Explore Independence Ghost Town
Colorado › Independence Ghost Town
Added by Jennifer Broome
Independence Ghost Town is a step back in time experience. It is a living history lesson. As you explore the ghost town sitting at 10,830' you get a glimpse of what mining life was like in the late 1800s.
Back in the late 1800s, Ashcroft, Aspen, and Independence were booming mining town. While Aspen is still thriving today, Ashcroft and Independence are ghost towns. Independence Ghost Town is on Independence Pass, 16 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82.
The Farwell Mill sits right along the highway. Independence Pass closes in winter, but the drive is one of the prettiest in Colorado in summer or fall.
Aspen Historical Society has been involved in the preservation of Independence Ghost Town since the 1970s. There is no charge to visit Independence, but they do ask for a $3 donation.
In the late 1880s, gold was found in the mountains by the Roaring Fork River. While touring the ghost town with Anna Scott from the Aspen Historical Society, she filled me in on the legend of Independence, “It’s said that on July 4th in 1879 that this town was, the claim of Independence was found. That was the major gold claim for this town. When you think of a boom and bust this is your classic boom and bust mining town.”
In the 1870s, the Hayden Survey showed the area would be rich in silver and possibly gold. Independence was a mining town that was very short lived. But in its heyday, Independence had over forty businesses, including blacksmiths, butcher, post office, and of course a general store. Today, you can still walk into the old general store building to learn more about the history of the ghost town and even buy small souvenirs like candy or gold.
Multiple doors in this building mean it was likely a store, or perhaps even two stores. Most of the businesses also housed homes. As you wander through what is left of the buildings, you’ll notice the roofs are low. That was to keep heat in. Often you would have multiple people living in a home instead of just one or two. More people meant more heat. You’ll also notice the buildings had flooring.
But there were some cabins up on the hillside where people lived. During the boom days, Independence population soared to 1500.
It was a transient town with a tent city. Anna Scott said, “Miners would actually bring their tents down. They would set them up there. That’s where they would live while they were in town. “ As you look at the old platforms and tent plots, you can envision what the tent city would have looked like. A lot of the miners were out on the mountainsides and would only come in to town to get supplies.
Life at 10,830' was rough because of the isolation from the steep, tough terrain and the weather. Even in summer, it can be cold here.
The main travel road, Aspen Street, went right through Independence. You can still walk the road, which is now a trail, to the Farwell Mill. If you walk the trail, you'll see the old stables.
It is hard to miss the Farwell Mill as you drive along Highway 82. The old mill that sits roadside is a shadow of what it once was.
Once a bustling mill crushing ore, it is now crumbling into a pile of wood. “The mill was the main place where mining and crushing the ore. The center of the mining activity." said Anna Scott.
When you visit, you see the remnants of mining life in a great educational and interesting stop on a road trip. Instead of just reading about history, if you stop at Independence Ghost Town, you get to experience it seeing the old buildings and even remnants like cans and bottles of everyday life in the late 1800s. In addition to a history lesson, you also get a geology and environment lesson.
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Very cool spot!
This is the perfect little spot to explore if you're in Aspen and don't have the energy for a big hike. Accessible by car this ghost town shows a very cool historical side of Aspen. Plus, you have to drive up Independence Pass to get here and that road is probably one of the best in America!
This is one of the true ghost towns in Colorado and set in a pretty stunning valley. It's mind-boggling how high this town is and that it even functioned in the winter. I believe there's a sign that says no dogs but I don't see an issue if you stay on the trails and clean-up after them.
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