Aspen Mountain, Independence Loop

  • Geographic Region(s):
  • Trip Length: 7 - 10 Days

This Itinerary takes you from the dry rocky canyons of northwestern Colorado to the lush, Aspen filled mountains of the Maroon Bells Wilderness.

Crystal clear glacial melt fills the lakes throughout this beautiful wilderness. This route also takes you from Denver over Independence Pass (12,095 ft). The traverse affords you wonderful views of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness (south), and the Mount Massive Wilderness (North). From the East side of the pass, you drop down into the San Isabel National Forest. Finally, you climb over Weston Pass (11,921). You will cross the continental divide 3 times on this trip! This Rental Itinerary is great for a 7-14 Day Campervan Adventure. Be safe and enjoy!

Day 1. Leave Golden, CO, and head west on I-70. Your initial 40 miles will take you through the historic mining towns of Idaho Springs and Georgetown. On a longer trip, stopping in these quaint little towns is highly recommended. See maps and Points of Interest Pages for things to see and do in these spots. Continue on I-70 west towards Glenwood Springs, CO. At exit 157, take CO-131 North towards Steamboat Springs for approx. 25 miles. On the left you will see Colorado River Rd. follow this for approx 10 miles to Elby Creek Rd. This is a very bumpy dirt road, so take it slow. At 3.6 miles on this road, there will be a road sign for rd 8544. There is great camping here, along with a really fun 4×4 trail that leads to the top of a bluff with amazing views and a great place to camp. Relax and enjoy the night.

Day 2-4. Get an early start! This will afford you the time to take a small side trip to Hanging Lakes, outside of Glenwood Springs. This is a must-do! The hike to the lake is 2 miles round trip, and fairly steep and strenuous, but worth the effort! A beautiful waterfall fills a turquoise pool of crystal clear water. Not far off the trail is spouting rock. A waterfall coming out of the face of the mountain. Depending on time spent at the lake, this will be a 2-4 hr side trip. From here head west on I-70 to Glenwood Springs. For you adventurous types, Glenwood Springs Adventure Park is just the thing for you. Choose the Giant Canyon Swing, which launches you out over the canyon 1300 ft above the Colorado River! Take a ride on the first alpine coaster in the United States! You control the speed of your very own coaster car. Whatever you choose, you are guaranteed to have a blast. From Glenwood Springs, Head South on CO-82 towards Aspen. You will be passing through the beautiful White River National Forest. In 41 miles arrive in beautiful Aspen, CO. Either have us reserve a spot at one of the three campgrounds on Maroon Creek Rd., or find dispersed camping on Castle Creek Rd./ rd 102. I would suggest at least 1 night in one of the structured campgrounds to allow for exploring Maroon Lake, a crystal clear glacial lake, and the surrounding area. With Aspens and wildflowers abound, this area is truly a sight to behold.

Day 5-6. From Camping, Follow Castle Creek Rd. down to Little Annie Rd. Continue on little Annie rd to Aspen Mt Summer Rd 4×4 trail. This road takes you to the top of Aspen Mt Resort. Great Picnic spots up here. Continue down the front side of Aspen Mt. Driving under the gondola and the ski lifts. End up in the town of Aspen. Stop here and explore the town of Aspen. When done exploring Aspen, continue on CO-82 south, which will take you over Independence Pass and the Continental Divide. Stop and explore the Ghost town of Independence, near the top of the pass. Continue over the pass and down into the San Isabel National Forest. 3/10 of a mile past MM 68 is great dispersed camping along the north fork of the White River.

Day 7-8. From Camp, continue on CO-82, past Twin Lakes, to its end at US-24. Head North on US-24 towards Leadville. At 10,152 ft elevation, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States. A unique town worth checking out. For camping, Turquoise Lake is a good spot to set up camp. Plenty of good fishing along with hiking and Mt biking trails that circle the lake.

Day 9-10. From the lake, Backtrack on US-24 to county rd 7, the road for Mt Massive Lakes. These are private lakes, so continue on to FR 425 also Weston pass rd. There are plenty of great camp spots on both the east and west sides of Weston Pass. I would suggest camping on both sides of the pass. Both sides are beautiful with great fishing and hiking. From camp continue on FR 425 to CR 5. This will take you to US-285. From here head north through Fairplay and on to CO-470 back to Golden.

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