Independence Ghost Town

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Independence Ghost Town - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

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Independence Ghost Town Information

Beyond my Door

Life over the Threshold.

Independence Ghost Town – Colorado Visitor Guide

by Anwar Leave a Comment

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.

View of Cabins and Landscape of Independence Ghost Town Colorado

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.

View of Town and Trail in Independence Ghost Town CO

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. 

Independence Ghost Town Parking Map

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 39.106811, -106.603606   |  Northwest Parking Area 39.108566, -106.613523

Southeast Parking Area Independence Ghost Town Colorado

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 - Independence Ghost Town

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.

Stairs to Ghost Town - Colorado

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. 

Building - Cabin in Independence Ghost Town

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.

View of Cabins in Independence Ghost Town CO

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.

Private Ghost Cabin - Independence Ghost Town

I just found it amazing that it’s labeled “Private Ghost Cabin”. Even the ghosts need proper accommodations it seems!

View of Avalanche-Landslide Independence Colorado

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.

Remains of Mill No. 2 in Independence Ghost Town Colorado

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.

Remains of Boarding House in Independence Ghost Town

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.

Maroon Bells - Aspen Snowmass Colorado

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 ev en 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.

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Aspen History & Museums: Independence Colorado Ghost Town

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  • Independence Ghost Town

Independence Ghost Town

Photo © Dan Staebler - AllTrips.com

Independence Ghost Town, the wooden skeleton remains of a Colorado mining operation of the 1880s, provides historical intrigue, perfect in conjunction with a hike on trails easily accessible from Independence Pass Road.

Located on highway 82, 16 miles se of aspen, co, on independence pass. in early spring and late fall, check colorado department of transportation road closure updates for pass status. guided interpretive tours available from mid june - labor day. suggested donation: $5. off-road parking. no dogs allowed..

In 1879, miners established the Beldon tent camp, hoping to strike it mineral rich. On July Fourth of that year, they hit pay dirt and renamed the camp Independence. After a short heyday, with a population of 500, in 1881, the expansion of the railroad system garnered the use of the treacherous pass unnecessary for stagecoach travel. The mine population dwindled, and, with the winter storm of 1899, the worst in the young state's history, all but one resident vacated the town. By 1912, it harbored only ghosts.

Independence lives on as an archaeological preserve maintained by Aspen Historical Society in cooperation with United States Forest Service. The remains of the town include, in various states of assemblage, a stable, a general store, two boarding houses, and Farwell Stamp Mill, once used to process mined ore. Guests are welcome to tour the grounds and let their imaginations roam. Preservationists do ask, however, that no souvenirs be taken from the site.

Travelers can find Independence, at 10,900 ft. elevation, on Highway 82, just 16 miles SE of Aspen, CO. The historic site lies between Roaring Fork River and the highway, four miles from the summit of Independence Pass. Off-road public parking is available.

  • Summer Hours (June 17 through Labor Day): 10am to 6pm

Access to Independence Ghost Town depends on road closures. Colorado Department of Transportation closes Independence Pass (Highway 82), the only approach to this ghost town, for the winter around Halloween and reopens around Memorial Day. For current road closure information, visit   www.cotrip.org , call (303) 639-1111 or dial 511 from inside Colorado State.

Suggested donation: $5.

For more information call (970) 925-3721 or visit www.aspenhistory.org/tours/independence-ghost-town/ .

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Independence Ghost Town is a step back in time experience. It is a living history lesson. As you explore the ghost town sitting at 10,830' you get a glimpse of what mining life was like in the late 1800s.

Back in the late 1800s, Ashcroft, Aspen, and Independence were booming mining town. While Aspen is still thriving today, Ashcroft and Independence are ghost towns. Independence Ghost Town is on Independence Pass, 16 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82.

The Farwell Mill sits right along the highway. Independence Pass closes in winter, but the drive is one of the prettiest in Colorado in summer or fall.

Aspen Historical Society has been involved in the preservation of Independence Ghost Town since the 1970s. There is no charge to visit Independence, but they do ask for a $3 donation.

In the late 1880s, gold was found in the mountains by the Roaring Fork River. While touring the ghost town with Anna Scott from the Aspen Historical Society, she filled me in on the legend of Independence, “It’s said that on July 4th in 1879 that this town was, the claim of Independence was found. That was the major gold claim for this town. When you think of a boom and bust this is your classic boom and bust mining town.”

In the 1870s, the Hayden Survey showed the area would be rich in silver and possibly gold. Independence was a mining town that was very short lived. But in its heyday, Independence had over forty businesses, including blacksmiths, butcher, post office, and of course a general store. Today, you can still walk into the old general store building to learn more about the history of the ghost town and even buy small souvenirs like candy or gold.

Multiple doors in this building mean it was likely a store, or perhaps even two stores. Most of the businesses also housed homes. As you wander through what is left of the buildings, you’ll notice the roofs are low. That was to keep heat in. Often you would have multiple people living in a home instead of just one or two. More people meant more heat. You’ll also notice the buildings had flooring.

But there were some cabins up on the hillside where people lived. During the boom days, Independence population soared to 1500.

It was a transient town with a tent city. Anna Scott said, “Miners would actually bring their tents down. They would set them up there. That’s where they would live while they were in town. “ As you look at the old platforms and tent plots, you can envision what the tent city would have looked like. A lot of the miners were out on the mountainsides and would only come in to town to get supplies.

Life at 10,830' was rough because of the isolation from the steep, tough terrain and the weather. Even in summer, it can be cold here.

The main travel road, Aspen Street, went right through Independence. You can still walk the road, which is now a trail, to the Farwell Mill. If you walk the trail, you'll see the old stables.

It is hard to miss the Farwell Mill as you drive along Highway 82. The old mill that sits roadside is a shadow of what it once was.

Once a bustling mill crushing ore, it is now crumbling into a pile of wood. “The mill was the main place where mining and crushing the ore. The center of the mining activity." said Anna Scott.

When you visit, you see the remnants of mining life in a great educational and interesting stop on a road trip. Instead of just reading about history, if you stop at Independence Ghost Town, you get to experience it seeing the old buildings and even remnants like cans and bottles of everyday life in the late 1800s. In addition to a history lesson, you also get a geology and environment lesson.

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Explore Independence Ghost Town Reviews

ghost town of independence colorado

Fun for a quick walk

We ended up doing this because it was a rainy day and did not want to commit to a larger hike, but it was totally worth it. Quite a few buildings that are still largely intact and signs that explain the history and layout of the old town keep you engaged for an hour or two.

ghost town of independence colorado

Mike Fennell

Very cool spot!

This is the perfect little spot to explore if you're in Aspen and don't have the energy for a big hike. Accessible by car this ghost town shows a very cool historical side of Aspen. Plus, you have to drive up Independence Pass to get here and that road is probably one of the best in America!

ghost town of independence colorado

Lisa Groene

Great little ghost town to explore; it's surprising to see how much some of the buildings are still intact. Stunning scenery as well!

ghost town of independence colorado

Jason Hatfield

This is one of the true ghost towns in Colorado and set in a pretty stunning valley. It's mind-boggling how high this town is and that it even functioned in the winter. I believe there's a sign that says no dogs but I don't see an issue if you stay on the trails and clean-up after them.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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Independence Ghost Town

Connects: Independence Pass Road (HWY 82) , Green Mountain Trail

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A building at the ghost town of Independence near Independence Pass

Aspen, CO – Ghost Town

The Independence Ghost Town is a historic gold and silver mining town. At its’ peak in 1882 the Town of Independence had over 40 businesses, 3 post offices, and an estimated population of 1,500. The town has gone by the name Independence, Chipeta, Mammoth City, Mount Hope, Farwell, Sparkill and Hunter’s Pass. This is a site 16 miles up Independence Pass Road (HWY 82) toward Independence Pass , just past mile marker 57. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Independence and Independence Mill Site.

