For those that are going to Hanging Lake/ Hot Springs this will be a side trip on the way home. Otherwise, feel free to join us for a "dip' in the Devil's Punchbowl, Grotto's and Twin Lakes!
Twin Lakes Reservoir & Colorado Trail :
Details: Walking to the grottos and cascades (along with lots of exploring) was 0.75 miles roundtrip with 150 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From Aspen, take Highway 82, 0.4 miles past the mile marker 50 sign to the signed, Grottos trailhead. Turn right on the dirt road down to the parking lot.
Punchbowl: From Aspen, take Highway[masked] miles west. Park in a large lot on the right side of the road. The punchbowl is a short walk from here, and trails to the caves and grottos begin at this lot.
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBGhxU6UO70
pass n. a means (as an opening, road, or channel) by which a barrier may be passed
or access to a place may be gained; especially: a low place in a mountain range
v. to go across, over, or through; to move in a path so as to approach and continue
beyond something; to go from one quality, state, or form to another
At 12,095 feet, Independence Pass doesn’t just mark a pretty place to stop and take pictures. Part of the Continental Divide, this slight dip in the mountain range separates waters destined for the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, marks the junction of three federal wilderness areas, and offers an unimpeded vista of the majestic peaks and fourteeners of two distinct mountain ranges (Sawatch and Elk). Rolling over the second-highest paved pass in Colorado, Highway 82 here is a steep, winding, state-designated scenic byway, providing drive-up access to a harsh, windswept world of alpine tundra.
But because of its seasonal closure, “the Pass”—which refers more to the greater area behind the road-closure gates than the geographical point—is muffled under layers of snow and ice for six months of the year, when only handfuls of humans might explore this frozen world. Which is perhaps why it feels like such a special place when the gates open in late May.
Here, then, is a closer look at this region of the map, the unique recreational opportunities on both sides of the Great Divide, and the culture and history of this special area.
Millions of years of geologic forces shaped the Rocky Mountains and the granite faces that today serve up hundreds of rock-climbing routes near Independence Pass. But it’s the work of glaciers—rivers of ice that advanced and retreated through this area between one million and 12,000 years ago—that carved the river valleys and set the stage for the formation of some unique recreation spots.
The area known as the Grottos includes a series of natural features carved by the glacially formed Roaring Fork River as water entered fissures in the granite and rocks, swirled around, and smoothed and polished the area into the shapes seen today.
The Devil’s Punchbowl, accessed from a pullout near mile marker fifty-one off of Highway 82, is a popular hangout in the heat of the summer. Many take the plunge from the near vertical rock walls to the always cold pool twenty to fifty feet below. Others are satisfied to just sit and enjoy the antics and the scenery.
A little further up the road is the Grottos parking area, which accesses a natural wonderland with potential for light hiking, exploring, picnicking, and sunbathing. About one-quarter mile of the old stagecoach road connecting Leadville and Aspen is preserved here, a pleasant hike along a small canyon to the confluence of Lincoln Creek and the Roaring Fork River. The main trail leads to the Cascades, where the river spills through smooth, black water–sculpted granite, and to the ice cave, a cool respite on a hot summer day that can hold ice until July. Gazing up at the rock cliffs, listening to the rushing water, and taking in the fragrant scent of evergreens here makes for a true high-alpine getaway.
HIKING: One Step at a TimeThe air may be thin, but the Pass’s high-alpine walks are worth the effort.
While not numerous, hiking trails around Independence Pass are richly diverse in their topography, flora, and fauna. That’s partly due to Hopkins’ bioclimatic law, which states that every 400 feet of elevation gain is akin to going up one degree of north latitude. So watch for changes in the landscape and vegetation as you drive to a trailhead from Aspen (it’s a 4,000-foot altitude gain to the top of the Pass) and then set off on foot on one of the following day hikes.
3 different hiking options and a 14'er...and the Twin Lakes:
Just fifteen miles east of Independence Pass, the hairpin turns of Highway 82 straighten out and the land flattens into a broad valley where it feels like you can breathe a little more deeply. This area is marked by a pair of lakes, which, in addition to their recreational value, have a fascinating history and an important modern-day function.
Sitting at the lofty altitude of 9,200 feet, Twin Lakes are glacially formed bodies of water that have been enlarged to provide storage for one of Colorado’s most complicated and extensive water projects. Using nearly twenty-seven miles of tunnels, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project brings water from the upper reaches of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers, through the Continental Divide, and down to a collection system on the eastern slope. One of several reservoirs in the project, Twin Lakes’ water originates as snowmelt high up on the Aspen side of Independence Pass, flowing through Lost Man and Grizzly reservoirs, and from the upper Fryingpan Valley.