Monarch Crest - TRAIL

Monarch Crest - Trail, Poncho Springs, Colorado

The section of the Continental Divide Trail that travels south from Monarch Pass is known as the Monarch Crest Trail or Crest Trail. It begins at 11,312 foot Monarch Pass and climbs to around 12,000 before dropping back down to 10,800 foot Marshall Pass. This ride is most often done as a shuttle, and there are more than half a dozen options for riding back down to Salida. It is not a downhill ride, however. The high elevation and rugged terrain make for a difficult, challenging ride. Start early to avoid getting caught in a high mountain thunder storm. Only snow-free from July-September most years. Maps, food, and full-service bike shops are available in Salida.

User Reviews (46)

Showing 1-10 of 46  
Whip   Weekend Warrior [Apr 12, 2015]

Well covered in other reviews.

Customer Service

I think many locals opt out of Silver Creek. Fooses Creek is an awesome descent and you can ride up the pass for some great road climbing and skip a shuttle. Next shameless self promotion you could stay at our rental and skip a car altogether. http://www.vrbo.com/651694
Also descents of Green Creek, Starvation Creek and Little Cochetopa
are popular. I don't recommend Poncha... too torn up by 4WD.

Similar Products Used: see above
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
3
James and Friends   Cross Country Rider [Aug 25, 2014]

This review perspective is from an intermediate level with 6 of us that went on August 23, 2014. It was a father/son kind of ride. Fathers in late 40's and sons 17-22: Most reviews we read up on were good. This ride had a ton of uphill climbs. Don't visualize this as a shuttle ride up and bike down type trail. The most basic route we took was 33 miles, including riding back into Poncha Springs to our vehicles. Signage is fairly weak for such a popular trail, just remember to follow the Colorado Trail. At times it felt like a busy highway, which is good that others are around incase of emergency. Other times, you're pulling off a lot to let them pass (intermediate is slow vs other riders plus we wanted to enjoy the views and take pictures). Above Tree Line was awesome and worth the "Epic" rating. It's the first 1/3 of your ride. Then we took Silver Creek and hit the Forest Service Road to the Hwy - did not do Rainbow Trail. Beware, Silver Creek has some intense steep, technical, and rocky down hill. Gary Fisher passed us along the way on Silver Creek - that was cool. Once you get through Silver Creek, the rest is down hill - about 10 miles. Prepare for a lot of climbing throughout and maybe a few sections of walking your bike through. The Shuttle is convenient for $20 and drivers are very knowledgeable and helpful, but if you have a buddy that can haul you and your bikes up Monarch Pass to the gift shop (20 minute highway drive) you all can save the $20 each and apply it towards some excellent pizza, beer, and tips in Salida!! Great town and really cool river walk.

Customer Service

Lots of riders on the trail, so hard to get lost. Basic rule is to follow the Colorado Trail. At some point, about 11 miles in, you will come out on a forest service road and public bathrooms prior to turning left onon Trail 203. Don't continue down that old railroad bed/forest service road - go left on Trail 203 unless you have a purchased map and know where you're going. The free map you get isn't that good or accurate. On Trail 203 you head to Silver Creek, which is clearly marked. Once at the end of Silver creek you are on a road that will lead you to either Rainbow Trail to the right or continue on the road to the highway and head back into Poncha Springs. Once at the highway, it is 4.7 miles down hill coasting into town. Plan for riding time of 3.5 hrs, not including your stops.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Johhnny CO   Cross Country Rider [Sep 02, 2012]

Beware: This ride is FantastiC!! Dont be fooled by others. Ups and Downs and everything in between. Be ready for the long haul Some nice variations to do(Agate, S.Foose, Rainbow, Marshal Pass rd., ect) Camp at Old Monarch Pass if you desire to stay up high.

Customer Service

Crest>Silver Creek>Rainbow

Similar Products Used: CT, Princeton hotspring to Cottonwood hotspring
North Backbone, "S" mountain trails
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Inuitbiker   Downhiller [Jul 06, 2012]

This review is for the classic crest ride from Monarch pass to Marshall Pass then to Silver Creek Trail to Rainbow Trail to town. It was not as epic as I expected. The ride had a lot of uphills and boring sections. Don't get me wrong, there were some short but fun downhill sections and very pumpable single track. I was expecting more downhills. The ride was very low in the technical aspect, which is good for beginners. There were a lot more fire roads than expected. The scenery and altitude is nothing special unless you are from somewhere flat. However, it is nice to not see or hear an interstate. Silver and Rainbow were the fun part of this ride. They definitely better when wet or packed down. Perhaps, dropping Fooses would have been better (looked down the start of Fooses- steep and fun) but it would make the ride shorter. The moto riders in the area were pretty cool and friendly.

Customer Service

Shuttle/Ride to Marshall Pass to CT to Silver Creek Trail to Rainbow to town

or

Shuttle/Ride to Monarch Pass Parking lot to FR906 (Access rd under gondi) to Crest Trail to Fooses to Hwy to town

OVERALL
RATING
2
VALUE
RATING
3
Blake   Cross Country Rider [Aug 02, 2011]

I totally enjoyed the ride today. 35 miles of fun ridable single track. We caught a shuttle to the top of Monarch pass from High Valley Bike Shuttle in Poncha Springs. While we opted to rent a GPS, I would have gotten the map if I were to do it over again. Terrain ranged from alpine meadow, high desert, aspen forests and mountain pine. While a very challenging ride, it was all ridable for an above cross country rider from Wisconsin. It took us about 5 hrs.

