Independence Pass

#2 in Best Things To Do in Aspen
Independence Pass picture
Bruce Works/Shutterstock

Key Info

Independence Pass

Price & Hours

Free
Hours vary seasonally

Details

Recreation, Sightseeing, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.8

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 4.0Atmosphere

If there's one reason to rent a car in Aspen, it's to take the 20-mile drive through Independence Pass. This scenic road is one of the highest in North America, meandering along the Continental Divide at a whopping 12,095 feet above sea level. Get ready to feel like a daredevil as you navigate tight turns along towering cliffs and through thick forests. When you're ready to stretch your legs, a paved hiking trail leads to a sightseeing platform where far-reaching views of the Continental Divide are sure to make your jaw drop.

Those who cruised through Independence Pass say the scenery is truly breathtaking, adding that there are spots along the way to stop for a picnic and snap photos. Although travelers agree that a drive down Independence Pass is a must, they also advise that you proceed with caution because of the daunting nature of the narrow, winding road. (Some go as far to say if you are prone to carsickness, this is not a trip for you.) 

You can access Independence Pass by traveling east on Route 82, which runs through the heart of Aspen. You don't have to pay to use the road or the hiking trail, but you should note that Independence Pass is closed during the winter due to weather conditions.

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Maroon Bells1 of 11
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Type
Time to Spend
#1 Maroon Bells

Rising more than 14,000 feet, these twin peaks are a favorite spot for hikers and wildlife-watchers, boasting beautiful vistas and breathtaking scenery. In fact, Maroon Bells' jagged peaks and multicolored slopes make it one of the most photographed sites in North America. The surrounding area features numerous trails and campsites, granting you a variety of viewing points from which you can capture the perfect shot.

Whether you choose to head toward the summit or to lazily stroll around the beaver-laden Maroon Lake, this is sure to be one of the highlights of your Aspen trip. Recent travelers praise the uninterrupted beauty of this area, calling the Maroon Bells "stunning," "awe-inspiring" and "one of the loveliest places on earth." Some say it's the perfect place for a day of hiking and a picnic lunch. Past hikers recommended getting to the mountains early as the area can get crowded.

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