RMNP to Aspen via Independence Pass: Idaho Springs & Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway

1.26.2021

                    At Twin Lakes Recreational Area at San Isabel National Forest


Honey Cheese Bread anyone? Almond Soda anyone? Pizza made of dough with locally sourced honey anyone? Gold Mining history anyone? That's Idaho Springs for you.  
As we swooned over the delectable food Idaho Springs had that we treasured, a part of us hoped that we had time to discover the real treasure Idaho Springs is famous for - Gold. Idaho Springs spelled “Idahoe” means Gem of the Mountains and “Springs” means Hot Springs. A cute little town that titillates our curiosity as soon as land our gaze onto the big banner board that says "Where the Gold-rush began?" 


Beau Jo's Colorado Pizza & the Honey Cheese Bread is so yummy, you wouldn't want to leave the place :)


We all know how major cities in California has boomed due to Gold Rush in the 80's. Cities such as San Francisco prospered during those times.  Colorado wasn't very far either. This is a great video to know on America's Gold history.

It would have been a dream to have stuck Gold in those days when Gold may have been plenty. They say that the first sight of the discovery of Gold in Colorado was by George Jackson who discovered it right off the Cold Creek River. A great deal of Gold was also discovered in the rocks inside the mountains and the might Argo mill was created to extract gold out of the water-laden mountains making the task easier. If one has time, they can also visit a few mills in the area - Stanley and Phoenix. Usually, the tour comprises of explanation of various processes of God Mining during the 1800's by the tour guide and Gold Panning.


 
A part of me still wonders if locals secretly find Gold there to date, or did we unintentionally miss landing on a big stone of Gold that could not only buy us the food but our entire stay and travel.

Sadly for us, our lack of research and lack of time both resulted in exploring just the one aspect that we dug into as our hungry tummies rumbled after our early morning drive from Rocky Mountain National Park to Idaho Springs. As we walked on Miner street that had all these restaurants and cute little shops, we could help but love the old charm these places still have.

One such was Beau Jo's. Recommended to us online by Facebook Groups on US travel and as said to be popular with locals and tourists alike, their Colorado style Pizza and Honey Cheese Bread was the best. The Pizza was huge and could serve 3 people. The decor was quintessential Colorado - with skis and skateboards hanging from the walls and Gold Mining equipment and vehicles. Down the street is Tommy Knockers where you get local beers and soda. Definitely worth the try! 





  Fact: Right at the entrance of Idaho springs (and behind Miner Street) is the parking lot. The parking is free for 1 hour. And then for the next 1 hour, it's $2. 

                                                Parking Lot with Parking Ticket Machine.


Aspen via Independence Pass

When Google flashes that the route is closed, and the route is open indeed, there is a gift wrapped in what could have been a misery had it been closed. Before we were leaving from Rocky Mountain National Park, we checked onto our phones the directions to Independence Pass which purposely detoured us via Vail and Glenwood Springs letting us skip Independence Pass altogether and taking a longer route. 

Our inquisitiveness and Google's stubbornness on road closure left us confused. We chose to ask the rangers who also were not sure because often we view Google maps as God, especially when we are in a new place, and that's our only savior for directions. The local website Cotrip that informs travelers on road closures, maintenance, and constructions, also did not have any information leaving us to taking a chance if we wished to do it at all.

Independence Pass


Located at 12,095 ft on the Continental Divide, this popular route is Cyclist's Favourite. The route to Independence Pass takes us through Curvy roads with jaw-dropping valley drops and views. There were countless times that we had paused to enamor our vision with a vast vista that it gave us to ponder on. 










As we drove from Idaho Springs to Independence Pass, we also found that there was a shift in perspective of things - RMNP and Silverthorne were snow-clad mountains, while this had more trees, aspens plus the mountains.

It makes us think that who may be the ones who made the graffiti pole by the continental divide sign but that adds colors onto our already picturesque selfie. A short flat paved trail leads us to various vista points of the pass including the near view of the mountains and the vastness of the valley. 

Leadville - Copper Mountain - Twin Lakes - Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway 

The Top of the Rockies Byway travels 75 miles starting in Aspen, traveling through Leadville to either Minturn or Copper Mountain, literally at the Top of the Rockies. We took the route opposite as we were going towards Aspen, than from Aspen. For us it took us via Copper Mountain, Leadville and Twin Lakes. 

Once booming mining towns, Leadville and Twin Lakes still stand centers of Mining. The National Mining Hall of Fame is a museum located in Leadville, Colorado, United States, dedicated to commemorating the work of miners and people who work with natural resources. 




     At the Valley of Ghosts, In the late 1800's this valley busted with the commotion of three mining towns. Fortunes were made and dreams were crashed in the ores hauled from mountains. By 1950. the area was deserted as the mining boom had busted. The valley is now filled with tailing from the Climax mine - a fit burial for the towns born out of mining. 








Twin Lakes in particular stunned us. The name Twin Lakes comes from 'two alpine lakes' on the base of gigantic mountains. These lakes were carved by Glaciers during the Ice age and not only makes a great hault for visitors but also a great recreational area for those who wish to go down by the sandy beach by the lake.

Now, this was another hidden gem route expressed to us by members of a Facebook Group who suggested us that we take the drive via "The Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway". When we enter on Google, it shows no results. 

The route is incredibly scenic and short detours can lead us to mountain streams, lakes and mountains. It also runs through a few national forests in the area. To know more read, https://www.coloradodirectory.com/maps/topoftherockies.html






1 comment

  1. Wow, the place is so beautiful and very relaxing! The food looks delicious too! I cant wait to finally lift the travel ban and travel the world. Thanks for the virtual tour and stay safe!

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