Independence Ghost Town


16 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82,
just below the summit of Independence Pass


June 15 - September 2
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Self-guided otherwise


$5/adult suggested donation
Children 18 and under free (must be accompanied by an adult)
Free for active military personnel

Independence was the first mining site in the Roaring Fork Valley where, legend has it, prospectors discovered the Independence Gold Lode on July 4, 1879. Interpretive signs and trails tell of the characters, enterprises, and structures that make it an integral part of area history. Located just below the Continental Divide, the ghost town is a “don’t-miss stop” on Independence Pass along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway.

Discover Independence in the Archives

View historical photographs, maps, and artifacts related to Independence Ghost Town in the online archives.


Site History

Prospectors discovered gold at Independence sometime around July 4, 1879, giving the town its name. A tent city sprang up and, by the summer of 1880, residents were constructing log cabins and opening businesses to serve the new mining camp. Building a town at 10,900’ above sea level was challenging. Constant cold, fierce storms, and isolation conspired to make life arduous. Initially, Independence proved to be worth the effort.

By 1882, Independence had a population of roughly 1,000 people working in the mines and the Farwell Gold Mill, for freight or stage outfits, or for one of the 40 businesses that lined Aspen Avenue. But the boom was about to bust. Gold veins were only shallow deposits that were quickly exhausted. Over $190,000 of gold was produced in 1881 and 1882, but by August 1882 the mines and mill were closed.

During its short life, Independence was known by many names: Farwell, Chipeta City, Sparkhill, Mammoth Mountain, and Mt. Hope. Different groups attempted to gain control of the camp to sell town lots, but the name Independence endured.

Prospectors searched in vain over the next several decades for one more mother lode but never found another gold deposit. Miners packed up and moved to other gold strikes or down to Aspen, which was growing quickly due to large silver deposits. By 1888, Aspen had approximately 7,000 residents, while fewer than 100 citizens remained in Independence.

The end finally came in the winter of 1899, when record snowfall blanketed Colorado. Supply routes were cut off and food ran out. Residents used long planks of wood to make 75 pairs of skis, escaping en masse to Aspen. They made light of their adventure by making it a ski race – entry fee: one ham sandwich.

One b/w photograph of the ghost town of Independence in the summer. It is taken from about the same vantage point as 86.32.2, which was photographed forty years later.
Photo | Aspen Historical Society

In 1975, Aspen Historical Society was granted a permit by the United States Forest Services to maintain and interpret the ghost town site, and it was also added to the National Register of Historical Places which helped protect the remaining structures under federal law. Soon after, AHS began staffing an intern at the site in partnership with the USFS. Preservation and reconstruction efforts began in earnest in the 1980s under the leadership of Ramona Markalunas.


Additional Locations

Wheeler / Stallard Museum

620 W. Bleeker Street

Holden/Marolt Museum

40180 Highway 82

Ashcroft Ghost Town

11000 Castle Creek Road

Archives Office

620 W. Bleeker Street

Land Acknowledgement
We gratefully acknowledge we gather on the land of the Uncompahgre band of the Ute Nation, or Nuche, past and present. We honor this land and the people who lived in harmony with the natural world for generations before their forced removal. We are committed to sharing the complete history of the land, recognizing and partnering with Native Peoples, and supporting the advancement of Native places and heritage. This calls us all to be better stewards of the land we inhabit and the natural resources we benefit from today.