Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway
With altitudes rarely falling below 9,000 feet, the Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway is worthy of its name. Cross the 10,424-foot Tennessee Pass on Route 24 from Minturn, to reach Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the U.S. This historic town is the ideal gathering place for mining buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Relive Leadville’s colorful history by visiting the abandoned mines where Tabor, Guggenheim and May made their millions. Venture into the desolate Valley of the Ghosts, where fire ravaged three thriving Victorian towns. More adventurous travelers can enjoy four-wheeling, mountain biking, horseback riding or hiking on Colorado’s highest mountains, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, both reaching over 14,400 feet. The national forests surrounding Leadville provide for abundant outdoor activities such as camping, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, fishing and more.
Explore this route of towering peaks and broad valleys and you may spot wildlife, like the agile big horn sheep, among the rocks. Slashes of gold, red, blue and white wildflowers adorn the snowy mountainside each spring. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Elbert, the Twin Lakes area bursts with picture-perfect views of soaring peaks and lavish foliage around the state’s largest glacial lakes. Unique natural beauty and rich history are showcased beautifully in this living landscape.
Independence Pass, with a high point of 12,095 feet, connects Twin Lakes and Aspen along Highway 82. It is open from Memorial Day to early fall, depending on snowfall. It closed for the season mid-November in 2020. Check COTrip.org for conditions and route information.
The highway features spectacular views and hairpin turns. Independence Pass is ringed with 13,000-foot peaks, including Mt. Champion, Geissler Mountain, Twining Peak, Grizzly Peak and Casco Peak. Learn more about the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway.