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Monarch Crest - IMBA EPIC

 4.7 (244)

36.2 Miles 58.3 Kilometers


85%

Singletrack

2,035' 620 m

Ascent

-5,890' -1,795 m

Descent

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

17%

Max Grade (10°)

11,962' 3,646 m

High

7,458' 2,273 m

Low

Conditions


All Clear 2 days ago
Dry History

Getting forecast...

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

Leslie Kehmeier

Dogs Off-leash

Features -none-

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.

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Your Check-Ins

Check-Ins

Sep 21, 2018
Chris Toleman
dry and crisp, not too many people out there either 37.9mi
Sep 16, 2018
Whitewater Rider
Last 5 miles are no joke, several steep creek valley drops w steep pulls out of them. Parked at end of Rainbow, about 10 parking spaces there. 100… 30.9mi
Sep 16, 2018
Alex.locke
Sep 15, 2018
skandl Kandl
40mi
Sep 15, 2018
Clint G
Sep 15, 2018
Nick Orton
Sep 15, 2018
Joe Martinet
Oh yeah good stuff with Stephen
Sep 12, 2018
Jason Denley
rainbow trail can suck it 39mi

Stewarded By


Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 244 votes

#1

in Monarch Pass

#3

Overall
  4.7 from 244 votes
5 Star
76%
4 Star
20%
3 Star
2%
2 Star
2%
1 Star
0%
Rankings

#1

in Monarch Pass

#1

in Colorado

#3

Overall
9,101 Views Last Month
150,523 Since Oct 3, 2013
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult

0%
1%
9%
64%
26%
1%

Photos

Just did this trail for the first time with a big group of buddies, needless to say...great time! I have to say, this was a tougher trail than I was expecting. I didn't look at the rating and comments in here or I would have had better intel. Just looking at the profile and the numbers on paper, combined with the thought that 'well with shuttling up it will be a cool ride with lots of downhill', you can underestimate it. Unless you are a just a natural athlete this is not a "hey I'm vacationing from Indiana...let's try this mountain biking thing" ride. Fortunately I was riding with very seasoned riders that have done it dozens of times and gave me the heads up on some parts, because there are some definite danger zones. Even with a group of very experienced riders we drew plenty of blood. There is a stretch of skree toward the end that has collected some serious injuries over the years. Over all...amazing views, expect some long climbs and stretches with short steep climbs. Even the downhills have plenty of challenges that keep you mentally engaged. Altitude is a factor if you're not used to it. Without a doubt a 'must do' ride. Jul 22, 2018
Kayleen Castelli
Denver, CO
Kayleen Castelli   Denver, CO
Just FYI, somewhere between miles 16-18, there is a dead tree diagonally at about head height across the trail. I happened to be looking down and smashed right into it. My helmet took the impact but if I were about 4 inches taller, it would have been my face. Look alive, everybody! Aug 7, 2018
Dan W  
1. The elevation is wrong. Closer to 3k 2. Most reviewers skip rainbow (the worst of the climbing by far) 3. Nothing is marked well. None of the names on here match signs until rainbow. Fun trail, sweet downhill but quite a bit of climbing, I question it being the best in Colorado. Definitely a backlist item. Aug 13, 2018

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