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Monarch Crest - IMBA EPIC

Difficult
 4.7 (362) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

One of Colorado's top 5 epic rides - classic high-altitude riding in the Rockies!


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Map Key

36.2

Miles

58.3

KM

85%

Singletrack

11,962' 3,646 m

High

7,458' 2,273 m

Low

2,035' 620 m

Up

5,890' 1,795 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

17%

Max Grade (10°)

Dogs Off-leash

E-Bikes Allowed

Overview

The trailhead is at Monarch Pass, off Highway 50, about 19 miles up from Poncha Springs. There are shuttle services from Poncha Springs to the start or you can shuttle with 2 cars, leaving one at Monarch Pass and the other at the Hwy 50/Hwy 285 intersection.

Three trails combined into one famed ride: The Monarch Crest Trail (14 miles), which follows a portion of the Continental Divide Trail, then turns north/left/down onto Silver Creek Trail (4.5 miles), and runs right into a portion of the Rainbow Trail (10 miles). The final 5 miles are downhill and paved back to Poncha Springs.

You'll encounter everything: singletrack, doubletrack, fire road, smooth and packed, rocky and loose, great views, and entirely fun!

Need to Know

The Monarch Crest is a long point to point ride at very high altitudes. NOTE: there is 2000 vertical feet of climbing along the way. The elevation profile makes it look like an easy 'downhill shuttle ride' while in fact all that high altitude climbing takes most of the time, and your energy, as the ride progresses. This isn't a beginner ride, it's a very long and very tough intermediate level ride.

Be prepared for extreme weather including rain, snow and intense sun. Pack plenty of food and water in addition to a few extra layers of clothes.

Self-sufficiency is a must and adventure is guaranteed.

The nearby town of Salida has a host of post-ride recovery foods and beverages, or make Elevation Beer Co in Poncha Springs your first stop at the end of your ride, before rolling the last 5 miles into Salida.

Description

The Monarch Crest - IMBA Epic route starts on the east side of Monarch Pass. This is the drop-off point for shuttle vehicles.

Ride up the dirt road behind the tram building and climb a bit before finding the start of the Monarch Crest Trail on the right. The route begins relatively flat and contours through pines. The tread is fairly smooth with a few roots. After a quick climb on a section of doubletrack, stay right again on singletrack. This segment is a bit more technical with roots and a few rocks.

From here the trail is fairly open and has spectacular views of valleys and mountains to the west. Stay right (straight) at intersections with Fooses Creek (access to Colorado Trail), and Green's Creek Little Cochetopa. Chipeta Peak looms large and beautiful to the east as you pedal up a short steady climb from Green's Creek.

Above Marshall Pass, the route opens up into doubletrack and descends quickly. Ride past the pit toilet, continuing south. When the road bends right, pedal straight up the hill and then to the right. Look for Monarch Pass Trail on the left.

The route contours again with some short climbs and descents. Most of the time you'll be in the trees with a tread surface that alternates between smooth and rooty.

The Silver Creek intersection will sneak up on you quickly after breaking out into the trees on a quick downhill.

Turn left here for Silver Creek and the Monarch Crest - IMBA Epic route.

The route continues by turning left off Monarch Crest and diving into a series of switchbacks. Be ready for loose, rocky, and a bit rutted trail in places. Losing elevation quickly, you'll roll out into a narrow open valley. The singletrack tightens up as it begins to parallel the Silver Creek.

From here the route contours across the north side of the drainage. The tread surface alternates from dirt and roots to scree. Keep yourself balanced and ready as you cruise down the valley.

After passing a series of beaver ponds in the drainage below the trail, be prepared for the most technical section of the route. Catch a little air off of a rock drop. You'll find yourself landing in a scenic spot with steep cliffs surrounding you.

The last portion of Silver Creek dives into pine and aspen. You'll cross a wooden bridge, then ride through the creek itself for 100 yards until the tree canopy opens up.

From here, continue onto Rainbow Trail (signage changed in 2017 - the new one says "Silver Creek Trail", which starts to your right after a short section of road.

The trail begins with a few bits of technical terrain, which quickly smooths out to mostly mellow singletrack. It's moderately difficult, save for more than a handful of dips into gulches with very steep, but short climbs back out requiring good bursts of energy to clean.

After about 6.5 miles, you come to a dirt road, which you'll cross to stay on the Rainbow Trail.

Rainbow Trail's final 3 miles are more technical than the first. You begin this section with a short rock and root garden climb. The trail remains relatively technical singletrack for another rolling 2 miles and ends with a ripping, rocky, narrow and fun final 1/2 mile descent to the road.

You drop quickly onto the paved Highway 285, which you'll follow in the downhill direction for about 5 miles back to Poncha Springs.

Contacts

Shared By:

Leslie Kehmeier with improvements by Marcel S and 4 others

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 362 votes

#1

in Monarch Pass

#4

Overall
  4.7 from 362 votes
5 Star
76%
4 Star
18%
3 Star
3%
2 Star
2%
1 Star
1%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Monarch Pass

#2

in Colorado

#4

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Photos

Monarch Crest
Sep 7, 2016 near Whitepine, CO
The experience of 2 Spaniards in Monarch Crest IMBA epic. Truly a high altitude mtb experience!
Oct 19, 2018 near Whitepine, CO
Somewhere on the Monarch Crest Trail
Jul 13, 2015 near Salida, CO
Tight singletrack in the high meadows of Silver Creek trail
Oct 5, 2013 near Saguache, CO
There's snow in them hills!
Sep 25, 2017 near Whitepine, CO
Somewhere along Silver Creek Trail on the the Monarch Crest IMBA Epic ride.
Oct 2, 2018 near Saguache, CO

Weather


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Check-Ins

May 25, 2022
IGTV Viewer
120mi — 3h 00m
Oct 10, 2021
Ryan Harr
Sep 26, 2021
tooTALLtim
Outstanding!! Definitely epic, especially this time of year! The aspens were pure gold, and catching the 10 am shuttle had me riding in a t-shirt m… 36mi — 5h 30m
Sep 25, 2021
Michael Faas
Sep 19, 2021
Erik Hokanson
Sep 11, 2021
Mike Miller
4h 25m
Sep 9, 2021
Kelly Newberg
Janet, Kat, Debbie 35.2mi — 4h 30m
Sep 5, 2021
John Chappell
It looks like a lot of downhill, but there is more uphill than it may seem. Be prepared and enjoy the adventure! 36.2mi — 8h 15m

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