Salida is a small
friendly town in the upper Arkansas Valley. It is the kind of place
where people smile and say “hi” to strangers when you cycle around the
back streets. There is one excellent bike shop Absolutebikes that
helped us to move most of Elisabeth's components to a new frame.
As we had been camping for quite a few nights in Winter Park and
Frisco, we choose to stay in a motel at Route 50. Salida is renowned
for the Monarch Crest Trail which winds along the Continental Divide, a
ridge above 3400 metres. But there are also other trails of interest.
There is a shuttle service, High Valley Bike Shuttle,
from Poncha Springs that in 2003 charged 14
person (including the bike) to the Monarch Pass.
Elisabeth ‘cruising’ Historic
The locally available mountainbike information is excellent. A Mountain Bike Guide:
with trail maps, ride descriptions, etc., is distributed for free.
There is a Arkansas River
Valley Mountain Bike Trail Guide, for 10$ by Absolute Bikes.
shop also announces the status of the Monarch
Crest Trail on-line.
The Monarch Crest
trail begins at the Monarch Pass at 3463 meters. The first kilometre
is dirt road. Then, one hits the singletrack. It goes in a winding
twisting course along the ridge that constitutes the Continental divide. The highest point on the trail is 3645 m. It is an awesome ride. The
great fun, one rides around one corner after an other with fantastic
views both east and west. There is a short section with a fast
fire road that one bombs down to the Marshall Pass (3304). Beyond it
one climbs a
little again and stays on or close to the ridge line till the Silver
Creek fork in the path. Having come this far one has ridden more than
20 kilometres along the ridge. Now, a steep descent follows down the
Silver Creek, through meadows, aspens, and coniferous forest. When one
reaches a fire road one has the choice of following it down to Poncha
Springs, or one can take the Rainbow Trail. The Rainbow Trail makes a
long traverse winding in an out of gullies maintaining the altitude,
keeping at or close to 3000 meters another 10 kilometres, or so, before
it drops to Highway 285. We had a splendid outing! Of course we rode it
twice, though the second time we did not do the Rainbow Trail as a
thunderstorm blow in.
Thunderstorms are frequent, a typical summer day
have clear sky in the early morning, overcast by noon, and by three or
four a clock there is heavy thunderstorm and torrential rain. Getting
caught in a thunderstorm on the Crest may be lethal, so all rides of it
has to be planned with this in consideration, i.e., one has to start
early. Monarch Pass is almost 50 kilometres far from Salida, gaining
metres in altitude, so most bikers go up by car.
Would we go back?
Yes: any time the Monarch Crest trail is open. The only thing one can
hold against the trail is that it is closed most of the year due to
snow. It will normally be open first in late June or early July, and be
closed when the first heavy snow dump occurs in the autumn. The
singletrack is splendid as a trail. Pure fun. The location of the
trail, following the very Continental Divide for 20 km at a great
is astonishing. It is for good reason that it is perhaps the most
aftersought ride of all in the US.