Independence Pass Frequently Asked Questions

Photo by Sally Pearce, CDOTWhat is Independence Pass?

Independence Pass is a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway that is maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Part of State Highway 82, it is the highest paved state highway over the Continental Divide in Colorado. Though it is a paved road, it can be narrow and winding and therefore difficult to traverse in poor weather. It also has steep dropoffs in places along the route. Several areas of the roadway can only accommodate a single car width, so drivers must use caution and pay close attention when confronted with oncoming traffic.

Where is the Pass located?

The summit of Independence Pass is located 18 miles west of Twin Lakes and 19 miles east of Aspen and crosses the Continental Divide over the Sawatch Range. It winds through the San Isabel National Forest on the east and White River National Forest on the west side of the Divide.

How long and high is the Pass?

The Pass travels through 32 miles of mountainous terrain. The summit of the Pass reaches an elevation of 12,095 feet.

Are there visitor attractions?

The Pass includes a wide variety of visitors' attractions, including the ghost town of Independence, once a booming gold mining town. In addition, there are many trailheads and campgrounds, scenic overlooks and wildlife viewing areas. The area is also host to beautiful autumn foliage colors. The more adventurous can find points of geologic interest within a short hike of developed parking areas including the Grottos and the Devil Punch Bowl. In addition to those features, other ghost towns and high mountain reservoirs can be reached, though access is more challenging.

Is the Pass open year round?

No. During the winter months, heavy snowfall at the highest elevations of the pass makes it impossible to travel. Independence Pass is generally open from Memorial Day until late October or early November. The target reopening date each spring is the Thursday before the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but always visit before you travel to check the status of the pass.

Who can drive on the Pass?

Oversize and overweight vehicles are strictly prohibited from using the Pass at any time due to narrow and winding roads and steep inclines. Absolutely no vehicles over 35 feet in length may use the Pass at any time. Length and weight limits remain in place due to several existing single lane-only widths and tight curves in today¹s roadway.

Where can I learn more?

For more information about road conditions along Independence Pass, you can call CDOT at 303-639-1111 or toll-free at 877-315-ROAD. For information about San Isabel or White River National Forest around the Pass, you can call the Leadville Ranger district at 719-486-0749 or the Aspen Ranger district at 970-925-3445. For current information on the Pass, visit For more information on the history, environmental, and recreational offerings of the Pass, contact the Independence Pass Foundation at 970-963-4959 or visit the Web site at Also, please visit the Links page of this site for additional links to related sites.