Monday, June 27, 2016

Independence Pass

Just south of the Leadville Fish Hatchery, Highway 82 heads west toward Aspen, Colorado. Along that route lies Independence Pass, which at 12,095 feet is the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the US.

Much of this road is closed until around Memorial Day, as there is too much snow to keep the road plowed through the winter. 
Twin Lakes Historic District
Shortly after turning onto Hwy 82 we came to the area known as Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes and Leadville are often mentioned together as a recreational area, and we expected to find a thriving little town there. We were surprised to discover only a small historic district with a few older buildings and a modern general store. There was a nice interpretive trail that offered great views of the lakes and mountains beyond. 
Twin Lakes
After leaving Twin Lakes the road began to climb and narrow. In some areas several switchbacks were used to take us up, up and up!
Switchback Ahead
The road is restricted to vehicles no longer than 35'. In spite of the restriction truck-trailer combinations occasionally get stuck in one of the switchbacks, resulting in the road being closed until they can be towed back out. The fines for this mistake are apparently very steep.
Hwy 82 approaching Independence Pass
As we approached the pass we ascended above treeline and encountered quite a lot of snow. This area is considered alpine tundra, with only small, low-growing grasses and flowers.
Alpine Tundra
While the area looks stark, there were some small wildflowers blooming, including this Dwarf Clover.
Dwarf Clover
We also enjoyed seeing a few Mountain Bluebirds. With no trees and few insects we wonder what they were doing up this high. Who knows??
Mountain Bluebird
As we descended from the pass toward Aspen, we came across several Yellow-bellied Marmots enjoying the warm sun.
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Once we got back below the treeline we stopped in several spots to enjoy the Roaring Fork River and hiking trails along the way.
Roaring Fork River
The river was certainly living up to its name. With maximum snow-melt occurring in June all of the area rivers are running full. The wet riverside areas had a nice variety of flowers in bloom, including Marsh Marigold and Globeflower.
Marsh Marigold
When we reached Aspen we found it to be crowded, expensive and touristy. But the drive over sure was nice!



  1. Do you live at that elevation? While very beautiful I know I'd have problems with altitude sickness. Snow in late June?.... hmmmm

    1. The elevation at the fish hatchery where we are staying is 9600 feet. We've not had any problems with it, though the air is thin up here, no doubt. It was 34 degrees here this morning, so it may take the snow a while longer to melt!

  2. Always kind of cool to cross the continental divide! I wouldn't want to be the navigator that routed us on that road. We ended up on a road we shouldn't have been on in Idaho when we first started out - scary trip down a mountain.

  3. I have a theory on why the bluebird was there...he saw you take your camera with you and he followed you up to take his picture so he could get in your blog. :)

    1. Usually as soon as I raise my camera the subject heads for the hills!!