Photo by Chris Kassar
Download the free ViewRanger GPS app and coordinates and escape the crowds by taking this quick, little-used cutoff on the Monarch Crest trail.
The Monarch Crest Trail deserves all the hype it gets. And mountain bikers (as well as hikers) have options: Multiple side routes like Silver Creek, Marshall Pass, Agate Creek or Greens Creek mean the trail can be different each time you ride it. Want a quick ride? Try the peaceful, stunning and oft-overlooked Fooses Creek. This point-to-point 12-plus-mile adventure begins just below 9,000 feet and climbs to almost 12,000 feet. If you’re biking, you can shuttle to the top— Subculture Cyclery (subculturecyclery.com) and High Valley Shuttle (monarchcrest.com) offer rides—and bomb down, but, for those in good shape, the fairly mellow grades make it a tough, but doable ride up, too.
From Poncha Springs drive west on US 50 toward Monarch Pass for just under 10 miles. Turn left at the turnoff for CR 225 and follow this paved road—which eventually turns to dirt—for just under two miles. Begin riding (or hiking) this gradual dirt road.
The Road Less Traveled
After less than a mile, you’ll reach an intersection with another 4WD road. Head left to stay on CR 225.
Hit the Trail
After about two miles, leave CR 225 and turn left onto 225 C which quickly morphs into the Colorado Trail (1776) and your first taste of sweet singletrack. Note the South Fooses Creek Trailhead sign. Cruise over a tiny wooden bridge to cross over North Fooses Creek which comes in from the left.
Breathe deep and inhale the solitude of this forest. Note the lovely ponds on your right and keep an eye out for industrious beavers. At this point, your legs and lungs might be screaming. Distract yourself from the pain by looking up and enjoying the breathtaking views all around.
Into the Great Wide Open
This sometimes narrow, but navigable, shady trail climbs and cruises through the trees, over a rough log bridge and eventually hits a rocky technical section that will add to the fun factor and challenge your bike-handling (or trail-running). Enjoy all the oxygen here; in less than .25 miles you’ll break 11,000 feet and won’t dip below this altitude again for the duration of your escapade. Shortly after the technical boulder garden, the trail pops out of the trees and climbs steeply upward.
Back in the Saddle
Push up a loose and rough bit of trail to reach a tiny saddle and the Monarch Crest Trail proper. Grab a snack and reward yourself with an amazing view of the Collegiate Peaks. When you’re ready, head right on the Crest Trail.
Cruising on the Crest
You’ve just passed the highest elevation of this journey (11,946 feet) and Peel Point rises to your right. All the major climbing is behind you so relax and enjoy the rolling and rugged terrain ahead, or turn around and head back down from here.
You’ve been working for over 10 challenging miles, but the end is in sight. Only two more miles at this point so be sure to enjoy the sweeping vistas provided by this wide open corner.
Enjoy the last downhill cruise to reach the very busy Monarch Pass parking lot. After you find the friend who is supposed to pick you up—or the car you’ve stashed here—take a peak in the gift shop. Grab a souvenir or a drink and ice cream to speed your recovery. Better yet. Turn cyclists can turn around and ride the whole thing back down.
Osprey Syncro Hydration Pack This lightweight, smartly built day pack holds all your gear for a big hike or long mountain bike ride. A ventilated backpanel keeps things cool and comfy, a rain cover pulls out for emergencies and a magnetized bite valve makes hands-free sipping simple. Comes in three sizes. $80 (3 liter), $110 (10L); $120 (15L); ospreypacks.com
FeEtures Elite Merino Socks Who knew that socks could make such a difference? We didn’t until we tried these super soft socks with the perfect amount of cushioning in all the right places. The merino-wool-and-bamboo combo wicks moisture and kept our feet dry when they got soggy. $16-$25; feeturesrunning.com