Trail Talk: The Grottos offer an easy stroll in a too-good-to-be-true environment |

Trail Talk: The Grottos offer an easy stroll in a too-good-to-be-true environment

Carla Jean Whitley
The Roaring Fork River, running through the Cascades near the Grottos on Independence Pass, mid-day Wednesday before diversions were largely curtailed from the Twin Lakes-Independence Pass diversion system.
Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism |

Getting there: From Aspen, take Colorado 82 toward Independence Pass. The Grottos Day Use Area is about nine miles up on your right.

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Sometimes a full-fledged hike just isn’t on the agenda. But if you still crave a short walk in the wilderness, head to the Grottos near Independence Pass.

This scenic spot is the perfect place to wander, especially if you’re not quite ready for a high-altitude hike but don’t want to miss out on the Roaring Fork Valley’s natural wonder. Pack a picnic and make an afternoon out of it! This dog-friendly area is just off Independence Pass, so it’s a perfect place to pause at the beginning or end of a drive.

There’s a lot to see, even in this relatively small area. Walk past the ice caves; you can feel their chill even from a perch above their depth. Then make your way to the Cascades, a waterfall that’s almost too beautiful to be real. Footing may be a bit uneven at points — this is a rocky path — but overall, the Grottos are an easy trail.


It would be a shame to miss out on the full beauty of Independence Pass, so continue driving about 10 miles to the top. The pass itself is along the Continental Divide and provides beautiful views of the Elk Mountains.

There are also a number of other trails of varying difficulty just off the highway. Visit for more options.


The pass closes from October to May of each year, so now’s the time to take in these views.

What’s your favorite trail? Tell us where you like to hike, bike, run, ski or snowboard at

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