An hour west of Vail is Glenwood Canyon, cut by the Colorado River. It is cited as the most beautiful section of the Interstate Highway system -- it was FABULOUS! A MUST SEE! The walls of the Canyon are red - the "color red" - which is where Colorado (color red in Spanish) gets its name. The red walls are sandstone with iron in it, giving it its color. The rocks are striated horizontally, with lines of green grass, evergreens, and sometimes aspen. Take a hike to Hanging Lake or along the Grizzly Creek (see my other notes).
Glenwood Springs is just outside Glenwood Canyons. There is a spa and swimming pool there - apparently two city blocks wide! The water is warmed by hot springs.
Another hour or so along the road is ASPEN, the ski resort which began as a wealthy mining town in the l880s. Wonderful Victorian buildings and a very expensive shopping area. You can buy your Barbie doll a $150 fur coat if you wish!
INDEPENDENCE PASS is a wonderfully beautiful drive, but can be hairy. Don't take it if you don't like heights! At 12,000 feet, it goes over the Continental Divide and offers spectacular scenery. The drive is nowhere near as scary as driving up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, but you must take it slowly - 15mph at times.
The town of Independence is a ghost town and archeological site. Silver was discovered there, and its hey day was 1881-2. It is just below the Continental Divide and quite cold. When the silver ran low, people moved to Aspen, which was the county seat and offered more moderate temperatures.
The Timberline, or tree line, here is around 13,000 feet. There are four 14,000-foot-elevation mountains. Interestingly, the treeline in the Alps, the large mountain range in Europe, is about 8,200 feet- the elevation of Vail!
Return to Vail via Twin Lakes and then Leadville, which was another silver town, the rival of Aspen. We ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut when we were on the road so that it was ready when we got to the Leadville Pizza Hut.
Between Leadville and Vail, you will pass Camp Hale, the 10th Mountain Division's home. The 10th Mountain Division was the ski division of the army during World War II. They practiced at Cooper Mountain, just outside of Leadville.