7 - 8
FATMAP difficulty grade
"At 12,095', Independence Pass is the fourth highest paved road in Colorado,” writes [SummitBiking.org](http://www.summitbiking.org/area_rides/independence_pass.html).
From the top of Independence Pass, you’ll enjoy expansive views of the impressive Sawatch mountain range, with numerous peaks climbing to over 14,000 feet.
Thanks to its skyscraping height, and having been featured in the US Pro Challenge in years past, Independence Pass is a bucket list ride for cyclists from around the nation. The route as it is mapped here begins in downtown Aspen, climbs to the top of the pass, and descends all the way to the small town of Twin Lakes.
Twin Lakes provides the perfect spot to stop and refuel, with a small general store and a restaurant.
You can just as easily begin the route from the Twin Lakes side.
Many riders will only pedal from the respective town to the top of the pass, and turn around.
Choosing to cross the pass both ways as mapped here is a full-day ride.
If you don’t think you’re up to the challenge of almost 8,000 feet of climbing, do the smart thing and turn around at the top so you don’t get stranded on the opposite side! The character of the road is very different on the two sides of the pass.
The highway climbing up from Aspen to the top of the pass is very narrow, tight, and twisty, with numerous blind corners.
In some sections, the center line disappears and the highway drops from two lanes to roughly a lane and a half wide.
As you ride, be aware of inattentive motorists who aren’t used to driving narrow, treacherous mountain passes—tourists flood the area in the summertime. In contrast, while the Twin Lakes side of the pass does feature a few steep, exposed sections of highway, overall the highway is much wider and well-built, with better sight lines.
While this does provide more space to ride, it also encourages drivers to make up time with high rates of speed.
Caution is still advised. Independence Pass is not maintained in the winter, and consequently becomes buried in snow.
While it’s usually open by Memorial Day, check with CDOT for the latest road conditions.
A popular time to bag the pass is right after the snow has melted or been cleared from the road, and right before the gates are opened to motorized traffic.
There’s usually a short 3-day window when the pass is rideable without traffic—take advantage of it!