More information about Independence Ghost Town can be found at: National Register of Historic Places – Independence and Independence Mill Site Aspen Historical Society – Independence Ghost Town Wikipedia – Independence, Pitkin County, Colorado

The story of Independence and the Farwell Mill begin after the publication of the Hayden Geologic Survey in the fall of 1878 for the mountainous region that was once part of the Ute Territory. As the snow began to melt and passage over what is now known as Independence Pass was possible, miners began to scour the hill sides looking for gold ore outcrops and staking their claims in the summer of 1879.

A wealthy Chicago investor, John V. Farwell, had already successfully built two mills, one in Georgetown and the other in Leadville. He hoped to follow suit with a third mill on the newly purchased claims of Independence, Legal Tender, Last Dollar and the Geld Placer.

Once summer came again in 1880, the Farwell Consolidated Mining Company started on plans to build a 10 stamp mill as well as dig the Brown Tunnel north from a low point to reach the ore above. By January 1881, both the mine and mill were generating profits, and soon after plans were made to build a second 20 stamp mill (the structure you are standing near) at the portal to the Brown Tunnel. Like many “company” towns, most residents worked for the mine since it owned the majority of producing claims. However, the town also served as a center for commerce, communication and transportation along the new toll road, so many businesses were opened to support the miners as well as the travelers entering the new mining territory.

While many prospectors tried their luck staking their own claims to strike it rich, the Farwell Mine was the only real claim that produced significant amounts of gold ore in Independence. The real riches in silver ore were being discovered just 16 miles away in a lower elevation mining town called Aspen, where many of Independence’s population moved by the late 1880s.

Walk in the footsteps of the old miners and enjoy a gentle hike along the old stage road to the main Independence town site from the Farwell Mill. The hike is about one mine long in each direction with historical signs to guide you along the path.

Your donations matter! Independence is a Nationally Registered Historic Site maintained by the Aspen Historical Society, a 501c3 nonprofit, in partnership with the White River National Forest Service & Independence Pass Foundation. All funds are used to help ongoing preservation of trails, picnic areas, signage, facilities, and to provide Interpreters. Thank you for your support.” The National Register of Historic Places description reads: (Click to expand) “Independence is generally considered to have been the first mining camp in the Aspen country and the start of the Aspen mining boom. The town took its name from the gold lode struck nearby, called the Independenc for its discovery on July 4, l879. The identity of the actual discoverer is somewhat clouded. Some say that it was Billy Belden who was leading a group of prospectors to the Aspen area, others claim that it was Charles Bennett, while still other sources point to the peripatetic Dick Irwin. Immediately following the discovery, a tent city sprung up, followed by a fewcabins. The first cabin in the camp is thought to have been erected by J. B. Connor.

By 1860 around 300 people were living in the camp. By 1881 the population had grown to 500 souls and a business directory listed 11 firms (4 grocery stores, 4 boarding houses and 3 saloons). The camp reached its peak activity in 1882 with over 40 business establishments listed in the localdirectory. The population probably reached a peak somewhere between 1000 and 2000. It is said that the camp was on the wild side with many saloons, gambling halls and brothels.

The town had its own newspaper called the Independence Miner which was established in October 1881, but apparently it was very short-lived. Some of the more prominent business establishments during the peak of activity included the Connor House, the “finest boarding house in Independence,” the New England House on the east end of Main Street run by a Mrs. Briggs, the Independence House where a miner would get room and board for $2 per day, the Grand Hotel, and the Langstaff Bros. General Store which carried all manner of groceries, wine and liquor. It also had a bank even before Aspen or Ashcroft.

Mining activity waned after 1882 and by 1888 fewer than 100 residents remained in the camp. Most business firms had closed or moved to Aspen.

By the turn of the century Independence was practically a ghost town. The town had its hermit, now deceased, called the Mayor of Independence and thought to be an old-timer in the area named Jack Williams.

Mining Activity

Independence was primarily a gold camp. The first good strike was called the Independence following its discovery on July 4. It was also called the Last Dollar by some.

The Farwell Mining Co. was incorporated in 1879, and by 1880 had acquired most of the better mining claims in the area. These included the Independence No’s. 1, 2 & 3, the Last Dollar, the Legal Tender, the Mammouth, the Mount Hope, the Champion, the Sheba, the Friday and the Dolly Varden, The Farwell mines, particularly the Independence, were the most productive mines and were worked intermittently till around 1900. Peak activity periods were 1880-1882 and 1898-1900. There was another spurt of mining interest in 1907-08, and since then even to the present, an occasional prospector can be found trying his skill and luck.

The Farwell stamp mill was erected in 1880 and began operations in 1881. It was originally constructed with 15 stamps but was enlarged in late 1881 to 30. Power was provided by steam and water. In 1881 the mill produced $100,000 worth of gold. The mill closed in January 1883 after mining waned in 1882. The mill operated sporadically for the next 40 years until it was finally torn down in the early 1920s. The Farwell interests also had a large sawmill associated with the mining operations.

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Colorado ghost towns: Independence mining town on Independence Pass, near Aspen

Join us for a walk back in time as we explore the ghost town of Independence, near Aspen.

Why the name Independence? Legend says it was because gold was discovered here on the Fourth of July in 1879.

Like most mining towns in the Colorado mountains, the legends and stories are fascinating. Here's what the Aspen Historical Society says about Independence:

Legend has it that prospectors discovered the Independence Gold Lode on July 4, 1879. A tent city sprang up that summer, and by 1880 there were 300 people living in the camp. By 1881, the Farwell Mining Company had acquired most of the leading mines in the area including the Independence No. 1, 2, & 3, Last Dollar, Legal Tender, Mammoth, Mount Hope, Champion, Sheba, Friday, and Dolly Varden. The company also operated the Farwell Stamp Mill and a large sawmill for their mines. That summer, the population grew to 500, served by four grocery stores, four boarding houses and three saloons. The Independence Miner started printing in October. By 1882 the Town of Independence had over 40 businesses with three post offices and an estimated population of 1,500. A miner could get room and board for $2 at the New England House, a boarding house on the east end of Main Street. Typical of mining boom towns, the bust soon followed. Miners were lured away from Independence by the abundant work, good pay and milder climate of Aspen. The citizens of Independence could expect to be blanketed in snow from early October to late May. Daily life in a town at 10,900 feet was not easy! Although mining at Independence proved to be short lived, over $190,000 worth of gold was produced between 1881 and 1882. The next year production dropped to $2,000. By 1888, only 100 citizens remained in the high mountain town, which in its brief history had been called many names—Independence, Chipeta, Mammoth City, Mount Hope, Farwell, Sparkill and Hunter’s Pass. During the winter of 1899 the worst storm in Colorado’s history cut off the supply routes to Independence. The miners, who were running out of food, proceeded to dismantle their homes to make 75 pairs of skis and to escape en masse to Aspen. They made light of their adventure by making it a race of the Hunter’s Pass Ski Club—entry fee: one ham sandwich.

