for reading! It was a fun stop!
Looks like an amazing place to experience, and I love the framed window photograph (at top) 👍
Thank! This was really a fun stop. Lots of phot opportunities as well!
I loved visiting Independence! My brother is super into history and ghost towns, and this one was at the top of his list.
I like them too! Hoping to see a few more this spring and summer when I’m out there!!
The smaller towns like this one in Colorado perfectly demonstrate our desire to spend sizable portions of our road trips each year there.. This March, the Lyons vicinity will be our newest destination. Any thoughts?
Lyons the town? If so I have driven through there and it looks nice. It is fairly close to Boulder I think and Rocky Mountain National Park. Lots of good hiking in the area.
Good information. I hope the weather cooperates.
We’ve been to Leadville and Aspen, but didn’t know about Independence. Maybe next time. Thanks!
It is easy to miss. Found it about 25 years ago when the kids were small. We pulled over to let them get out and walk around and Independence just happened to be where we pulled over at!!
I’ve been watching a chap on YouTube who bought a ghost town and had been restoring and exploring it. Being in the UK these things are totally foreign to me, so are just fascinating. Once so much life in a town, short-lived for money. Great post and location 🙂
Thank you! I do find ghost towns fascinating and hope to visit more.