I always enjoy a ghost town, and fortunately, there are at least two of them within a short drove of Aspen, Colorado: Independence (on Highway 82 west of Independence Pass), and Ashcroft Ghost Town.
After a nearly-full day of hiking in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, I had just enough time remaining in the day to visit Ashcroft. It’s located just one valley over from Maroon Creek, and about 12 miles south of Aspen. From town, you take the same roundabout as the Maroon Bells, you just use a different exit, onto Castle Creek Road. Pass the hospital, then keep going. It’s a scenic drive that continues beyond the ghost town, but let’s stop there first.
At the entrance to Ashcroft Ghost Town, there’s a donation box, with a suggested entry fee of $3. That’s a reasonable price to pay, I think, for the preservation of so many old buildings.
Walk past the old wagon…
… and follow the paths into town. There’s a paved path (just to the right of this dirt one), so the town should be accessible to anyone.
Behind these old buildings is Ashcroft Mountain (on the left, at 12,381 feet) and Green Mountain (on the right, at 12,054 feet). In front of the buildings…
… I found a collection of old historic relics from the town’s boom days. Of course, back then, this was all trash.
[tmt_info =””]Ashcroft boomed along with the silver boom in the late 1800’s. During its heyday, more than 3,500 people lived in Ashcroft. The silver market crashed in 1893, and Ashcroft couldn’t survive. By 1895, the population dwindled to 100, and by 1912, when the post office suspended mail delivery, only 50 people lived there. [/tmt_info]
Peering inside, it looks like this building is a mini-museum during the day. I suppose I was visiting a little too late to go inside.
Follow the dirt path, and you’ll find another well-maintained structure…
… and its facilities.
Across the street, several more old buildings are lined up. The most striking of them all…
… is Ashcroft’s old hotel — actually, it was just one of the town’s six hotels, during the boom years.
The old hotel would be easier to photograph in the morning. I’ve seen some beautiful pictures of it, but at this time of day, I wasn’t going to capture any award-winners.
The hotel is in pretty good shape, but you do need to watch your step inside. Some of the floor boards are giving-way.
If you do venture up the rickety stairs…
… you’ll be able to look out the second-story windows at the rest of the town. But, it’s a little scary upstairs, as you feel the spongy timbers under your feet.
There’s still a great view out the front doors, more than 120 years after the place was built.
After tempting fate as I explored the old hotel, I left the rickety building behind, and peeked into a few of the other old structures at Ashcroft.
Some still have some “insulation” clinging to the walls. Just imagine living in this Swiss-cheese structure during a brutal Rocky Mountain winter!
Another building is just a shell, with no floor — but the structure is still holding together nicely.
Once you’re satisfied with your visit to Ashcroft, get back in the car and drive on down the…
Castle Creek Valley
A few miles beyond Ashcroft, the road runs into Castle Creek, and the two run side-by-side for a while. Before long…
… you’ll reach a split in the road. The pavement becomes Copper Basin Road. I don’t know if it was closed due to snow up ahead, or whether the roadblock was put in place to enforce the “no motorized vehicles” posting.
If I had a 4-wheel-drive, I would have tried my luck at Pearl Pass Road, the other option at the fork. From what I’ve read, it starts off easy, but quickly becomes difficult. If you can make it 1.5 miles, there’s a nice waterfall. During some years, the road on the south side of the pass remains closed, because the snow never fully melts away. During the rare occasions when the road is clear, you could take it all the way to Crested Butte. Or, you can turn off to Montezuma Basin, which is easier, but still a challenging dirt trail.