Journey on this epic highway above the clouds and get to a place that few ever visit, The Great Continental Divide. Highway 82, known as Independence Pass, climbs up into the Rocky Mountains and takes you to a breathtaking elevation of 12,095ft. above sea level. Here lives the Great Divide, which splits the water that drains to the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. This awe-inspiring highway gets even more enticing because it connects two legendary mountain towns, Aspen and Buena Vista.
Independence Pass to Aspen
Drive Above the Clouds
Independence Pass Highlights:
Including breathtaking, 360 degree views atop the continental Divide.
At 12,095 ft, Independence Pass is one of the highest paved passes in North America! On your drive, you will pass by the tallest mountain in Colorado, Mt. Elbert, and on the opposite (south) side you will pass La Plata Peak (the 5th largest mountain in CO).
The drive weaves through 2 National Forests, White River and Gunnison, in the Sawatch Mountain Range. You will have up close views of the historic avalanche paths that now exist due to Colorado’s epic 2018-2019 winter. You’ll be blown away by the amount of destruction snow can naturally do to mountains.
How To Access Independence Pass
For road conditions call: CDOT at 303-639-1111
Drive south all the through Main Street Aspen. Look for signs along the way that will help direct you to Hwy 82. After exiting the bulk of main st. you’ll take a left on E. Cooper Rd. This road soon becomes HWY 82 and you’ll be headed directly towards Independence Pass. The drive from Aspen to Buena Vista is about 1 hour and 45 minutes long, depending on stops along the way. Coming from I-70 outside of Vail, the drive takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes, taking the route south through Leadville.
From Buena Vista:
Travel North on HWY 24 while passing through Buena Vista. You’ll stay on this road for about 18 miles. After you pass the tiny town of Granite you’ll see a sign for Twin Lakes and turn left onto HWY 82. This will take you directly up to Independence Pass. Take a moment to enjoy the beautiful glacial lakes that the town Twin Lakes is named after. Be aware of officer Mani Quin who likes to sit in the small town of Twin Lakes.
• Use extreme caution around cliffs and steep drop offs along the drive.
• There are a few spots on the west side of the pass that are narrow and only accommodate one car.
• Be very aware of oncoming traffic and go slow.
• Pay close attention near avalanche paths, as there are bumps and cracks in the pavement.
• Overweight and oversized vehicles are prohibited on the road.
• Explore the paved scenic trails at the summit.
• The Grottos: This easy 0.5 mile loop explores ice caves, waterfalls, and amazing rock formations.
• Independence Ghost Town: located just past the summit towards Aspen lies the remains of the first mining site in the Roaring Fork Valley. This archeological preserve features interpretive stations and a self guided journey through history.
Roughly 32 miles long
Highest Elevation: 12,095 ft
Average Temperature: 65-75 (Summer)
Opens Memorial Day
Closes November 1st
A Little Place Called Aspen
Aspen sits in the middle of White River National Forest, making it an amazing place to experience wildlife, explore trails, and relax amongst the mountains. This beautiful town is known globally because of the Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed mountains in North America, and is a sight you simply cannot miss. In addition to the world class outdoor scene, Aspen also has plentiful dining choices and is home to the most unique music venue in Colorado, Belly Up. Rolling Stone Magazine listed Belly Up as one of the “Best Clubs In America” and is admired by locals for the world class talent that rolls through. This mountain town is simply amazing.
Here are some of our favorite things to do while visiting Aspen:
Enjoy a scenic Gondola Ride in Aspen: There are 2 gondolas you can ride while in the area, either from the base of Aspen or Snowmass Mountain. At the top you can experience a variety of activities from ziplining, to giant chess, and even an alpine roller coaster.
Go See The Maroon Bells: Take a bus tour up into the wilderness to view the magnificence of these famous peaks. The road up to the Maroon Bells is only open in the summer and is prone to overcrowding. We recommend visiting during non-peak weekdays and getting an early start (especially during leaf changing season).
Bike the Rio Grande: This paved biking trail runs right next to the Roaring Fork River from Aspen all the way to Glenwood Springs. The flat easy riding makes it enjoyable for all biking abilities.
Slingshot Over The Great Divide!
Enjoy Independence Pass with the 2019 Polaris Slingshot SL today. This open air cockpit machine allows you and a passenger to enjoy all the views over the Great Divide. It also boosts 173 horsepower and a completely waterproof interior. Rocky Mountain Adventure Rentals is excited to rent these quality machines out for a daily rate of $299 from either our Buena Vista or Vail location.
Polaris Slingshot Rentals
Full Day: $299
Season: May - October
Buena Vista Office: 719-966-5233
Must be 25 years or older to rent. Must have valid Drivers License and know how to operate a manual transmission. Passengers under 18 must have guardian signature. Our cancellation policy: If you cancel your reservation at least 48 hours prior to your rental date, you will receive a refund. Cancellations made inside of 48 hours are not subject to refund.