Learn more about Independence on the Aspen Historical Society's website .

Directions : Independence is 16 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82. The Highway is typically closed over the winter, reopening around Memorial Day.

Admission: Suggested donation $3, children 12 and under are free

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Independence Ghost Town

Independence Ghost Town

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Colorado

Learn about the mining history of this Colorado ghost town.

The Independence Ghost Town is located east of Aspen, Colorado, just below the Continental Divide. It was the first mining site in the Roaring Fork Valley and was established in the late 1800s. This historic site is on the list of national historic landmarks, and prospectors had found nearly $200,000 worth of gold between 1881 and 1882. At an elevation of 10,900 feet, winter lasts from October to May. One particularly harsh winter (1899) had cut off supply routes, and it is said that many people in town made their own skis to escape to Aspen.

This preserved ghost town is open for guided tours from mid-June through early October. Guided tours are 1.5 hours long and begin on Saturdays at 1 pm. You must book in advance to take a tour. Self-guided tours are also available in the summer throughout the week. Exhibits include the remnants of a cabin, general store, and stables. If you like exploring ghost towns, be sure to add the Independence Ghost Town to your Colorado itinerary.

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Independence, Colorado Ghost Town

Independence Colorado Ghost Town, United States Ghost Towns

Independence Colorado: A Journey Through Time in the Ghost Town

Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 10,900 feet lies the Independence Colorado Ghost Town, a well-preserved reminder of the state’s rich mining history. As you journey through this fascinating site, you’ll discover the stories of the people who once called this place home and the remnants of a once-thriving community.

In this article, we’ll explore the history, location, and significance of Independence, Colorado, and provide you with all the information you need to plan your visit to this captivating ghost town.

History of Independence Colorado Ghost Town

The birth of a mining town.

The tale of Independence Colorado began in 1879 when hopeful miners established the Beldon tent camp. On July 4th of that year, they struck gold and renamed their camp “Independence” in honor of the holiday.

At its peak, the bustling community was home to around 1,500 people and boasted over 40 businesses, including three post offices, four grocery stores, boarding houses, and three saloons. There was even a local newspaper, the Independence Miner, to keep residents informed about the happenings in their town.

The Farwell Mining Company and Prosperity

In 1881, the Farwell Mining Company acquired most of the leading mines in the area, including the Independence No. 1, 2, & 3, Last Dollar, Legal Tender, Mammoth, Mount Hope, Champion, Sheba, Friday, and Dolly Varden.

The company operated the Farwell Stamp Mill, which was used to process mined ore, and a large sawmill to support their mines. During this time, the population of Independence grew to 500, and the town flourished with a variety of businesses, including restaurants, retail establishments, saloons, and boarding houses.

The Decline and Abandonment of Independence

Unfortunately, the prosperity of Independence was short-lived, as the town faced numerous challenges that ultimately led to its decline. The harsh winters at its high elevation made living conditions difficult, with snow blanketing the ground from October until May.

Additionally, the growth of nearby Aspen, with its milder climate and better job opportunities, lured many residents away from Independence.

By 1888, the population of Independence had dwindled to just 100 people, and the town’s economic prospects continued to decline. The winter of 1899 brought the worst storm in Colorado’s history, cutting off supply routes to Independence and leaving the remaining residents with no choice but to abandon their homes.

They crafted makeshift skis from the siding planks of their houses and raced down the mountain to Aspen in a desperate bid for survival, leaving Independence to become the ghost town it is today.

The Independence Colorado Ghost Town Today

Archaeological preserve and restoration.

Today, the Independence Colorado Ghost Town stands as an archaeological preserve maintained by the Aspen Historical Society in cooperation with the United States Forest Service.

The remaining structures, including a stable, general store, two boarding houses, and the Farwell Stamp Mill, have been preserved and restored to give visitors a glimpse into the past. Interpretive stations and plaques throughout the site offer insights into the characters, enterprises, and structures that once made Independence a thriving community.

Exploring the Ghost Town

When visiting Independence Colorado, you’ll have the opportunity to wander through the remains of the town, letting your imagination recreate the lives and stories of those who once called this place home. As you explore the site, you’ll encounter the remnants of various buildings connected by a network of dirt paths. Some structures are still standing, while others have been reduced to foundations.

The largest surviving cabin is believed to have served as one of the settlement’s general stores, and another cabin has been restored into a modern residence known as the Intern Cabin.

However, it’s essential to remember that this site is an archaeological preserve and treat it respectfully. Visitors are asked not to remove souvenirs from the site, ensuring that future generations can continue exploring and learning about Independence, Colorado’s rich history.

Location and Accessibility

The Independence Colorado Ghost Town is located on Highway 82, just 16 miles southeast of Aspen, Colorado, and four miles west of the summit of Independence Pass. The historic site lies between the Roaring Fork River and the highway, with off-road public parking nearby.

Please note that access to Independence, Colorado is dependent on road closures. Colorado Department of Transportation closes Independence Pass (Highway 82) for the winter, typically around Halloween, and reopens it around Memorial Day. To check current road closure information, visit www.cotrip.org , call (303) 639-1111, or dial 511 from inside Colorado State.

Seasons and Hours of Operation

The Independence Colorado Ghost Town is open for visitors during the summer months, from June 17th through Labor Day. During this time, the site is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. As mentioned previously, access to the ghost town is restricted during winter due to Independence Pass road closures.

Fees and Further Information

A suggested donation of $5 is requested for visiting the Independence Colorado Ghost Town . For more information, call (970) 925-3721, or visit the Aspen Historical Society’s website at www.aspenhistory.org/tours/independence-ghost-town/ .

The Independence Colorado Ghost Town is a fascinating and well-preserved piece of history that allows visitors to step back in time and experience the challenges and triumphs of the miners who made this place their home.

With its rich history, stunning mountain scenery, and accessible location, a trip to Independence, Colorado, is a must for anyone interested in exploring Colorado’s past. So, plan your visit today and discover the captivating stories that lie hidden in this enchanting ghost town.

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Tranquil Trekker

“Not all those who wander are lost.” –J.R.R. Tolkein

7 “Must-See” Colorado Ghost Towns

I review several ghost towns we toured around the Colorado High Country as well as our drive up Independence Pass.

The ruined walls of an old cabin sit in an open space. No roof or door remains. Tree-covered mountains are in the background

The Trekkers LOVE visiting ghost towns! We try to include them whenever possible on our trips.  During our 2018 road trip, we got to check out several awesome ghost towns in Colorado.  

Ghost towns give you a true, visual understanding of how people lived “back in the day”.  I’m a very visual person so this helps me fully appreciate what the lives of the inhabitants of these towns must have been like.  I prefer the towns that are restored, with at least several buildings remaining that you can view.  Sometimes, however, the places that are comprised mostly of ruins allow you to use your own imagination of how they must have appeared in their heyday.

Click here for a list of ALL the ghost towns the Trekker’s have visited around the country!

Below is a list of seven ghost towns we visited in central and western Colorado…

Teller City Ghost Town:  

This was the first ghost town we visited and the one that required the most effort to access.  The townsite is near State Forest State Park, in far northern Colorado, around nine miles south of Gould, on Route 740 (Baker Pass Road).  You reach it by driving on a, somewhat rough, 4WD shelf road. (The   Guide to Colorado Backroads† book that I mentioned in a previous post, rates this road as “easy”.  I would rate it as “moderate”.  A high clearance, 4WD vehicle should be all you’d need to access this site in good conditions).  

We didn’t actually complete the 4×4 road all the way to Baker Pass, though we spoke with a local who said it was worth the drive.  Alas, daylight was waning (and the mosquitoes were starting to bite!) 😝

 The way was fairly well-marked and obvious, but be watchful.  The road branched off several times and the correct route was only marked with orange, snowmobile trail markers (this is a snowmachine trail in the winter months).  

An old cabin sits amongst small trees in a grassy, open space. Tree-covered mountains are in the background.

One plus with this site is that there’s a designated parking area and then you hike a Nature Trail loop to view the remains of the town.  Not much is left, but you could almost hear the voices of the patrons visiting the busy shops, and smell the dust kicked up by the wagons as they rolled along–what used to be–a bustling Main Street.  

At various places along the trail, markers describe the history of that home or business.  At one of the stops, the words of a young girl who came into town one winter night, via the pass, were noted.  Her description of the twinkling town lights flickering through the evening shadows was incredible.  

Below are a few more pics of the ruins at Teller City (as usual, thanks to Mr. Trekker for several of these):

The ruins of an old cabin sits amongst small trees in an open space. Tree-covered mountains are in the background.

Coalmont, Colorado:  

After leaving State Forest State Park, we visited Coalmont on our way to the Flattop Wilderness area.  Only the schoolhouse remains of this dusty hamlet, but from what we could see through the grime-spattered window, it appears to have been restored inside.  It would have been neat to be able to view it in more detail! 

The townsite is located off of Route 14, southwest of Walden, Colorado and can be reached via either Route 24 or Route 26 (they form a half-moon-shaped loop here).  The site is directly off of Route 26.

Old, white-boarded schoolhouse building sits in an arid landscape. Dark mountains are seen far in the background

Remains of an old ranch at Grand Mesa National Forest:

This site is located on top of the mesa, off the Land’s End Road.  It is the remains of a ranch that operated in this area long ago. Several cabins, one of which you can walk inside, and an old livestock corral, have been restored.  They can be viewed on a Nature Trail loop (it is part of a cross-country ski trail in the snowy months).  

A two-story cabin sits amongst tall, green grasses. It is a grey, cloudy day

Pitkin Ghost Town:  

This “living” ghost town is located about 27 miles east of Gunnison Colorado.  Take US 50, east, from Gunnison, then turn left onto Route 76 in Parlin.  

As an aside, we enjoyed several good meals in Gunnison.  We had a wonderful breakfast at the W. Café, and, I can attest that the High Alpine Brewing Company makes great pizza!

Old, freshly-painted, one-story building sits on a plot in town. A statue of a prospector sits out front. The sign over the door reads, "Pitkin Assay Office"

At about the halfway point on Route 76, you will pass the “living” ghost town of Ohio City. (I call them “living” because some hearty souls are still living in both of these locations!) 

The rain was falling fairly heavily as we passed through Ohio City, so we chose not to stop, but Pitkin should definitely be on your list of places to visit!  It was one of the more “real-feel” ghost towns we toured as it wasn’t crowded with visitors, and enough of the old buildings have been restored that you felt as though you were actually walking down the town’s Main Street.  

The Silver Plume General Store , located on the east side of town at the corner of 9th and State Streets, is a great place to stop for lunch.  We certainly enjoyed our burgers from the outdoor grille! Note: Pitkin is the last chance at civilization if you’re venturing onward to Tincup, Cottonwood Pass, the Alpine Tunnel, or St. Elmo ghost town via Tincup Pass.

We didn’t make it to Tincup on this trip, being that Cottonwood Pass was closed for paving.  We are hoping to, one day, try the Tincup Pass between Tincup and St. Elmo and hike to the Alpine Tunnel.  Another journey for another time, I don’t worry that we’ll be back in Colorado soon!  😁

A two-story building with a belfry on top sits in front of a tree-covered hill. The sign under the belfry reads, "City Hall 1900"

Below is a short video I took of the hummingbirds near the Pitkin Hotel.  I’ve always liked hummingbirds, but I’ve never heard them make this noise outside of Colorado…

St. Elmo Ghost Town:  

Everyone we talked to (and all the guide books we read) told us we HAD to visit St. Elmo, and it was, definitely, worth the visit!

The only disappointment I had with this site is that vehicles are allowed to park in the town itself.  Its spirit seems to be somewhat ruined when there’s a modern Audi parked in front of Town Hall. 😝  Also, they were restoring several buildings while we were there—which I’m sure is necessary and will be wonderful when it’s completed—but it meant that construction equipment was parked along Main Street.   *sigh*  Guess we’ll have to visit another time! 😉 

Two old, single-story buildings that look like they were once shops. One appears weathered, the other freshly-painted. A very tall, rocky mountain can be seen in the background

As I mentioned previously, if you’re daring, you can reach St. Elmo via Tincup Pass.  If you’re looking for a tamer route, you can do what we did and take the long way.  For this trek take Route 50 east of Gunnison through Monarch Pass (another great view) and turn north onto US 285 at Poncha Springs.  Then take Route 162 west–an out-and-back road (for the less daring among us)–toward the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs resort and on to St. Elmo.  

Near this area, there’s also a turnoff for Hagerman Pass Road to the site of another ghost town, Hancock.  From there, you can hike to the Alpine Tunnel from the east, though it sounded as though the hike is longer and the view isn’t quite as good as hiking from the west side–we chose not to complete the hike at this time due to time constraints and the monsoon-fueled thunderheads that were threatening.  

An old, wooden cabin with two chimneys. Two very tall mountains, one rocky, the other tree-covered, can be seen in the backdrop

Much to the Tranquil Trekker’s dismay (we DON’T feed wildlife) one unique feature of St. Elmo is that visitors are encouraged to feed the WAY-overly-friendly and almost-aggressive local chipmunks. You can buy food for them at the General Store. 😝

The Cascades Waterfall near Buena Vista, Colorado:

After leaving Saint Elmo, on our way east, back to US 285, we stopped at The Cascades.  This is a lovely waterfall that’s just off the side of the road.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful location where you can walk right up to the base of the river that creates a picturesque waterfall in this area as it cascades across boulders–hence the name. 😉  

A creek runs over rocks and down a hill, creating a waterfall amongst the mountains and trees

Gothic Ghost Town, Crested Butte, Colorado:  

I was a bit disappointed by this town.  The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory bought the town and did an exceptional job of restoring many of the old buildings which the lab uses for its work.  This we knew going in… what I hadn’t realized is that the lab has taken over almost the entirety of the townsite.  As it’s now, mostly, all private property, it’s almost impossible to tour around and browse the various buildings. 😒

I’m glad the town is being used for something, and I’m thankful to the lab for helping to save its structures, I just wish the historical features were easier to access.  And a note to the general store in town:  you close by four? In the middle of summer?? On a Saturday???  REALLY?!  Afternoons are a good time for people to eat ice cream you know!  😝😳😉

Sign at the edge of town reads, "GOTHIC site of The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory founded 1928"

You can reach Gothic by taking Gothic Road, Route 317, north of Crested Butte and the ski village.  You can’t miss it, this is, literally, the only main road going north of town! 😉  This will also lead you to Schofield Pass that I discussed in  this post .  

Old cabins sit in front of a rocky mountain. Modern day cars and a construction cone are parked on the dirt street

Independence Ghost Town and Independence Pass:

Independence ghost town is located on Independence Pass (Route 82), around 16 miles east of Aspen, and around 21 miles west of Twin Lakes.  

It’s just east of the peak of the Pass itself, and is, actually, easy to miss.  It’s below the grade of the road and the two parking pullouts are small and not well-marked.  There are, blue, “Places of Interest” signs, but you have to be watching for them.  We actually saw the ruins of the mill, on the other side of the road, first.  

The townsite is located in a valley, along the Roaring Fork River, framed by the towering Sawatch Range on both sides.  

Independence Ghost Town:

This was my favorite ghost town of the entire trip!  It’s easy to access as the site is located directly on Independence Pass.  You actually park at a pullout on the Pass road and then hike out to the site, so no vehicles marred the view. 

The walk into the town site is about one-mile in each direction, on an old, two-track, dirt road. (The hike is pretty easy as there is almost no elevation gain.  Beware though, the town site still sits at about 10,000 feet in elevation.)  You can see the town from quite a ways off, which helps you to imagine what it must have felt like riding a horse or wagon along that route during the height of the town’s life.

This would have been an incredibly beautiful place to live! (Had it not been so isolated and suffered such extreme weather.)

Related Posts:  Guide to Colorado Backroads and 4-Wheel-Drive Trails: Book Review ,  The Best Hidden Gems of Northern Colorado ,  The Backroads of Colorado ,  The Drive to Crystal Mill in Colorado

The wooden remains of an old structure sit on a hill with a tree-covered mountain in the background

Independence Pass:

Independence Pass was incredibly beautiful, as well.  This one has been on my Colorado Bucket List for some time and it did not disappoint! (It was also the highest altitude we reached on this trip, maxing out at, just over, 12,000 feet!)  The scenic overlook and hiking area at the top of the Pass offer, almost, 360-degree views of the  Continental Divide, which the Pass spans.

Looking down into a grassy, mountain valley. Rugged, rocky peaks and tree-covered mountains stretch to the horizon where they meet a blue sky filled with white, puffy clouds

You may have noticed I’ve been enjoying using a  Sun Company altimeter †  in many of these posts.  It responds to changes in barometric pressure caused by weather as well as air pressure at-elevation, so you may have to recalibrate it a little each day to maintain the most accurate readings.  But, for amateur interest, it’s a fun, portable, way to keep track of changes in altitude–it connects to the vehicle using velcro so it can be easily removed and taken on a hike if you’re so inclined. 

A paved road winds down and around a hill. Rocky, rugged and tree-covered mountains are in the background and line both sides of the road

I made another video   of our drive up Independence Pass.  I think my videographer skills got a “little” better with this one! 🤔

If you’re looking for something fun to do this summer, definitely check out the ghost towns of the Colorado High Country! 

Have you visited any of these amazing places?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Four pictures of old buildings at ghost towns and Rocky Mountain passes. Pin reads, "The Ghost Towns of Colorado's High Country"

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12 thoughts on “7 “Must-See” Colorado Ghost Towns”

What a cool post! It’s so interesting when towns spring up out of nowhere, and then slowly descend back into the wilderness. I have a feeling you would love visiting rural Spain, as there are sooo many abandoned towns like this. Well…not quite like this- they look much older and ware mostly built of stone rather than wood.

It might be a shame for visiting, but I think it soooo cool that a lab took over the Gothic Ghost town!! What an amazing place for biologists to work!!

It’s a unique use of the town of Gothic, that’s for sure! Rural Spain sounds like a great place to visit (someday). 😛

A ghost town tour sounds like a really fun road trip. I can see why you liked the ghost town at Independence Pass – all those spectacular views. Crazy to think people lived up there year-round. The only ghost towns I’ve been to have been turned into tourist attractions, so really just pretend ghost towns.

Yeah, I’d much rather see the real thing. And Independence Pass was AMAZING!!!

Love the video of the hummingbirds. I haven’t been to these but they sound amazing. If you ever get to Harper’s Ferry, there is quite a paranormal presence there.

I’ll have to put that one on the list!

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beautiful, I always enjoy your trips

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10 Ghost Towns You Can Visit in Colorado

ghost town of independence colorado

Colorado is lined with ghost towns. Many of these abandoned communities are echoes of the gold rush fever that struck the state in the late 19th century. These towns, mostly in the high mountains, were once a bustling, strong sector in Colorado ’s economy. But when the dust dried up, so did the communities.

Today, you can visit Colorado ’s abandoned mining towns to get a glimpse at the history (and maybe even a shiver down your spine when you walk past the crumbling wooden houses and mine shaft skeletons). Many towns don’t feel like towns at all but may only be marked by a few barely-standing structures, such as previously operating saloons or brothels or banks.

Some former mining towns are far from ghostly and have evolved into thriving towns in their new incarnation. These include towns like Breckenridge , Leadville, and Idaho Springs. 

But if you want to venture back in time, a bit off the beaten path and into a less polished piece of Colorado ’s heritage, here’s where to go. It’s best to make this trek in warmer weather because some of these roads aren’t plowed or may be dangerous in winter. Here are our 10 favorite Colorado ghost towns.

Dunton Hot Springs

This is hands down our favorite ghost town in Colorado . Prepare to be surprised. Not only can you explore the grounds of this former mining community in southern Colorado but you can actually stay the night in one of the restored former mining cabins. To make it even better, they’re restored luxuriously and part of an all-inclusive getaway in the San Juan Mountains. Guests get access to three natural, private hot springs, including a breathtakingly beautiful indoor hot springs in a historically inspired bathhouse.

This is a five-star escape like no other, and it's rich with history. The Dunton mining settlement was founded in 1885 and never grew very big. Less than 50 people lived here, and by 1918, it was completely abandoned. It was later converted into a cattle ranch before it was then renovated to become a visitor getaway.

But the new owners took great care to preserve the history and authenticity. The interior of the cabins was redone, but the exterior of the cabins is rugged and shabby and feels like they’re transported directly from the 1800s.

South Park City

No, this isn’t the South Park with the funny TV show.  South Park City , located in the city of Fairplay, has been restored and turned into an open-air museum, which you can walk through to learn about the area’s history. 

Stroll through 44 authentic buildings, from frontier homes to businesses, including seven on their original sites. Look at the mining memorabilia (more than 60,000 artifacts), and get up close and personal with a piece of the past. 

This ghost town experience is more structured and polished up, rather than an explore-at-your-own-pace (and sometimes own risk) adventure that you might find at other Colorado ghost towns. 

St. Elmo is one of Colorado's best-preserved and also most popular ghost towns. It is located just past Buena Vista is on the National Register of Historic Places. This magical town feels like you are in an Old West film, only it's totally abandoned. Walk down the dusty Main Street and past wooden stores. Tip your hat at the old saloon. 

St. Elmo was founded in 1880 (originally under the name Forest City) for its natural gold and silver resources, and it grew popular, housing nearly 2,000 people. It thrived until the early ​'20s when the railroad shut down, and people began moving out. Visitors are surprised to learn that some people still live in St. Elmo. Fishing is great here, and you can actually go shopping in the general store. Not everything still stands; some buildings burned down, but St. Elmo remains remarkably intact.

Animas Forks

This is another one of Colorado's most popular ghost towns. Animas Forks, in southern Colorado (12 miles southeast of Silverton and four hours south of Aspen) is famous, as much as an abandoned town can be. One of the coolest sites here is a two-story house with large windows; you don't often see multi-story structures this old still standing. 

Animas Forks was founded in 1873, and it quickly grew. It used to have 30 different homes, plus a saloon (of course), a store, hotel, and even its own post office. At its peak, it boasted 450 residents.

Make a day out of your Animas Forks visit and spend time in the colorful, Victorian downtown of Silverton . It will set the tone for this time period. The jaw-dropping town of Ouray is also in this area. 

Tin Cup (also called Tincup and TinCup), not far from Pitkin, is where the Wild West got really wild. As the legends go, this mining town used to be run by rebels. They ran the sheriffs out of town or killed them. You can see the sheriff gravestones in the cemetery. Tin Cup was founded at Virginia City in 1878 but renamed because several other cities in the nation already had that name. Even before that, Tin Cup was considered dangerous; in the 1850s, when the original gold was discovered, few people wanted to live here because there was the threat or perceived threat of attack by Native Americans in the area.

For a taste of the Wild Wild West, rent a four-wheeler and check out the remaining buildings of Tin Cup, arguably Colorado's naughtiest ghost town.  Taylor Park , where Tin Cup is located, is considered one of the best ATV destinations in Colorado.

Today, not only do some historic buildings still stand, but some are in use.

This former mining town is far from abandoned. In fact, it's a hot place to visit in southern Colorado, not far from Ouray and north of Durango, and it has excellent restaurants, lodging, adventure outfitters and coffee shops. Silverton is also home to a narrow-gauge train that still runs today. Pair that with your visit to the historic structures and you'll truly feel like you're in another time period. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a real steam engine powered by coal, began running in 1881. Today, it winds through the mountains between Durango and Silverton and has been named one of the top 10 scenic railroads in the world. Silverton used to be mainly used as a supply center for other mining camps, making it historically important in the thriving of other ghost towns. The colorful Main Street is so stunning you will have to get out your camera for a photo shoot. 

This is a ghost town that's truly been forgotten. It's extremely remote and not restored, making it a completely different experience than former mining areas like Silverton. You can find Carson near the Continental Divide, perched at about 12,000 feet above sea level, earning it the honor as one of Colorado's highest ghost towns. It is located near Lake City. 

The buildings here are as they were forgotten and as nature has done with them: missing roofs and walls, all surrounded by nature. No one lives here today and it's not a tourist sensation. But it's a fine reward of scenery and solitude for those off-the-beaten travelers looking to experience something unique. Note: You will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to manage these dirt roads. 

Independence

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

If you've visited the Aspen area, you've surely heard of Independence Pass, one of the best places to watch the leaves change color in the fall. The ghost town of Independence is perched atop this high mountain pass. The best way to experience Independence is to book a guided tour via the Aspen Historical Society or a Jeep tour of the area. This is a rare instance where you can visit a ghost town with an expert guide.

Independence has a short history but endless views. The reason its mining stint was so short is likely due to access. Miners could only get there on stagecoach and skis. Not exactly convenient. 

Today, the pass is paved so you can enjoy the views easily. 

Teller City

The south wasn't the only place for miners. Teller City is in Northern Colorado, near the town of Rand. This mining town was all about silver. Back then, it has hundreds of homes and (get this) almost 30 saloons. (Apparently, the silver miners liked to party.) In its peak, Teller City housed about 1,500 people. 

Today, you can check out the skeleton remains of this lost town. No one lives here, but one thing that makes Teller City worth the visit is you can camp nearby in the national forest. So spend some time exploring the abandoned buildings (it'll take you about an hour) and then pop up a tent for the night to let the experience sink in. Bring a fishing pole because there are multiple lakes and streams here great for fishing. 

This ghost town stands out because it's different for three big reasons. First, it's not in the mountains, like most of Colorado's ghost towns. Second, Dearfield was an entirely African American settlement.

Third, this abandoned town wasn't lost after the mining boom dried up. This unique community was founded to create a municipality owned and run by African American people. It didn't become endangered until 1999. Today, some remnants of the community remain, including a gas station, house, and diner. It is currently being restored but it is still considered a ghost town. 

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Animas Forks Ghost Town

Colorado Ghost Towns

Colorado is full of fascinating ghost towns located throughout the state, mostly up in the Rocky Mountains. There are certainly some very well-preserved ones, as well as old communities that are disappearing more each year. These towns were abandoned for different reasons, some due to mining or economic struggles, others due to natural forces like cold winters.

List + Map of Ghost Towns in Colorado

Year-round you can explore the best abandoned, old ghost towns in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and beyond. Some high-elevation former mining camps are only accessible in the summer. 2WD cars will be fine for most, though, some require a high-clearance 4×4 or a hike-to-access. Not all ghost towns listed are worth visiting, as little to nothing remains, but we’ll still note their history.

