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 Pass Summit starts in downtown Salida and heads west to climb a long Colorado classic – Monarch Pass. From Salida, the ride crosses the relatively flat valley floor to Poncha Springs. From Poncha, US 50 heads west up Monarch Pass, a long climb all the way to the Continental Divide. It’s a sublime Colorado pass that follows the contours of the mountainsides and climbs steadily the whole way up through thick pine forests. It’s a big challenge, but the views are huge and the way down is fast, really fast.
Options: Wine Tasting Instead of Mountain Climbing – detour at mile 10.3 by turning left on CR 220. Ride 100 yards and take another sharp left to Mountain Spirits Winery. Instead of riding the whole pass, choose a shorter ride of 20.6 miles and spend the afternoon tasting locally-made wines. Call first to make sure they’re open. Mountain Spirits Winery 719-539-1175.
Trailhead Access: Downtown Salida. Park at the AHRA headquarters at the corner of Sackett and G Streets or in the public lot immediately west of Safeway at the corner of 3rd and H Streets. The ride starts from the corner of Sackett and G Streets.
Distance: 45.8 Miles – Out and Back
Riding Time: 5 Hours or More
Riding Surface: Good Pavement
Shoulder: Narrow to Nonexistent = Can be dangerous.
Traffic: Medium to Heavy
Aerobic Level: Difficult
Elevation in Feet: Low 7,031; High 11,312; Climbs/Descends 4,258
Notes: Due to the traffic and lack of a good shoulder on this pass, this ride should only be done by advanced road riders with excellent bike handling skills. Wear bright clothing and stay as close as possible to the edge of the road. Toilets and food can be found at the summit.
0.0 Ride west on Sackett Street.
0.1 Turn left on I Street and ride 3 blocks.
0.3 T-intersection with 3rd Street. Turn right and take an immediate left uphill on Poncha Blvd. Stay left on Poncha Blvd. at the top of the hill. Stay on Poncha Blvd. heading west all the way out of town.
1.1 Poncha Blvd. changes to CR 120. Stay on CR 120 to Poncha Springs, there is a bike path next to the road.
5.0 T-intersection with US 50/285. Turn right on US 50/285.
5.2 At this intersection, stay left on US 50 heading west. The road rolls up and down through this section. The Little Arkansas River is on your left.
10.3 Stay straight on US 50, unless you’re headed to the winery (see Options).
11.3 Ride through the small wide spot of Maysville. No shops. This is a good spot to turn around if you desire a shorter ride. After this, the climbing really begins. Shift down and spin.
17.1 Enter the tiny village of Monarch/Garfield. There are bathrooms and snacks inside the hotel here.
19.0 Madonna Mine to the left.
21.1 Monarch Mountain ski area on the right. Closed in summer. You are almost there!
22.9 The Summit at 11,312 feet! Nice job! There are snacks and toilets inside the Monarch Crest Gift Shop. If you have time, it’s fun to ride the tramway to the top of the mountain before you rocket downhill back to Salida. Be careful – it’s a fast descent.
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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