Independence Pass

Independence Pass, just east of Aspen, Colorado, is a natural wonder. Here, where State Highway 82 passes over the 12,095-foot summit of the Pass, travelers can see many of Colorado’s highest peaks and experience first-hand the magnificent scenery, vegetation and wildlife that characterize the Colorado high country. This spectacular corridor is a favorite recreational playground, a treasure-trove of history, and a priceless ecological resource.

The Pass has been the eastern gateway to Aspen ever since prospectors from Leadville crossed the Continental Divide in search of precious metals. The original 1882 road was a hand-hewn wagon trail, but in 1927, the road was taken over by the State of Colorado and rebuilt along its current alignment.

The Pass also serves as an historic link between the Western Slope and communities on the Front Range of Colorado. Thousands of people--from Aspen locals to international visitors--travel over the Pass from its opening in May to its closing in the fall.

People with disabilities are among the travelers and recreationists who enjoy the Pass. The Aspen Braille Trail was built high up in the Independence Pass wilderness, at 10,400 feet, by a small band of Aspenites and White River Forest Service personnel. Robert B. Lewis, who created the Independence Pass Foundation in 1989, was the primary impetus for the trail.

This unique mountain corridor is located almost entirely on publicly accessible federal lands within the White River and Pike-San Isabel National Forests. The corridor is one of the most heavily used recreational areas in the Roaring Fork Valley. Recreationists use the Pass for activities ranging from hiking and rock climbing in the summer months to cross country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter months.

But the Pass is about more than scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. It is a place where people can go to interact with nature firsthand, to view the world from a different vantage point, to gain a fresh perspective, and to be energized and inspired.


Sandra and Capt. Harry Wanman, parents of IPF Board member Gail Holstein, traveled over the Pass in 1943 or 1944. Harry is in his Army Air Corps uniform (that’s what they called the Air Force before it became a separate service). Falling in love with Colorado, they moved here after World War II.

Independence Pass is located almost entirely on publicly accessible federal lands within the White River and Pike-San Isabel National Forests. Recreationists use the Pass for activities ranging from hiking and rock climbing in the summer to cross country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter.