With Labor Day just around the corner our favorite trail finder Aspen TrailFidner brings us some some thoughts on his idea of hidden treasures.
Our favorite trail this summer doesn’t have a sign or marker at the trailhead, the trail doesn't even have an official name, but you can’t miss it. At the top of Independence Pass, on both sides of Highway 82, are clearly visible trails disappearing into the mountains. One trail heads north, opposite from the often crowded parking area where people take their picture at the base of the Independence Pass sign. Another trail, just off the paved path of the popular Independence Pass Scenic Trail, heads south. While the 12,095-foot summit of Independence Pass is visited by thousands of people, few venture up higher into one of these unmarked trails.
These trails, seemingly following a line across the top of the world, are the Continental Divide. But don’t get confused, it’s not the official Continental Divide Trail. Shockingly, the official Continental Divide Trail doesn’t even cross Independence Pass. If you’re traveling any good distance along this imaginary line, a map is a must because the well traveled visible path doesn’t last long! Here are some distances that won’t get you too far from the comfort of the crowds and the popular parking area:
The north trailhead climbs steeply 1.25 miles to the first peak, though the trail becomes less clear after about 3/4 mile. Even though there’s no clear trail, it is a much easier 0.25 miles to the second peak and a stunning view high above Blue Lake.
The south trailhead gently climbs 1.85 miles to the first peak where you can watch the tourists walking around like ants at the base of Independence Pass. The trail heads down before climbing back up to the second peak where you can rest from the hike in one of the cairn shelters.
If hiking above 12,000 feet doesn’t take your breath away, the magnificent views of many of Colorado’s highest peaks along the Continental Divide at Independence Pass will.
More information about the Continental Divide Trail at Independence Pass at www.aspentrailfinder.com/continental-divide-trail-independence-pass. For hundreds more hiking trails around Aspen visit www.aspentrailfinder.com.