Riding the Monarch Crest Trail

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Sunrise on Mt Silverheels

A couple weekends ago I woke up well before sunrise and drove my friend Vincent into the mountains. We were supposed to meet up with some other friends in Crested Butte, but when we got to Buena Vista, the other side of the mountains looked completely socked in. We checked the weather and CB was supposed to have rain and snow all day. BV had a better outlook so we looked for some mountain bike trails nearby. We found the Monarch Crest Trail was the highest rated ride in the area so we decided to check it out. We met the Valley High Shuttle in Poncha Springs and were delivered to Monarch Pass. The pass was covered in an inch or so of snow, with no breaks in the clouds in sight. We started up the trail, leap frogging with most of the group from the shuttle all the way to Marshall Pass, 8 miles of uphill. Once the downhill starts the group fans out and we’re mostly on our own. The snow definitely added a bit to the riding, making me stay on my disk brakes a little too much.

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But, it was beyond beautiful.

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Once we dropped into the trees, the snow went away and the leaves littered the trail.

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The trail continues for 30 miles, joining the Colorado Trail for portions of it. You climb for close to 2,000 feet for 8 miles from the pass, then get to descend 6,000 feet over the next 22 miles. The trail varies quite a bit, from flowing single track to incredible rock gardens. There are several cut offs if you need to bail, they take you down forest service roads back to the highway. We stuck it out and took the last bit of trail, Rainbow Trail, my favorite part. Most of the people turned off before this section, but it’s not to be missed. After you descend the steep last 1/2 mile down to the road you get to cruise 5 miles down US285, which brings you right back to your car.

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Beautiful spot on the Arkansas River next to our campsite north of Buena Vista

I just started mountain biking last summer. It’s been fun learning a new sport, but it also a steep learning curve. The Monarch Crest Trail is definitely my favorite trail that I’ve done. Can’t wait to explore more of the trails around the central Colorado mountains.

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