Home > Trips > Monarch Crest Trail--Classic MTB Shuttle Route
Monarch Crest Trail--Classic MTB Shuttle Route
The Monarch Crest is one of the finest mountain bike rides in Colorado. A fantastic high altitude singletrack above treeline, remote but easily accessed, the Crest Trail treats you to jaw-dropping views while traversing a section of the Continental Divide Trail between Monarch and Marshall Passes.
The Monarch Crest is one of the finest mountain bike rides in Colorado. A fantastic high altitude singletrack above treeline, remote but easily accessed, the Crest Trail treats you to jaw-dropping views while traversing the section of the Continental Divide Trail between Monarch and Marshall Passes. Most people ride the Crest after shuttling to Monarch Pass. Riders can use their own vehicles (park one in the Poncha Springs Visitor Center, and one at Monarch Pass), or use the reasonably priced High Valley Center shuttle service in Poncha Springs. This route shows the classic version of this ride--linking sections of the Colorado Trail, Silvercreek Trail, and Rainbow Trail for 30 miles of singletrack and roughly 7000 feet of descending! (Yes, there is significant climbing...) Keep a few things in mind when preparing for the Crest. You'll be at 11,000 plus feet; use sunscreen. Take PLENTY of food and water. Start early to avoid noontime thunderstorms. Finally, please stay on trail, even if it means scratching over an early season snowdrift or two; the tundra-adapted plants and flowers around you are rather delicate and take a long time to recover from damage, much like the crytobiotic soils found in lower deserts. Thanks, and have fun!
TO TRAILHEAD: The Monarch Crest Trail begins at Monarch Pass, 24 miles west of Salida on U.S. Highway 50. There is a large parking lot on the top of the pass, and a convenience store in case you forgot to bring food. The Crest Trailhead is on the south side of the pass--take the access road that passes underneath the tramway.
Monarch Crest Trail
Distance: 33.85 mi
Total Time: none
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Active Time: none
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Monarch Crest Trail
Points of Interest
Location: 38.496029, -106.324982
Location: 38.495602, -106.325562
The trail begins at 11,312 feet in the Monarch Pass parking area.
Set your odometer at zero and begin by taking this access road
underneath the gondola (FR 906).
Location: 38.492111, -106.315125
Trailhead Register. Turn right off of the double track (FR 906)
onto the single track. Please take a moment to sign in at the
registry--you're about to embark on a remote backcountry trail, and it could help Search and Rescue find you if trouble strikes. It is also reminds the forest service that mountain bikers are a significant user group!
Location: 38.490551, -106.309174
North Fooses Creek Trail Intersection. Bear right onto the uphill double track as you pass under the power lines. As you climb to MP 1.5, there is a good view of Tomichi Dome to the north. Prepare to be short of breath...
Location: 38.482609, -106.310043
Bear right onto the singletrack. There is a USFS bulletin board
and trail map at this intersection.
Location: 38.458233, -106.284149
Antora Peak as seen from across the headwaters of South Fooses Creek. Views of this quality are typical when riding the Crest Trail!
Location: 38.454788, -106.276527
Looking Northeast into South Fooses Creek. Aetna (13745'),
Taylor (13651'), Tabeguache (14155') and Shavano (14229')
Mountains are visible.
Location: 38.454529, -106.277100
Junction Monarch Crest Trail with South Fooses section of the Colorado Trail
Location: 38.453331, -106.277107
Looking southward from the top of South Fooses Creek. Sweet singletrack as far as the eye can see...
Location: 38.442894, -106.258629
This is the Green's Creek Lean-To shelter--a fine place to wait out a thunderstorm if you started riding to late in the morning. You may opt to divert to Greens Creek trail here. (See the Greens Creek Trip--Greens is a very technical descent and not the best choice for a quick bailout from altitude in bad weather.) Otherwise, continue on the Crest trail and begin climbing. At MilePoint 7.2 there is a natural spring about 15 feet to the left of the trail.
