Best time to visit Colorado

Independence Pass (Hunter Pass) in Colorado

The second highest pass in Colorado that can be reached by a paved highway

Best time: late May–mid-November

Independence Pass (Hunter Pass)
Independence Pass (Hunter Pass)
Independence Pass (Hunter Pass)
Independence Pass (Hunter Pass)
Independence Pass (Hunter Pass)
Independence Pass

Independence Pass is located in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado. The pass is half way from Aspen to Twin Lakes. At an elevation of 3,700 m(12,100 ft), it is one of the highest paved roads in Colorado, featuring steep climbs, sharp curves, and three big switchbacks. Located in Pitkin County, this section of Highway 82 was built in the 1920s and asphalted in 1967. It traverses the Continental Divide in the Sawatch Range. With a 6.5% gradient, the road is also rather narrow, so tracks and large vehicles are not allowed to enter. The pass is always closed to traffic for the winter season, from early November until late May. The beautiful winding road passes through White River National Forest and offers scenic views. The pass is featured in USA Pro Cycling Challenge and is a popular cycling destination in the summer.

Independence Pass call colors

From mid- to late September, it's possible to observe stunning fall colors along Independence Pass. Thanks to its high elevation, it provides breathtaking vistas in every direction. You can start your fall foliage excursion at the village of Twin Lakes, which boasts two large scenic lakes and an abandoned ghost town.

Your next stop is Maroon Bells Lake, which is one of the most photographed destinations in the Aspen area. It's worth making a lengthy stop here to immerse in some of the best fall foliage views in Colorado with stunning water reflections and towering mountains. This area also offers superb fall hiking. You'll discover all shades of yellow, from amber to gold!

Scenic outlooks

The road over the Independence Pass has several overlooks at the summit with stunning views of Mount Elbert and La Plata Peak. The Maroon Bells, Snowmass Mountain, and Capitol Peak are also visible. If you'are interested in exploring subalpine scenery down below, take the Linkins Lake trail on the western side. Lots of aspens make it especially scenic in the fall. Other trees include lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and subalpine fir. Abundant wildflowers bloom throughout the summer. Local wildlife includes pika, pocket gopher, goats, and marmots.

The area of Independence Pass is very popular with rock climbers. The Grotto Wall, Karma Cliff, and Putterman's Dome are among the most visited spots. Lincoln Gulch campground and Difficult Campground are located nearby for those who'd like to spend the night in the mountains. In May, the pass is popular with back country skiers since there's usually enough snow on the slopes at that time of the year to ski, sometimes even up until July!

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Independence Pass?

Usually open from late May to mid-November, Independence Pass has peak summer crowds, making it best to visit during mid to late September when the foliage is at its most vibrant. The pass is inaccessible during the winter due to it being closed. The peak season of July and August is crowded, so fall is an ideal time to visit. Show more

What is the altitude of Independence Pass, and how steep is the gradient?

At an elevation of 3,700 m (12,100 ft.), Independence Pass features a 6.5% gradient, three big switchbacks, and steep climbs. Large vehicles and trucks are restricted from this road. The pass is challenging to drive, demands attention and care when driving, and should be attempted only by experienced drivers. Show more

What can I see from the scenic overlooks at Independence Pass?

Independence Pass's scenic overlooks grants breathtaking views of the nearby mountains, including Snowmass Mountain, La Plata Peak, Capitol Peak, and Mount Elbert. Visitors also stand a good chance to spot wildlife, like marmots, pocket gopher, pika, and other wild mammals. Furthermore, visitors can observe numerous tree species and local flora such as Engelmann Spruce, Subalpine Fir, and Lodgepole Pine. Show more

Can I go rock climbing at Independence Pass, and where are the most popular spots?

Independence Pass is a well-known rock climbing destination, with popular spots being Karma Cliff, Putterman's Dome, and The Grotto Wall. Climbing routes range from 5.5 to 5.14 ratings, and visitors must come with the required gear. Additionally, visitors should be aware of the altitude, exercise caution while climbing, follow safe practices, and maintain awareness of the high altitude condition. Show more

Is Independence Pass accessible during winter, and are there any winter sports activities?

Independence Pass is closed during winter, i.e., from early November until late May, making it inaccessible. However, from May until July, skiing can be done on enough snow on the slopes. Nearby resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Snowmass, and Aspen can provide tourists with an opportunity to indulge in winter sports like snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Show more

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