Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley Experience

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Independence Pass

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the most beautiful route to Aspen is over Independence Pass. From the Vail–Leadville–Buena Vista corridor on the east side of the Sawatch Mountains, Highway 82 climbs up and over 12,095-foot Independence Pass and switchbacks down to Aspen, along the way passing above tree line and making some spectacular white-knuckle hairpin turns (drive slowly to appreciate the scenery, and also because you might have to yield to oncoming traffic in narrow, one-lane sections). The pass divides the Mount Massive Wilderness to the north from the Collegiate Peaks to the south. The trip's not for the fainthearted, given the long exposed drops and the possibility for snow at any time of the year. Elk and mule deer herds can sometimes be seen at dawn and dusk, grazing in the willow thickets beside Lake Creek as it cascades down the eastern flank of the pass. As soon as the autumn snow flies, however, the pass closes and Aspen becomes a cul-de-sac town accessible only via Glenwood Springs.

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