Day 7 - Monarch Crest Trail - Mountain bike ride (CO)

After another great nights sleep (staying in a real house is so much better than staying in a Hotel). I got up and then after checking the weather forecast we decided to go and ride the Monarch Crest Trail. We drove in convey to Monarch Pass, where we dropped off the bikes and left Courtney to guard them, and then we drove down to the end of the trail off HW 285.
Its a long old drive up and down the Monarch Pass, which made me think the price of the shuttle service from Poncha springs to be very good value for money.
Although is was a lovely sunny day there was a biting cold wind blowing quite strongly , so we had to dress up warmly at the start of the ride, the wind was mainly behind us when riding so wasn't too bad overall. The ride starts at Monarch Pass at 11,312 ft. We started riding at around 10:40
The ride starts by climbing up Forest road and then turns right onto the Continental Divide trail for .7 miles - this is a fun but short lived section of trail which then connects onto a 4 wheel drive trail. .
We over took quite a few other bikers as we headed up the forest road and jeep trails, and even though there were quite a few people out on the trail, we never got stuck behind anyone for long.
These pictures were taken near the highest point of the ride near Peel point @ 12,145. It takes quite a bit of huffing and puffing to ride up the climbs at this altitude. The alpine tundra was quite barren, but if you stopped and looked at the plants you could see loads of little plants growing off the trail.
There's a lot of climbing on this trail according to a plot from my GPS you climb 2532 feet and in total drop 5278 feet (If you don't ride back on HW 285). And as its at such a high altitude this is quite a tough ride. There is a really good fast descent of around 400ft where you drop down out of the tundra to a hunters cabin, and then the trail heads through some mixed conifer woods before you start climbing again.
After a fun fast section of singletrack through the trees the trail traverses a talas slope, I spotted a couple of Pika here but didn't capture any on Camera, the trail then continues along a fast singletrack through the trees towards Marshall Pass.
The singletrack through the tress is fast and fun, but eventually ends at a four wheel drive road which heads down to Marshall pass, the road descends 600 feet, and has a number of dips which you can launch off to get air and although not singletrack is fast and fun to go down.
From Marshall pass you have to climb up through trees on a switch backing singletrack, which eventually connects to very steep old dirt road which continues to climb for a way.
We stopped at this view point overlooking the Starvation Creek drainage , and had some food. It had warmed up a bit by now so we were able to take off some of our warmer clothing.
At about the 14.5 mile mark we reached the turning for Silver Creek / Rainbow trail. The trail heads down some steep switch backs through a sloping meadow.
After some nice fast descending the trails swoops through a meadow with a strand of aspen on one side and the silver creek on the other.
The next section of the Silver creek trail is one of my favourite parts of the Monarch Crest trail, as the trail heads downwards by the side of scree fields , with beaver ponds and the creek to your left, through tunnels of Aspen trees.
This part of the trail is incredibly scenic with the water, and the Aspens beginning to turn in the background, and you really have to be careful as you bounce along on the scree sections which are quite loose.
Shortly after crossing the creek, you start to head down a old jeep road which has become a stream due to beaver activity, there are various tracks available to avoid the wettest parts. Then you come to the turning for the rainbow trail on your right.
The rainbow trail is quite tough with numerous ups and downs as the trail traverses lots of drainage's, some with stream crossings.
The trail was quite dusty , this time round I managed most of the climbs although a couple of the very steep loose ones defeated me.
The trail traversed across several meadows with nice view back of the mountains where we had previously been riding.
At about 26 miles the trail cross's a dirt road and then climbs up a trail with lots of baby heads in the trail, there is then a good rocky descent down the other side, I took this carefully as I've crashed here before on another trip.
The final Descent down to HW 285 is a rear brake burner, it descend down steep via a number of sharp switch backs on a dust loose surface down to the Highway.

We arrived back at the car at around 16:40. We loaded the bikes and then had some cold drinks. My cycle computer said we had ridden 30.91 miles

According to my GPS track in Topo we climbed 2924 ft and descended 5676 ft.

It had been a brilliant ride with great company - The Monarch Crest Trail is still on of my favourite all time rides.

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We stopped off at Poncho Springs on the way back so I could book a place on the Monarch Crest Shuttle the next day, as I'd enjoyed the ride so much I wanted to do it again, before driving back up to Monarch Pass to get my SUV, then we drove back to Gunnison.
After getting cleaned up we went out and had a meal at the Trough in Gunnison - were I bought us all dinner. The food was ok, but was no where as good as Courtney's smashing home cooking.

Click here for Day 8