Independence Ghost Town

Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 10,850 - 10,960 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 45 mins.
Trailhead: Independence Townsite
Fee: none
Attractions: Mining ghost town

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Located on Independence Pass east of Aspen, Colorado is the ghost town of the once thriving, but short lived, mining town of Independence. Prospectors discovered the Independence lode on July 4, 1879 and soon after a town that reached a population of 1,500 people by the year 1882 had sprung up. The town was also known by several other names including Chipeta, Farwell, Mammoth City, Mount Hope and Sparkill. By 1890, after having only produced about $190,000 in ore the site had become a ghost town.

The trailhead is about 16 miles east of Aspen. Several kiosks tell the story of the town beginning with the discovery of gold in 1879. Besides a place for the miners to live the town was an important stop for the stagecoach. When silver was discovered near Aspen at Ashcroft the railroad was built and the stageline was no longer needed. At the time of that first gold discovery all of the land west of the Continental Divide belonged to the Utes. When gold was discovered the prospectors were actually trespassing on Ute land. Dreams of riches brought so many people to the mountains that it was determined that the Utes must go so they were eventually pushed to reservations in southwest Colorado and eastern Utah.

From the parking area an easy to follow trail leads down the hillside to the townsite.

The Aspen Historical Society has worked to preserve some of the remaining buildings. Several of the building sites have signs indicating either their original owner for the function they served such as general store or hotel.

A small museum of artifacts is on display in front of one of the miners cabins. It is important to remember that it is illegal to hunt, dig or remove artifacts of any kind from an archaeological site.

This is a good example of how cabins were constructed. A solid piece of ground was leveled and timbers were laid out to serve as floor joists. Heavier logs were used to box it all in and serve as the foundation for the walls. The gaps between the logs would have been plastered with mud to keep the draft out. That was something that generally required to be continually repaired.

There are several picnic tables where visitors can enjoy the ambiance. This table is near the spot where Independence Creek streams into the Roaring Fork River. In the search for gold prospectors would have been working their way down the valley, working samples of dirt in their pans, looking for color. Once color was found the search for its source, the mother lode, would begin.

A section of the old stage road that connected Independence with the outside world can still be seen. In the winter when the snow was deep enough they would replace the wheels with runners and turn the coach into a sleigh. It is told that they had to change horses 5 times just to get over the pass.

In the eyes of European settlers the Utes were wasting the land. They didn't farm the land, or graze cattle upon it, and they didn't mine it for its gold and silver or other minerals. In many of their eyes the Utes didn't deserve the land and it was their manifest destiny to take it. Colorado has over 1,500 ghost towns that sprung up just like Independence did. Of those there are about 640 that still remain. Each of the towns has a story to tell and this is part of the story of Independence. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.