Monarch Crest - IMBA EPIC

 169 votes

34.6 Miles 55.6 Kilometers



2,281' 695 m


-6,133' -1,869 m


11,963' 3,646 m


7,457' 2,273 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (11°)

All Clear

19 days agoUpdate

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

Leslie Kehmeier


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!
Dogs: Leashed

Need to Know

The Monarch Crest is a long point to point ride at very high altitudes. 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.


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 Trailhead", 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.


Rate Featured Ride


4.7 from 169 votes

Get On-Trail Navigation

Send to Phone
Your Check-Ins


Sep 21, 2017
Denny DuBoe
Sep 17, 2017
Chuck McQuade
Solo cholo 3.5 hours total time
Sep 16, 2017
Lauren Marie
w/ Jamie, Carlin, Amanda, Kris, Matt, Steve & Eric. Amazing day. 36mi
Sep 16, 2017
David Young
34.4mi — 5h 15m
Sep 16, 2017
Matt K
Sep 16, 2017
Spencer16 Drewelow
Sep 12, 2017
Chris Maze
Sep 9, 2017
Rob S

Stewarded By

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 169 votes


in Monarch Pass


  4.7 from 169 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star


in Monarch Pass


in Colorado


8,865 Views Last Month
93,587 Since Oct 3, 2013
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult



All Clear 19 days ago
Dry, Mostly Dry
Update ConditionsHistory

Getting forecast...


If you want to cut off rainbow then starvation creek is the way to go. Once climbing again after the 5 point intersection before silver continue through a downed tree off monarch where it takes a sharp right. Climb a few hundred feet and be rewarded with incredible and technical downhill Aug 11, 2017

I've only been MTB riding for about 4 mo's, soooo he probably shouldn't have had me do this. I'm lucky I exercise as much as I do or this would have been pure, painful, and long enduring torture. Uphill galore at first.I fell numerous times and my legs are scraped up but parts were very fun. About 10 dirt bikers passed, leaving behind nasty exhaust. I expect they'll tear this trail up in no time Aug 28, 2017

This was an incredible ride, but plan for a long day and bring plenty of tubes, even if you run a tubeless setup. The descents are fast and very rocky, with quite a few sharp rocks torn out by dirtbikes: our group experienced 3 flat tires. Also, bring plenty of extra food and water; the elevation profile is very misleading, and the large amount of high altitude climbing really eats up calories. Aug 28, 2017

MTB Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Mountain Bike

MTB Project is supported by

Support Your Local IMBA Chapter