Alta Colorado Ghost Town

Alta, CO Ghost Town – by Telluride

Animas Forks

Animas Forks, CO Ghost Town – by Silverton

Image of the Antero Junction, a ghost town, in Colorado

Antero Junction, CO Ghost Town – by Hartsel

Apex CO Ghost Town

Apex, CO Ghost Town – by Central City

Ashcroft Ghost Town Colorado

Ashcroft, CO Ghost Town – by Aspen

Image of the houses within the ninth street historic park in denver, colorado

Auraria Ninth Street Historic Park – Denver

Image of the Bachelor Loop near Creede, Colorado

Bachelor City, CO Ghost Town – by Creede

Bonanza CO Ghost Town Colorado

Bonanza, CO Ghost Town – by Villa Grove

Bowerman Ghost Town

Bowerman, CO Ghost Town – by Pitkin

Camp Hale, CO

Camp Hale – Leadville

Capitol City CO Ghost Town

Capitol City, CO Ghost Town – by Lake City

Caribou Ghost Town

Caribou, CO Ghost Town – by Nederland

Carson Ghost Town

Carson, CO Ghost Town – by Lake City

Climax Molybdenum Mine Colorado

Climax, CO Ghost Town – by Leadville

Coalmont CO School House

Coalmont, Colorado

Corona Pass Colorado Ghost Town

Corona, CO Ghost Town – by Rollinsville

Crystal CO Ghost Town

Crystal, CO Ghost Town – by Marble

Dearfield CO Ghost Town

Dearfield, CO Ghost Town – by Greeley

Log Cabin Dyersville Colorado

Dyersville, CO Ghost Town – by Breckenridge

Eureka CO Ghost Town

Eureka, CO Ghost Town – by Silverton

Image of the road to Geneva City, Colorado

Geneva City, CO Ghost Town – by Montezuma

Gilman Ghost Town

Gilman, CO Ghost Town – by Vail

Image of a mine house decaying in Goldfield, Colorado, a ghost town

Goldfield, CO Ghost Town – by Victor

Gothic CO Ghost Town

Gothic, CO Ghost Town – by Crested Butte

Graysill Mines Ghost Town

Graysill Mines, CO Ghost Town – by Durango

Image of the Yankee Girl Mine in Guston, Colorado

Guston, CO Ghost Town – by Ouray

Hancock Ghost Town

Hancock, CO Ghost Town – by Nathrop

Image of the Ute-Ulay Mine and Mill in Henson, Colorado

Henson, CO Ghost Town – near Lake City

Homestead Meadows Ghost Town

Homestead Meadows, CO Ghost Town – by Estes Park

Independence Ghost Town

Independence, CO Ghost Town – by Aspen

Ironton CO Ghost Town Autumn

Ironton, CO Ghost Town – by Silverton

Ludlow Colorado Massacre Site

Ludlow, CO Ghost Town – by Trinidad

Montezuma Ghost Town

Montezuma, CO Ghost Town – by Keystone

Mount Vernon CO Ghost Town George Morrison Home

Mount Vernon, CO Ghost Town – by Morrison

Nevadaville Ghost Town

Nevadaville, CO Ghost Town – by Central City

Image of rock formations north of Creede on the bachelor loop in Colorado

North Creede, CO Ghost Town – by Creede

Ohio City Ghost Town

Ohio City, CO Ghost Town – by Gunnison

Orient Ghost Town

Orient, CO Ghost Town – by Villa Grove

Oro City CO Ghost Town

Oro City, CO Ghost Town – by Leadville

Pagosa Junction Ghost Town Colorado

Pagosa Junction, CO Ghost Town – by Pagosa Springs

Querida Colorado Bassick Silver Mine

Querida, CO Ghost Town – by Westcliffe

Red Mountain Ghost Town Colorado

Red Mountain Town, CO Ghost Town – by Silverton

Rosita Colorado Ghost Town

Rosita, CO Ghost Town – by Westcliffe

Russell Gulch CO Ghost Town IOOF Hall

Russell Gulch, CO Ghost Town – by Idaho Springs

Saint Elmo Ghost Town

Saint Elmo, CO Ghost Town – by Nathrop

Aerial View of Silver Lake Ghost Town Colorado

Silver Lake, CO Ghost Town – by Silverton

Image of the Skaguay Power Plant in Colorado

Skagway Power Plant – Victor

South Park City Museum Fairplay CO

South Park City Museum – Fairplay

Image of the Tarryall Creek in Colorado

Tarryall, CO Ghost Town – by Lake George

Teller City Ghost Town

Teller City, CO Ghost Town – by Gould

Image of abandoned buildings in tomboy, colorado

Tomboy, CO Ghost Town – by Telluride

Twin Lakes Ghost Town

Twin Lakes, CO Ghost Town – by Leadville

Image of an abandoned building in the ghost town of Uptop, Colorado

Uptop, CO Ghost Town – by La Veta

Vicksburg Ghost Town

Vicksburg, CO Ghost Town – by Granite

Image of mountain scenery near Creede, Colorado

Weaver, CO Ghost Town – by Creede

Image of the ghost town of Webster in Colorado during autumn

Webster, CO Ghost Town – by Grant

Winfield Ghost Town

Winfield, CO Ghost Town – by Granite

Featured Ghost Towns

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Ashcroft Ghost Town Colorado

Colorado is a state filled with a rich, Wild West history which can be easily experienced with a trip to a ghost town. During the Great Gold Rush in the second half of the 19th century, settlers headed west in search of their fortune. Mining camps boomed.

Saloons, shootouts, cowboys, and sheriffs were commonplace during these glory days. Sometimes the town mines ran dry and miners and their families moved elsewhere to find work. Other times, a railroad line was constructed in a nearby town and drew the population away. No matter the reason, the towns transformed from heyday hubs to quiet (sometimes completely abandoned) communities.

A few western museums stage an “Old West” style ghost town with original buildings and artifacts. South Park City in Fairplay and Gunnison’s Pioneer Museum are two examples. Being able to enter centuries-old saloons, still furnished with original 19th-century stools and bars, is an unmatched experience.

Visiting Colorado’s Top Ghost Towns

Independence Ghost Town near Aspen CO

There are well over fifty ghost towns to visit. Each has its own local flavor, so many tourists decide to visit multiple during a journey through this beautiful state. Most towns are absent of any full-time residents. However, some like Nevadaville , have a few, although they’re still pretty much deserted.

The towns can be remote and only accessible by 4×4, while others are just off the main road. They make for a relaxing day trip and fun addition to your travels. Depending on the route some can be accessed in the winter, while others are best saved for spring, summer, and fall when the snow is melted and roads are clearer.

If you’re looking for a well-preserved town, check out Independence . Tucked away on the side of Independence Pass outside Aspen, it houses a large number of original homesteads. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this old mill site ultimately failed because of its dwindling population and harsh, high-elevation winters.

Another one of the most notable towns is Saint Elmo . It houses forty-three buildings, including a still operating General Store, open in summer and fall. There is also an abandoned railroad and a cemetery that definitely leaves a haunting impression.

Remote Off-Road 4×4 Ghost Towns

Old wooden building falling inward and man sitting on a rusted piece of farm equipment in the ghost town of Animas Forks

Graysill Mines is a good choice if you want to see the lifestyle that miners led, or Homestead Meadows if you want to check out the remnants of buildings that the earliest Rocky Mountain settlers once called home.

Many of the ghost towns in Colorado contain little evidence of previous inhabitants. There may only be one building or a few scraps of wood left behind. Bowerman , Hancock , and Teller City each have only a select amount of ruins left. They do, however, have interpretive signs with the town’s history, so you can use your imagination as to what life might’ve been like back then.

Haunted Ghost Towns

St. Elmo Ghost Town Log Cabin in the snow

Historians and explorers aside, there is another major group of people who enjoy taking a trip to local ghost towns. Famous TV personas from series like TAPS, Paranormal State, and similar ghost-hunting shows have visited these abandoned communities.

They’re in search of the residents who may have decided to stay, long after they died. It isn’t uncommon to hear legends of cowboys, sheriffs, and criminals who were shot during altercations. If anywhere in the Wild West would be haunted, it’s probably Colorado.

There are many ghost towns to visit, and there are a lot of nearby resorts that accommodate adventurous travelers in search of Western history and hauntings. If you’re in the mood for even more ghost hunting, Colorado also has plenty of haunted places to explore.

Ancient Puebloan Villages

Ancient cave dwelling in the side of a red rock cliff at Mesa Verde National Park

A different type of ghost town exists in Southwest Colorado, and they’re much older than former mining towns. The Anasazi or Ancient Puebloan inhabited the Four Corners region until about 1300 AD when they mysteriously vanished. Reasons for their disappearance vary, with the most popular conclusion being they exhausted the area’s natural resources.

Evidence of their homesteads exists at Mesa Verde National Park by Mancos, Canyons of the Ancients in Cortez, and Hovenweep in Dolores. Unbelievable cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages are waiting to be explored year-round. It’s hard to understand how they managed to build these huge communities right into the side of a towering cliff, and in some cases, historians are still stumped about how they came to be.

Luckily, you can camp at all three parks to spend some more time ogling at the ancient towns. Because of their southwestern location, they are a little quieter than other Colorado attractions and could be a nice weekend trip to explore during the colder months.

Tips for Exploring a Ghost Town

Abandoned mine in Summitville. Old wooden building that is grey, has 5 windows and a door and is surrounded by forestry

Here are some tips to make the most out of your visit to a Colorado ghost town:

  • Research the area beforehand: Before visiting a ghost town, it’s important to do some research about the town’s history and what to expect when you arrive. Download or print a map of the area in case you don’t have cell phone reception in more remote towns.
  • Bring appropriate gear: It’s important to bring suitable gear, such as comfortable shoes, sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water. Ghost towns are often located in remote, high-elevation areas, and the terrain can be rough and uneven. Watch your step!
  • Respect the site: Remember that you’re visiting a historical site. Be respectful and don’t disturb any artifacts or structures. Take only photos and memories with you, and leave nothing behind.
  • Watch for hazards: Ghost towns can be full of hazards such as unstable structures, sharp objects, and dangerous wildlife. Be cautious and aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Consider hiring a guide: If you want to learn more about the history of the ghost town and its significance, consider hiring a guide. There are several Jeep tours that can provide you with valuable information and take you to areas that you may not be able to access on your own.

