Independence Ghost Town

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The Aspen area offers a couple of good ghost towns to explore, and one of them is right by the side of the road, even before you get to Aspen.  Just after you’ve crossed over Independence Pass on Highway 82, you’ll drive by Independence Ghost Town.  You can see the town’s old buildings from the highway.  There’s a parking area here, and you can easily walk down the hill for a closer look.

The Independence boom began with the discovery of gold nearby on the 4th of July, 1879.  By the following year, there were 300 people camping out here, and by 1882 the town had 1,500 residents and 40 businesses, including three grocery stores.  The Independence Lode ran out quickly, and by 1888 the population had dwindled to 100.  In the winter of 1899, severe weather forced many of the remaining miners to dismantle their homes and make skis, allowing them to escape to Aspen.

Once you’ve made your way down the hill from the highway and the parking area, trails take you past some of the ghost town’s best buildings.

This one was well-maintained, and sealed shut, but others…

… were open to the elements, and slowly falling apart.

Life in Independence would have come with a great view, but it would have been tough to survive here.  Independence is at 10,830 feet, and the winters would have been brutal.  It’s tough to realize just how cold and miserable this place could be in the winter, when you’re standing in the sunshine on a beautiful late-spring day.

Some buildings are missing their roofs…

… while others have been restored enough to slow their decay.  This building is an example of a typical miner’s cabin.

You’ll also find piles of old timbers scattered around the town, marking the spots where buildings once stood.

You’ll find a donation box at the start of the trail that leads down to the ruins. An admission fee of $3 is suggested.

Drive a bit further down Highway 82, towards Aspen, and you’ll pass some more ruins from the gold mines at Independence.  At this spot, there isn’t much of a parking area, nor will you find a well-established trail to take you closer to the ruins.  That’s probably a good thing, since the ground could be unstable.

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