Founded in the late 19th century, Independence Ghost Town saw at its height a population of nearly 1,500 people. Life at 10,900 feet was tough, but the town grew to over 40 businesses and many homes and other buildings. These days, about 90 buildings have been discovered in the town.
About the Ghost Town
Located at 10,900 feet, the Independence Ghost Town covers about 2 acres of land across the area where you see the buildings today. Life was harsh for the inhabitants, cold, dangerous work awaited many of them in the business of mining.
The Name Independence when legend had it that gold was discovered on July 4th (1879), which was called the independence gold lode. News spread fast and within a year the town started taking form with several buildings and a population of about 300 individuals.
As the gold boom grew, so did the population. With a peak of 1,500 folks, it turned out to be a proper town with good stores, a saloon, mill, 4 hotels, and even a newspaper!
But as with everything, what goes up, must come down. And as the gold dried up, so did the population. Living in such extreme conditions was tough when the gold was harder to get!
Only 20 years later in 1899, the population had shrunk to under 100 individuals, and a particularly harsh winter was the end of the town. The remaining folks used any means necessary to leave and make their way to Aspen and other more hospitable towns.
When to Visit Independence Ghost Town
The Ghost town is only accessible from about late May through Early October. The pass and road here are closed during times of snowfall. The exact date of opening is not known as its highly dependent on the weather.
Even in May/June or early October you’ll possibly experience snow or other weather conditions. Be mindful and drive and travel appropriately for the site.
July – September are the best times to visit. It tends to be the best weather, least precipitation, and most sunlight. I was shocked even on a holiday weekend in summer, crowds were low for the town. I expected parking/visiting to be more difficult.
Where to Park for Independence Ghost Town
The ghost town runs along Colorado 82, about 4 miles northeast from Independence pass / continental divide.
There are actually two parking areas for the Independence Ghost town. One on the Southeast side of the town and one along the northwest side of the town. You can see the locations on the map above.
To help you here are links to it on google maps along with lat/long
Southeast Parking Area
We recommend you park here for visiting the site. It has the best parking option as well as the closest to most of the buildings within Independence Ghost Town.
If you are short of time, definitely park here, as you’ll get to see the most buildings the fastest.
Parking here is straight in as seen in the image above. Be careful backing out.
Northwest Parking Area
The north parking area is smaller, but longer and has spots for parallel parking. You’ll have access to the area closest to the mill and another building. Most of the rest of the town can be accessed via the trail within Independence ghost town.
This is the parking lot closer to the direction of Aspen. It is also good to check here if the other parking lot is full.
Visiting Independence Ghost Town
The Independence Ghost Town has quite a few buildings one can explore. If you parked at the southeast area mentioned above. You’ll see two entrances to the ghost town trail on either side of the parking area.
On the left you’ll see a trail leading down, and on the right stairs. From here the trail leads in various directions. If you have little time, we recommend focusing on this area. You’ll see quite a few buildings all about.
You cannot enter any of the buildings here, and remember, removal of ANY objects from the town is illegal.
But you can walk up to and explore and get close to many of these old buildings. Some are in pretty good shape with still standing components, and others mostly a pile of rubble.
If you head right (facing towards the mountains), you’ll see the trail continuing in that direction. There are several buildings here you can explore. There’s even what seems to be a “private cabin” that may still be in use? It has a padlock on it and various signs for the USFS. You’ll notice it with the remains of the outhouse next to it.
I just found it amazing that it’s labeled “Private Ghost Cabin”. Even the ghosts need proper accommodations it seems!
The town seems to stop here, however the trail does continue. You can see the trail and the sign going towards the west. If you follow it, you’ll see a few informational signs talking about environmental impact. You’ll even see trees from a landslide to your left.
Here you’ll connect back with buildings for the town. On the right you’ll see the remains of a large building. This is the remains of the No. 2 large gold mill for the farewell company. They used mills to separate gold nuggets from the ore.
Between the two mills they were able to process about $12,000 of gold per month.
There’s a couple small other ruins here before the trail bears right and uphill to reach the northwest parking lot. From here you can either head back through the town or along the road to your car.
Tips & FAQs
- Bring Water and Sunscreen. The area is pretty open, and in the summer the sun feels quite hot!
- Do Not Remove anything from the site. It’s illegal and more importantly it ruins the site for future visitors
- If you are short on time, park at the south. You’ll have a chance to see the most signs, buildings, and quickest visit to the town
- Be careful walking back along the road. There’s not much of a shoulder, so walk where cars can see you.
- I got warned about rattlesnakes, but they don’t live above about 9,500 feet. So you should be ok!
- Independence Ghost Town is only accessible from Late May – Early October. The route through Independence pass closes with snowfall.
- Stay on Trail. Off-trail hiking damages the land more. It’s pretty easy to stay on trail, so avoid going off.
Other Sites Nearby
Independence Pass/Continental Divide: 4 miles away; About 4 miles east from the town you’ll hit the continental divide and independence pass. The continental divide is the divide where river/water bains flow to different seas/oceans. It’s a nice quick stop for toilets as well as some beautiful views of the area.
Ashcroft Ghost Town: 29 miles away; If you are not ghost towned out, the town of Ashcroft is the largest ghost town in Colorado (it even had 2 newspapers). The town is 29 miles (1 hour) from Independence.
Twin Lakes: 21 miles away; Beautiful small hamlet and lake area. The area is popular for hiking (several 14ers in the area) and watersports on the lakes. Such a beautiful and serene location. Maroon Bells: 22 miles away; One of the most beautiful sites in Colorado. Hikes for all levels. Requires reservation ahead of time.