Just south of Leadville is Independence Pass, which scales the Continental Divide from Twin Lakes to Aspen. While it’s part of the Top of the Rockies scenic byway, it’s also a favorite recreation destination.
Independence Pass offers one of the state’s most extensive above tree line, paved cycling experiences. It’s also considered to be one of the best road biking climbs in Colorado.
At 12,095 feet, Independence Pass is the fourth highest paved road in the state. The ride from Twin Lakes to the summit is 35-miles round-trip with a 3,100-foot elevation gain. The first 13 miles of the ride climb gently through a gorgeous valley marked by meadows and high forests. The last four miles are made of steep switchbacks that take riders above tree line with rewarding views of multiple mountain ranges.
Independence Pass is also a great climbing area. Here, rocks flaunt relatively short approaches and provide an array of fun climbs. A great place to start is at Grotto Wall’s historic route, Cryogenics Corner.
The walls at Independence Pass tend to face south, so days can be hot under the high-elevation sun. CDOT closes the highway at the end of October and won’t reopen it until Memorial Day, so get your climbing in before the routes become inaccessible for the season.
Take a more leisurely route and check out Independence Pass from the comfort of your car. The best time to drive Independence Pass is in September when summer crowds have died down and leaves are at their peak. Because of its unreal, jaw-dropping scenery, Independence Pass remains a classic Colorado drive. From the turn into Twin Lakes to the pass itself, views are spectacular. On the Aspen side of the pass, drivers should be prepared to experience extremely narrow and windy roads that make pulses race. Just be sure to be camera ready because Independence Pass’s backdrop can’t be beat.