After the ride we enjoyed huge sandwiches and micro brews at happy hour prices at the High Valley Shop bar.

Great trial.

Customer Service

Start at Monarch Pass - Monarch Crest to the Colorado Trail, to Silver Creek Trail to Rainbow to Hwy 285 north, take the single track at mile marker 124 on the left side of the highway, look for the posts about a hundred yards past the mile marker that mark the entrance to the trail on an old rail road bed.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
samjolman   Weekend Warrior [Aug 03, 2009]

In a word, EPIC! This trail has everything. Scree fields, hard climbs, rocky down hill bombs, tree runs, high altitude meadows, amazing views, even a section in a mountain stream. It is very, very fun and not too technical. It requires being in shape more than being an expert biker. But be ready for a long, exhausting day. The absolute best part is the view from the upper part of the trail (the first 11 miles or so). You are right at tree line and can see forever. AMAZING!

Full suspension will save your butt and body. I did it on a hard tail and am no longer a hard tail purist. After miles of rock strewn trail, I now realize the value of full suspension. I also burned out my front Avid brake. That made the last half pretty scary.

Start early (before 10 AM) to avoid storms. Definitely buy the $12 map in the gift shop at the top of the pass (or a local bike shop). Very helpful map.

Customer Service

We opted to do the Rainbow trail, which has a lot of ups and downs in drainage wash outs. If I wasn't exhausted, it would have been a lot of fun. But after 20 miles, it was close to miserable because of all the extra climbs. You can take the silver creek two track and save yourself the pain.

We parked at the Poncha Springs visitor center (where 285 and 50 meet). If you can, go south on 285 a little more and park at the gas station on the East side of the street. We saw a lot of bikers there. It saves you a little extra effort.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
wilcox510   Cross Country Rider [Jul 09, 2007]

Best ride I've ever done. Overall not very technically challenging, just fast and fun. I was amazed at how good the singletrack was, considering all the use this trail gets. Even the double track was fun. The Rainbow Trail by itself would be a destination ride in most places, amazing up and down curvy singletrack in a pine forest. I didn't really think the climbing in the first several miles was very tough, I thought there were more difficult climbs just toward the end of the ride (obviously fatigue was part of that). If you are all about technical challenges and scaring yourself this may not be your ride, but if you like fast flowing singletrack (and lots of it) this ride is unbeatable.

Customer Service

Shuttle from Poncha Springs (unless you're way tougher than me), Monarch Crest to Rainbow Trail.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Fred   Cross Country Rider [Sep 08, 2006]

Don't ride this trail. It's very boring. Ride closer to home.


Fred, Poncha Springs

OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
singletrackminded   Cross Country Rider [Jul 29, 2005]

I was looking into camping info about spots on old monarch pass when I saw the review posted by some guy from Santa Cruz (in the old indexed posts.) In the review he claims that Downieville (CA)is the be all end all - and that Monarch Crest Trail is easy, not technical, basically a novice ride. So I felt the need to pipe in - because I grew up in Tahoe - rode Downieville all the freakin time (probably about 30-40 days worth) and still think the Crest Trail rules. So on to the review part... As everyone has said - this ride is no joke because you start off with a 10 mile climb at a beginning altitiude near 11 grand. Its mellow enough for me cause I live at 10 grand in Keystone. But for someome from say Santa Cruz - there's not much air up there. The ride down is not all downhill - but mostly. Try it when its wet if you really want a challenge. But my point is - this is one of my top 3 rides ever - right up there with the Big Boulder ride in Downieville (ask somebody if you dont know) and Reno/Flagg/Bear in Crested Butt.

Customer Service

Shuttle service from the gas station / bike shop in Poncha Springs. Best to ride in small groups - as this trail seems to bring out the worst in mechanicals and people blowing up. Don't miss the Thai Cafe on Hwy 50 (with the big ice cream cone) - arguably some of the best Thai in Colorado - who would have know. The lady that runs the place wont let you leave until you are full.

Similar Products Used: Look into the trails that drop in to the Gunny side of the pass - still somewhat unknown so find out for yourself.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
imtnbke   Cross Country Rider [Oct 27, 2004]

A fabulous ride. A few tips: Buy the $11.95 Monarch Crest Trail map from the High Valley Bike Shuttle (http://www.monarchcrest.com) company in Poncha Springs or from the well-stocked Absolute Bikes bicycle shop in Salida. What, $11.95 for one ride? Yes, it's worth it. The map has photographs that show what to do at confusing intersections. It can save you the long climb back up to the ridge that you might otherwise have to do if you take a wrong turn. There is a gift shop at Monarch Pass, where you'll start the ride. I think it has bathrooms. But at least one of the employees there is rude; she lectured me when I tried to bring in my bicycle and myself to get out of the cold. No further patronage of them from me, thank you! I did the ride in August 2004 and it was 44 degrees (7 degrees celsius) on the ridge you'll be riding along for the first several miles. You'll climb to 11,994 feet (3656m) on that ridge, and you're greatly exposed to high winds. So even it it's mild in Poncha Springs or Gunnison, be ready: it can be cold on the ride. I wore three top layers, including a full GoreTex jacket, and still wasn't warm enough until I got down to Marshall Pass, which is about 1,000 feet (about 300m) down from the highest point. You can get the Monarch Pass weather from the Weather Underground website, http://www.wunderground.com. Type 81230 in the search box (it's the ZIP Code for Gunnison) and look for the Monarch Pass link on the page that appears.

Customer Service

From Monarch Pass via shuttle.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Showing 1-10 of 46  

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