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.
Monarch Crest Trail to Agate Creek: After riding the blissful Monarch Crest Trail, Agate Creek provides an adventurous descent from the Continental Divide. Agate Creek offers up a full serving of skinny, loose, steep, rocky singletrack with lots of other obstacles thrown in – roots, severe water bars, deep stream crossings. The route is beautiful and less traveled than most trails descending from the Monarch Crest. You will get wet, hopefully just your feet.
Trailhead Access: This ride requires a shuttle. Drive both cars west of Salida 22 miles on US 50 to the summit of Monarch Pass. Continue another 6.9 miles down the west side of the pass and park one car in the pullout on the left side of the highway – if you reach the turnoff to the Agate Creek Campground, you have gone just a little too far. Drive the other car with the bikes back to the top and park beneath the gondola. Ride.
Location: Top of Monarch Pass to the bottom of the West side of the pass.
Distance: 18.3 miles – one way
Riding Time: 2.5 to 3.5 hours
Riding Surface in Miles: Doubletrack 0.6, Singletrack 17.7
Aerobic Level: Strenuous – altitude and technical
Technical Difficulty: Advanced – steep singletrack, sidecut, rooted, stream crossings
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 8,914; High Point 11,990; Climbs 1,314; Descends 3,431
Land Status: USFS – San Isabel and Gunnison National Forests
Maps: Pahlone Peak, Sargents
Note: You will get wet feet so throw dry socks in the shuttle vehicle before the ride.
Follow the Monarch Crest Trait – Out and Back ride to mile 7.6.
8.1 Turn sharply right, almost a switchback, onto the Agate Creek Trail 484. There is a small sign. Lower your seat and get ready, the first 2.5 miles are rough.
11.2 Lime Creek Trail cuts west. Stay on Agate Creek Trail 484 along the creek.
12.2 First crossing of Agate Creek. From here to the end of the ride, the trail crosses Agate Creek many times – the trail disappears into the water and reappears on the other side. Some of these crossings are rideable and others require wading or looking for a place to cross on rocks. Some crossings have bridges made of a single log – if you have good balance you can cross on the log. The water is colder and deeper earlier in the summer. You will get wet feet. Guaranteed.
13.3 Old cabin off the right side of the trail – wait inside if it’s raining.
15.2 The trail forks. Take the trail left, staying on Agate Creek Trail 484 which follows the creek.
15.7 Square rock in the woods. A table for wood elves?
15.9 After crossing Agate Creek again, climb the opposite bank and pass through the green metal gate. Close the gate.
17.7 The trail forks. Take the trail to the right (#484) down to the creek.
17.8 The trail moves away from the river and switchbacks up a steep, short climb.
18.2 The singletrack ends at the Agate Creek Trailhead. Follow the dirt road heading straight west (the only way it goes).
18.3 As the road swings to the left, look closely for a faint unmarked singletrack heading directly to your right. This trail goes about 25 yards to US 50, which should be very obvious because you are right beside the highway. Ride the singletrack to the highway and your shuttle car should be here.
The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.
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.
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