Monarch Crest Trail to Silver Creek
Published with permission from the guide book: The Local’s Adventure Guide to Singletrack & Tarmac – Mountain Bike Trails and Road Rides in the Upper Arkansas River Valley by Nathan Ward.
- Featuring 36 Mountain Bike Trails and 18 Road Rides in and around Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado – beginner to expert, town to summit, smooth tarmac to extreme singletrack.
- Maps and Elevation Profiles for each ride, including altitude gain and loss.
- Local Advice on riding areas and seasons, where to sleep, where to soak, where to find the best pizza, the best coffee and the best bars in Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado.
The Monarch Crest Trail to Silver Creek combines the sweet riding and views of the Monarch Crest Trail with a fast and sometimes technical downhill along the Silver Creek drainage to US 285 on Poncha Pass. The trail zips through aspen groves, flower-filled meadows, along the stream and over rock slides. The Silver Creek singletrack provides more technical challenges than the Crest Trail, and the road to Salida at the end will put the final burn on your legs.
Trailhead Access: This ride requires a shuttle. Park one car in Salida. Drive the other vehicle and bikes 22 miles west of Salida on US 50 to the top of Monarch Pass. Park in the huge lot beneath the gondola.
Location: Top of Monarch Pass to Salida
Distance: 38.7 miles – one way
Riding Time: 3.5 to 6 hours
Riding Surface in Miles: Paved 11.2, Dirt Road 4.1, Doubletrack 7.7, Singletrack 15.7
Aerobic Level: Strenuous – altitude and mileage
Technical Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced – rocky, loose and water bars
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 7,043; High Point 11,989; Climbs 2,044; Descends 6,310
Land Status: USFS, City/County, Private Land
Maps: Pahlone Peak, Mount Ouray, Poncha Pass, Salida West
Note: With all the downhills, this ride drops a mind boggling 6,310 vertical feet.
Options: End the ride early in Poncha Springs.
Monarch Crest Trail to Silver Creek Photo Gallery
Monarch Crest Trail to Silver Creek Mileage Log
Follow the description for the Monarch Crest Trail – Out and Back route to mile 9.5.
9.5 At the end of the singletrack, turn left (south) on the doubletrack dirt road. This is a scary fast downhill road section with huge water bars. More collarbones have been broken here than on any other section of the ride, so take care! Stay on this fire road all the way down to the top of Marshall Pass.
10.8 Stay to the right on this sharp right corner.
10.9 The road ends in a large parking area at the top of Marshall Pass. There are pit toilets here. Turn right, uphill on the Marshall Pass road.
11.1 The road splits. Take the left hand road uphill, CR 203. Just before this fork in the road, a sign for the Colorado Trail points left, and this is your road.
11.2 When you reach a 3-way split, turn right on the unmarked doubletrack road that heads around the flank of the hill.
11.3 The trail splits again. Take the left hand Trail 486, which is well-signed and reads “Silver Creek 3”. The trail leads upward on a smooth singletrack through a shady corridor of trees.
12.5 Stay on the main trail as it switchbacks right. The trail still feels smooth as butter.
12.8 The trail levels then heads downhill on a race track section that slaloms through the trees. The trail becomes more rooted and rocky but still relatively smooth.
13.8 Follow the signpost pointing left which reads “Silver Creek 1”. Do not take the road downhill. Stay left on the road uphill – this is the last climb for the day.
14.5 Follow a short road left to a viewpoint over the Silver Creek drainage. The drainage below (west) is the one to follow back to town. Enjoy the view, return to the main road and continue left.
15.0 Turn left on Silver Creek Trail 1407. It’s downhill from here as the singletrack drops through switchbacks onto a sidecut trail leading into the trees and bounding through open meadows like a bunny. Hop hop. Watch for the technical rocky sections.
16.6 The trail snakes along the creek.
18.1 Watch out for the rock slide section. Across the creek is a massive avalanche path.
19.0 Watch for the 2 foot drop that marks the beginning of a loose, rocky section of trail beneath the Kismuth Mine.
19.3 Cross Silver Creek on a split log bridge.
19.4 The trail turns to rocky road with the creek running down the middle, FSR 201.
19.6 The road splits. Stay left on Silver Creek road and don’t take the Toll Road Gulch.
19.7 The Rainbow Trail turns right here and offers an additional 9 miles of singletrack that emerges on Poncha Pass. To follow the mapped Silver Creek route, stay on the road.
19.9 Stay on the main road. Follow your nose down from this point, always staying on the main road downhill. Don’t take any smaller roads which frequently turn off Silver Creek road.
22.2 Houses and ponds to your right.
23.4 A large road comes in from the right. The dirt road improves greatly at this point. Watch for oncoming cars. Continue on the main road.
25.0 Shirley Site Angler Parking with pit toilets. Stay on the road downhill and straight. The road name changes to CR 200.
25.2 The road to O’Haver Lake turns left. Stay downhill and straight.
27.5 T-intersection with US 285. Turn left (north) down the pavement.
32.5 Enter Poncha Springs and pass the High Valley Center where they sell cold drinks. To Salida, ride straight on US 285 heading through town. Do not turn on US 50.
32.9 Turn right (east) on CR 120 which parallels US 50. Stay on CR 120 all the way to Salida. There is a bike path next to the road.
36.9 Enter Salida. CR 120 becomes Poncha Blvd.
38.2 Poncha Blvd. ends on a sweeping downhill corner to the right. This road now becomes 3rd Street. Pass Safeway on your left.
38.4 Turn left at the corner of 3rd and F Streets in the heart of Historic Downtown Salida. Ride 3 blocks to Sackett Street or wherever you parked.
Ride With Care
Bicycle riding is a physically strenuous activity with many risks and dangers. Hazards, natural or man made, whether noted in this book or not, can be encountered at any time under any situation. As a cyclist, we assume you know your personal abilities and limitations. This book represents nothing more than a guide to the trails and roads and is not meant to replace your common sense, your ability to navigate in the wilderness or in traffic, or your ability to ride a bicycle safely.
In addition, the mileages and routes listed in this text are only suggestions. There may be variances and you may get lost. We recommend everyone uses a GPS and topographical map to navigate. Most routes in this text are located on public land, but some trails pass through or adjacent to private land. Respect the land owner’s rights and obey all signs regarding trail use. The same goes for wilderness areas which prohibit mountain bike riding. Neither the author, nor the publisher, nor anyone else mentioned in this book are responsible or liable in any way for any accident, injury or any action brought against anyone traveling any route listed in this book. All cyclists and their companions assume responsibility for themselves. Ride at your own risk.