Saturday, February 21, 2009

Old Monarch Pass Rd Snowshoe

Distance: 2.6 miles round trip to the pass
Elevation: 10,939 ft to 11,392 ft
Elevation Gain: 453 ft

The summit of Old Monarch Pass and the blowing snow.

In January of 2006, I took a road trip to Salida for Martin Luther King’s birthday. One day we hiked in the rocks to the west of Salida and the next day we did a short snowshoe up the Old Monarch Pass Road.

I decided to profile this very short trail because as you can see from the pictures, the conditions were less than perfect. Most of my trips, rejoice greatly, show relatively benign weather. In the mountains, however, you take what you can get. It was this trip that made me invest in a facemask and goggles. I have used them occasionally since then.

Beginning of the trail. You can see the sign in the picture above at the tip of the left most tree.

The trailhead is near Monarch Pass, which is the pass over the Continental Divide on Hwy 50 between Salida and Gunnison. It is 18.2 miles up Hwy 50 and is very near the Monarch Pass Ski Area. The current road takes a different route up and over the Continental Divide and this snowshoe follows the old road. There is a large pullout on the right and a sign.

Since it is an old roadbed, it is very gradual and suitable for the novice. Part of the route travels right next to a downhill run of the ski area. We ended up attracting attention with our dogs by a couple of dog loving skiers. It turned out later we were staying in the same hotel.

A little farther up the trail. For perspective compare the trees on the upper most knoll with their location in the previous picture.

After taking a couple of bends, the route goes around a sharp corner to the old pass. There is a sign proclaiming it that can be seen from the start of the trail. When we reached the pass, the wind was blowing snow into our face and eyes so that it was hard to see. The road does continue for another nine miles down the other side, which would make a nicer and longer journey, but on this day, without goggles, it was a no go.

Across the road from the sign. You can see that the road continues. Around this bend was a blizzard.

Salida made a great weekend getaway and if we go again, I would certainly considered checking out more trails in the Monarch area. If your time is short, this trail is very easy and very doable but a bit of a drive from Salida. The guidebook says that from the summit, there are stunning views of the entire breadth of the Rockies from Pikes southward. On this trip all we saw was snow. Please check it out and let me know.

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