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  1. Independence, Colorado Ghost Town

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  2. Independence Ghost Town (Aspen)

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  3. Explore Independence Ghost Town, Aspen, Colorado

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  4. Ghost town ruins in the abandoned mining town of Independence, Colorado

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  5. Legend has it that the ghost town of Independence, Colorado was founded

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  6. Independence Colorado Ghost Town

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COMMENTS

  1. Independence Ghost Town

    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. Site History: Legend has it that prospectors discovered the Independence Gold Lode on July 4, 1879. A tent city sprang up that summer, and by 1880 there were 300 people living in the camp.

  2. Independence, Colorado Ghost Town

    Cabin. Outhouse and cabins. Life at 11,000 would have been challenging. Cabins. Independence has lots of historic buildings. Trail leads you around the historic area. Two cabins. Mining operation down the road. Details Nearby Town: CO-82, Aspen, CO 81611 County: Pitkin County

  3. Independence Ghost Town

    Independence Ghost Town 50 reviews #24 of 86 things to do in Aspen Ghost Towns Write a review About Visitors can tour the remnants of this former mining town, deserted in the late 1800s after a severe storm knocked out supply routes. Suggest edits to improve what we show. Improve this listing All photos (84)

  4. Independence, Pitkin County, Colorado

    Independence is an extinct town located in Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. It is located at an elevation of 10,913 feet (3,326 m) 2.2 miles (3.6 km) directly west of Independence Pass. It was the first settlement established in the Roaring Fork Valley, after gold was struck in the vicinity on Independence Day, July 4, 1879, hence its name.

  5. Independence Ghost Town

    Local: (970) 925-3721 Visit Website Overview Amenities Interpretive displays and artifacts provide information on the early mining days in the Roaring Fork Valley. Remaining buildings include the stables, the general store and a restored log cabin.

  6. Independence Ghost Town

    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

  7. Aspen History & Museums: Independence Colorado Ghost Town

    Colorado Department of Transportation closes Independence Pass (Highway 82), the only approach to this ghost town, for the winter around Halloween and reopens around Memorial Day. For current road closure information, visit www.cotrip.org , call (303) 639-1111 or dial 511 from inside Colorado State.

  8. Explore Independence Ghost Town, Aspen, Colorado

    While Aspen is still thriving today, Ashcroft and Independence are ghost towns. Independence Ghost Town is on Independence Pass, 16 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82. The Farwell Mill sits right along the highway. Independence Pass closes in winter, but the drive is one of the prettiest in Colorado in summer or fall.

  9. Independence Ghost Town

    A building at the ghost town of Independence near Independence Pass. Aspen, CO - Ghost Town. The Independence Ghost Town is a historic gold and silver mining town. At its' peak in 1882 the Town of Independence had over 40 businesses, 3 post offices, and an estimated population of 1,500. The town has gone by the name Independence, Chipeta ...

  10. Colorado ghost towns: Independence

    Why the name Independence? Legend says it was because gold was discovered here on the Fourth of July in 1879. Like most mining towns in the Colorado mountains, the legends and stories are fascinating. Here's what the Aspen Historical Society says about Independence: Legend has it that prospectors discovered the Independence Gold Lode on July 4 ...

  11. Independence Ghost Town

    The Independence Ghost Town is located east of Aspen, Colorado, just below the Continental Divide. It was the first mining site in the Roaring Fork Valley and was established in the late 1800s. This historic site is on the list of national historic landmarks, and prospectors had found nearly $200,000 worth of gold between 1881 and 1882.

  12. Independence, Colorado Ghost Town

    Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 10,900 feet lies the Independence Colorado Ghost Town, a well-preserved reminder of the state's rich mining history. As you journey through this…

  13. Independence

    Independence - Colorado Ghost Town INDEPENDENCE At over 10,900 feet, this town couldn't last long. Snow from October through May would make sure of it. The Independence lode was discovered on July 4, 1879 and soon after a town of 300 sprang up. By 1882, there were 1500 residents and over 40 businesses.

  14. Independence Ghost Town, Colorado : Diary of a Gen-X Traveler

    Conclusion All in all, this was a fun stop. This is a great area to walk around and also imagine life how it was! Independence in Colorado is one of the many great ghost towns in the state. I love history and for this reason, I want to visit more of these in future travels. Follow more of our Colorado adventures at these links:

  15. 7 "Must-See" Colorado Ghost Towns : Tranquil Trekker

    An old well pit Coalmont, Colorado: After leaving State Forest State Park, we visited Coalmont on our way to the Flattop Wilderness area. Only the schoolhouse remains of this dusty hamlet, but from what we could see through the grime-spattered window, it appears to have been restored inside.

  16. Independence Ghost Town

    Just a short drive from the town of Aspen, Colorado, the Independence Ghost Town is a great way to spend an hour exploring the history of the area! Abandoned...

  17. PDF Aspen Historical Society

    1974, to help protect the town, Independence was added to the National Register of Historic Sites. By the mid-1980s, thanks to the efforts of Aspenite Ramona Markalunas and many volunteer groups, several cabins were restored. Today the ghost town of Independence is a shadow of its former mining glory, but still

  18. 10 Ghost Towns You Can Visit in Colorado

    Today, you can visit Colorado 's abandoned mining towns to get a glimpse at the history (and maybe even a shiver down your spine when you walk past the crumbling wooden houses and mine shaft skeletons).

  19. Independence

    NAME: Independence COUNTY: Teller ROADS: 2WD GRID: 5 CLIMATE: Snow in winter; cool summer BEST TIME TO VISIT: Summer COMMENTS: (There is also an "Independence" in Pitkin Co.). This is the largest true ghost town I have ever found (no residents and no restoration). Follow CO-67 south out of Cripple Creek to Victor.

  20. Colorado Ghost Towns + Map

    There are certainly some very well-preserved ones, as well as old communities that are disappearing more each year. These towns were abandoned for different reasons, some due to mining or economic struggles, others due to natural forces like cold winters. List + Map of Ghost Towns in Colorado

  21. Mapped Guide to Colorado's Must-See Ghost Towns

    Photo by Jane Nearing via Flickr. Located south of Lake City, Carson is one of the best-preserved Ghost Towns in Colorado. The site is littered with old machinery, mining equipment and structures ...

  22. 21 Colorado Ghost Towns Where You Can Experience the Wild West

    The Independence ghost town is in a beautiful location with grassy hills and the Rockies beyond 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Aspen on Booking In the summer, Independence makes a great stop along Independence Pass. The route is one of the best Colorado road trips, connecting Leadville and Buena Vista to Aspen .

  23. Independence

    NAME: Independence COUNTY: Teller ROADS: 2WD GRID: 5 CLIMATE: Snow in winter; cool summer BEST TIME TO VISIT: Summer : COMMENTS: (There is also an "Independence" in Pitkin Co.). This is the largest true ghost town I have ever found (no residents and no restoration). Follow CO-67 south out of Cripple Creek to Victor.