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.