MTB Project Logo

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

Your Rating: Rating Rating Rating Rating Rating      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty:
Your Favorites: Add To-Do · Your List
Zoom in to see details
Map Key







11,961' 3,646 m


7,459' 2,274 m


1,922' 586 m


5,778' 1,761 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (10°)

Dogs Off-leash

E-Bikes Allowed

Features Views

Usually snow covered until the 4th of July. Even then, you may have to cross several tall snow drifts on the top of the Divide, which can be sketchy. Begin your ride early to avoid being caught in afternoon thunderstorms.


The Monarch Crest is, simply put, one of the best mountain bike rides in the world. This epic 36-mile shuttle begins with jaw-dropping views as you traverse along the vaulted spine of the Rockies, flirting with treeline, on a section of the Continental Divide Trail, aka the Monarch Crest Trail proper. When you drop off of the divide, the Silver Creek Trail offers up 4.5 miles of ripping-fast descending as you lose thousands of vertical feet on rocky singletrack. The ride continues seamlessly onto the Rainbow Trail for another ~11 miles of narrow, beautiful singletrack. Whether it's your first or your hundredth ride on the Crest, you're guaranteed a truly spectacular mountain biking experience!

Need to Know

The Monarch Crest is a long point-to-point ride at very high altitudes. NOTE: There is over 3,000 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 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.


The Monarch Crest - IMBA Epic route starts on the east side of Monarch, about 19 miles up from Poncha Springs. This is the drop-off point for shuttle vehicles. There are shuttle services from Poncha Springs and Salida to the start, or you can shuttle with two cars, leaving one at Monarch Pass and the other in Poncha Springs or Salida.

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.

The final stretch of the Rainbow Trail is rocky, technical, and dusty in places. While there are a few steep pitches, the conclusion to the descent is rolling and flowing, depositing you onto Highway 285.

Once on the paved Highway 285, which you'll follow it in the downhill direction for about 5 miles back to Poncha Springs.


Shared By:

Leslie Kehmeier with improvements by Marcel S and 4 others

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 398 votes


in Monarch Pass


  4.7 from 398 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Recommended Route Rankings


in Monarch Pass


in Colorado


398 Views Last Month
234,610 Since Oct 3, 2013
Difficult Difficult



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
Late October on the Monarch Crest.
Nov 1, 2016 near Whitepine, CO
There's snow in them hills!
Sep 25, 2017 near Whitepine, CO
Tight singletrack in the high meadows of Silver Creek trail
Oct 5, 2013 near Saguache, CO


Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Sep 23, 2023
Private User
Sep 17, 2023
Matthew Petrarca
Sep 17, 2023
Robert Lee
Sep 10, 2023
Maureen Petterson
Sep 2, 2023
Yean Carlos Nieves
Sep 2, 2023
Jake Crouse

Stewarded By


Join the Community

Create your FREE account today!
Already have an account? Login to close this notice.

Get Started