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Backpacker Magazine – June 2006

The Continental Divide Trail's Monarch Crest

Don't miss your chance to take the best dayhike on the CDT.

by: Mike Lanza, BACKPACKER Northwest Editor

State: CO

In the Colorado Rockies, you earn your views with grueling climbs at elevation...except on the CDT's 11.5 miles from 11,312-foot Monarch Pass to 10,830-foot Marshall Pass. This spectacular dayhike starts high and stays that way, traversing a long, open ridge in the Sawatch Range and gaining less than 900 feet over the entire distance. Virtually the entire jaunt is above treeline--so you get constant panoramas of jigsaw ridges reaching to every horizon, including the Collegiate Peaks' Fourteeners to the north and the rolling Cochetopa Hills to the south. If you happen to enjoy your mountain odysseys on wheels, this may also be the best singletrack ride on the CDT, a nontechnical cruise known to mountain bikers as the Monarch Crest Trail.

Local Wisdom: Most people--especially bikers--go north to south, from Monarch to Marshall, for a net drop in elevation. Start early and finish by midday to get off the exposed ridge before summer's almost-daily afternoon thunderstorms.

The Way: Monarch Pass is on US 50, 18 miles west of Poncha Springs. To reach Marshall Pass from Poncha Springs, go 5 miles south on US 285, turn west onto Marshall Pass Rd., and drive 13 miles.

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