“Indy Pass,” as the uppermost leg of State Highway 82 is sometimes called, not only provides road access to the east, but it also takes us up into wilderness areas worthy of further exploration.
Even if you’ve climbed every route up the Pass, you can still rediscover this area through the eyes of your children, big and small, or as you introduce it to visitors from out of town. The Grottos, Lost Man trailheads, Devil’s Punch Bowl, and the Divide itself are easy do-it-yourself attractions right off of the Highway. If you want to explore a less-trafficked area, head up Lincoln Creek Road.
A 19.6-mile moderately tracked 4WD dirt road, Lincoln Creek Road requires a high-clearance vehicle. As an out-and-back, it can make a fun Jeep ride to see the change in colors. Or, it can provide a starting point for a handful of extended day hikes or longer backpacking adventures.
You can car-camp at the Lincoln Gulch or Grizzly Reservoir Campgrounds, or in dispersed sites along the first three miles of Lincoln Creek Road. Backpacking will require some planning and deeper research and steep climbing to one of several high-elevation lakes, but the rewards are worth the work for an isolated overnight under the stars.
WHAT YOU’LL SEE
Whether you’re heading up for a basic day trip or an epic adventure, you’ll be wowed by the incredible views of the Continental Divide and Autumn’s golden aspens and orange-to-red underbrush.
Be sure to check out the New York Aqueduct running along Lincoln Creek to Grizzly Reservoir. This series of canals and tunnels was considered an engineering marvel when constructed in the 1930s, diverting water from the headwaters of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area to the Arkansas River on the eastern side of the Continental Divide.
Four-wheeling or non-technical trail running or mountain biking
1. LINCOLN CREEK ROAD Take this dirt road seriously with a vehicle and tires capable of navigating rutted sections, rocks, and rough patches on medium grades. Or, experience it as a non-technical trail run or mountain bike ride. The stretch from Grizzly Reservoir to Ruby ghost town takes you deeper into the White River National Forest, though the grade gets steeper, rockier and more rutted.
2. GRIZZLY RESERVOIR SUP, canoe and fish in this small reservoir stocked with trout. Campsites are limited; first-come, no reservations, vault toilets.
3. RUBY GHOST TOWN 11,380’. Cabins and mine ruins from the Lincoln Mining District.
hiking, backpacking or single-track trail running
4. NEW YORK TRAIL (USFS #2182) 4.2m one way with +2,145’ gain. Cross Lincoln Creek on downed trees, rocks or with wet feet and follow the wooded trail up the NY Creek drainage. You will cross the NY Aqueduct and continue toward the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness boundary. Near treeline, the trail becomes steep and is rated as difficult (black) until reaching the ridgeline pass at 12,265’.
5. TABOR CREEK TRAIL (USFS #2185) 2.8m one way with +2,060’ gain. Start with a stream crossing, and then hike along the creek. 11. For a short, steep and less-used trail noted as difficult (black), turn off the main trail and explore Tabor Lake at 12,300’.
6. GRIZZLY LAKE TRAIL (USFS #1990) 3.6m one way with +1,960ft gain. Starting east of Grizzly Reservoir, the trail tracks just below the ridgeline of the Continental Divide. The high alpine lake sits approximately 1500’ below Grizzly Peak at 13,988’.
7. PETROLEUM LAKE TRAIL 8.ANDERSON LAKE (USFS #1991) 2m one way with +1,100’ gain. Marked as the Petroleum Lake Trailhead off the 4WD high clearance section of Lincoln Creek Road, these high alpine lakes are located above treeline with Anderson at 11,820’ and Petroleum at 12,300’. You’ll cross alpine tundra on a doubletrack trail with views of a rocky ridgeline above, and of Grizzly Peak across the valley.
Expert only, depicted on MP’s map in red for visibility.
Please note: More mapping and pre-trip planning is recommended as these areas are isolated, less used, and can be difficult to traverse and to navigate.
9. NEW YORK TRAIL EXTENSION 10.PTARMIGAN Lake TRAIL Once the blue-rated NY Trail (described above) reaches the ridgeline pass at 12,265’ you can extend the route to more complicated terrain (USFS #571). Look into the ridge traverse and return to the NY Creek Trailhead via a small trail in the drainage of Brooklyn Gulch.
11. TABOR LAKE TRAIL See description above for an extension off of the Tabor Creek Trail.
12. TRURO LAKE TRAIL This is an Unmarked Trail off the 4WD high clearance section of Lincoln Creek Road. The start crosses Lincoln Creek before heading into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area. The route is mostly above treeline and ends in a cirque below a rocky ridgeline. The faintly recognized trail zigzags uphill from approximately 10,500’ to close to 12,200’ over approximately 1.5m. Rated as difficult (black) because of the trail location, steep grade, and unmaintained trail.
Available at Ute Mountaineer in Aspen:
Independence Pass Rock Climbing II by Tom Perkins
Written by a local climber with more than 700 routes and boulder problems from Aspen to Twin Lakes.
National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topographical Map
Aspen Independence Pass
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