Driving up Independence Pass is a beautiful way to spend the afternoon and along the way to the top of this 12,096’ pass you can stop at highlights. For the thrill seekers, near the Grottos there is a series of waterfalls that flow into a crystal clear pool of mountain river water called the Devil’s Punch Bowl. People jump from 20 foot cliffs into borderline hypothermic cold water that takes your breath away when you hit it. Make sure you jump out far enough so you don't hit the jutting rock bed on the way down. Some might think it is crazy but it is the ultimate adrenaline rush.
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The Power of Cascading Water
About nine miles up Independence Pass there is a scenic viewing area called the Grottos. This excursion is worth pulling over for even if it is just for a few minutes. This is a geographical phenomenon with canyon like structures that were formed by the powerful water that runs through it. The jaunt starts with walking over a bridge with pristine views of the Roaring Fork River. From there you can hike around the surrounding hillside or if you are rushed for times see the two main sights: the Ice Caves and the Cascades. The Ice Caves, amply named after the cavernous rocks constantly being in the shadows and forming walls of ice. The other sight, the Cascades, is rushing waterfalls over huge slabs of granite rock that have been smoothed down by this power force of nature. Spend the day lying out like a lizard on a rock at the Cascades and soak up the sun if you have time.
Comprised of a 28-mile section of Clear Creek County Road 103 and Colorado State Highway 5, the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in the United States, topping out just below the summit of Evans at 14,130 feet. The route gains more than 7,000 feet in elevation, passing through ponderosa and juniper forests before venturing above treeline. A few hours’ drive to the southwest is another one of Colorado’s highest roads: State Highway 82, which crosses Independence Pass at an altitude of over 12,000 feet between Aspen and Twin Lakes, is a popular destination for tourists and hard-charging cyclists alike. To experience either of these routes, you’ll have to show up in warm weather, as both regularly close in the winter.