Location: 38.442207, -106.258614
Junction of Crest Trail with Greens Creek Trail. Greens shelter is a lean-to on the east side of the Crest Trail.
Location: 38.428223, -106.255196
Junction Cochetopa Trail and Agate Creek Trail
Location: 38.428528, -106.254311
This is the turn for Agate Creek Trail. Warning! Agate Creek Trail descends to the WEST side of Monarch Pass. If you take Agate unintentionally, you will have a great time for about 2 hours. Then you'll realize you'll have to ride all the way over Monarch pass on Hwy 50 to get back to the East side...
Note: This view looks back in the direction you have come from.
Location: 38.419338, -106.251831
Scree field crossing. You're into the middle of a super fun moderately technical descent here. This single track turns to fast, fun double track just ahead at MP 9.5. Eyes up and watch for hikers and riders coming up the trail--yield and say hi; it's good when everyone's having a great time!
Location: 38.395115, -106.246849
Marshall Pass parking and restroom. The Crest Trail ends here. You may
divert left on Marshall Pass road and descend to Hwy 285 via the Shirley Site--this is a good place to bail if you're feeling a little worked from the altitude or are low on food; it's a smooth, gradual 15 mile descent to the highway; otherwise continue to the Colorado Trail by turning right.
Location: 38.391701, -106.246735
Location: 38.392857, -106.246597
Turn left onto this double track. Marshall Pass Road (graded)
veers right and tops out at its highest point in a few feet.
Location: 38.391891, -106.247604
At this intersection, you may opt to divert left onto Poncha Creek
Road (fastest bailout from bad weather at high altitude); otherwise go right on the double track. There is a false trail straight ahead that can be confusing.
Location: 38.389847, -106.247810
Turn left onto the Colorado Trail at this trailhead marker.
Location: 38.376007, -106.238197
Looking south towards Porphyry Peak (11584'), Sheep Mountain
(12574') and Antora Peak (13269').
Location: 38.368019, -106.239296
The single track merges with a double track and climbs sharply.
Location: 38.350304, -106.242538
Silver Creek Trailhead. Turn left onto the singletrack. Do not
continue on the Colorado Trail to Saguache! Unless, of course, that was your plan all along.
Location: 38.357735, -106.206520
Dropping into Silver Creek Trail. Oh. Yeah. Have you ever been worn out from too much decending?
Location: 38.360855, -106.194672
Take a moment to
take in this view over your shoulder at mile 17.6. It's just so very NICE here...
Location: 38.361450, -106.191322
Beaver pond along Silver Creek Trail.
Location: 38.361221, -106.192787
Avalanche slope and aspens on the north side of Porphyry Peak.
Location: 38.361698, -106.184608
Keep your eyes open for this sudden two-footer. It marks the
beginning of a more challenging scree slope section.
Location: 38.361027, -106.180687
Keep an eye out for a
sharp right turn here; it
leads to the remains of
an interesting cliffside
mining site, the Kismuth Silver Mine.
Location: 38.363419, -106.176567
After fording the creek, you arrive at the top of Silver Creek Road (FR 2012) and the bottom of Toll Gulch Road (FR 869, which leads eventually to Bonanza). Proceed left and downhill on Silver Creek Road.
Location: 38.364712, -106.174789
You may opt for the easy descent to Hwy 285 on Silver Creek road, or turn right onto the very fun but much more strenuous rolling single track of Rainbow Trail (it adds10 mi. and 1500ft of climbing to Hwy285; make sure you still have some food and water left).
Location: 38.444458, -106.104736
Upon reaching Highway 285, turn left and descend to Poncha
Springs. There's a nice wide shoulder--it's a good cool down spin.
Location: 38.514137, -106.075737
You're just about done--that was a solid ride by any standard! If you're heading back to Salida, turn right onto CR 120. If you're going to the Poncha visitor's center, continue straight a few hundred more meters to the intersection of Hwy 50 and Hwy 285.
Poncha Springs Visitor Center
Location: 38.521542, -106.080772
Poncha Springs Visitors Center
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