Salida

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 USD per person (including the bike) to the Monarch Pass.


Elisabeth ‘cruising’ Historic Salida

Monarch Crest

The locally available mountainbike information is excellent. A Mountain Bike Guide: 14ers Region, 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. The shop also announces the status of the Monarch Crest Trail on-line.


Monarch Crest Trail

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 singletrack is 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 may 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 1400 metres in altitude, so most bikers go up by car.


Greg of Absolutebikes drove us to Monarch Pass

The first singletrack on Monarch Crest

Riding Monarch Crest

Along the Continental Divide

Descent of the Silver Creek Trail

Thunderstorm


Silver Creek Trail

Beaver pond


Gully on Rainbow Trail

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 elevation is astonishing. It is for good reason that it is perhaps the most aftersought ride of all in the US.


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