The Monarch Crest Trail is one of Colorado's epic mountain bike rides. It's ranked one of the classic Epic Rides by IMBA and one of Bicycling Magazine's top-5 rides in the entire United States. The route covers over 35 miles of high alpine tundra, bombing descents through the forest, technical talus fields, and rolling singletrack. This one is a must-do!
High alpine tundra, talus, forest, high desert.
Mostly singletrack, with some jeep roads and a small bit of highway at the very end.
Detailed Trail Description:
0.0 - Start (Monarch Pass parking area)
0.3 - Sign, bear right
1.0 - Intersection of CDT, turn right, follow CDT
1.5 - Right onto singletrack section of CDT
The route starts at the top of Monarch Pass, on US Hwy 50, just west of Salida, Colorado. This route is point-to-point, so a shuttle is required to ride it.
Drive west on Hwy 50 to Poncha Springs. Leave a car here. Shuttle the other car west on US Hwy 50 for 18.5 miles to the summit of Monarch Pass (11,312'). Park in the large parking area near the gift shop. The trail starts just west of the old tram structure, at the western end of the parking lot.
When to Bike
The season for Monarch is very short. The snow has normally melted out enough to ride by mid-July. Weather conditions can be unpredictable, with snow any month of the year. Violent afternoon thunderstorms are common during the summer months. Be prepared for extreme weather: At a minimum, bring gloves, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and raingear.