Mountain biking is one of my favorite ways to explore the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. With a good bike, a decent cardio fitness base, and a little bit of balance and skill, mountain biking can get you places deep in the wilderness much faster than hiking. Many trails also include an adrenaline factor with the potential for big berms, rock ledge drops, and/or biking along a narrow ledge. Luckily my most recent adventure tackling the Monarch Crest trail in Salida, CO didn't involve any of that! What it did involve was sunshine, epic views, and a lot of pedaling and snack breaks.
The trickiest part of this trail was deciding when to go. There is a very small window to catch the beautiful fall foliage without risking getting snowed out. Turns out late September was a little early for full fall colors this year, but we appreciated the sunshine and lack of snow. The coldest part of the day (35deg) was at the trailhead (parking lot at Monarch Pass) but luckily warmed up into the 60s later in the day.
Our mountain biking trek involved a few turns, some miles shared with the Colorado Trail, several sections of excellent single track, a couple of brutal hill climbs, a scree field, and expansive Rocky Mountain views. For turn by turn directions, we used a combination of information from Mountain Bike Bill and MTB Project. I appreciate all the helpful information from these 2 sources BUT I have to specifically point out that the trail actually involves 3100 feet of climbing NOT 2000 feet of climbing as stated. My mind and body did not appreciate this discrepancy through the later miles of the ride! Luckily, my fitness level and training did not let me down and I finished in one piece with a smile on my face!
39 miles: Starting at Monarch Pass parking lot finishing in Salida (last 7 miles on the road)
4 hrs and 15 mins of moving time
6 hours of total activity time
3130 ft of elevation gain (average between 2 Garmin wearers and an Apple watch wearer: 3080ft of elevation gain)
7,202 ft of decent
Max Elevation: 12,002ft
Min Elevation: 7,177ft
Avg Speed: 9.2 mph
Max Speed: 33.3mph
Stumpjumper Specialized Pro Mountain Bike: anyone considering an electronic gear shifter, do it - it's worth it!
Camelback pack: 2L water bladder
.75L water bottle on bike frame for LMNT electrolytes
Starting outfit: gloves, merino wool long-sleeve, windbreaker, long underwear + shorts, ear warmer headband
Ending outfit: gloves, merino wool long-sleeve, shorts
Snacks: Chorizo burrito, dried mango, fruit snacks, Bobo bar, Snickers
Emergency kit (between 3 riders): InReach satellite phone, sunscreen, mini first aid kit + tape, headlamp, tubes + C02 cartridges, tire plugs, extra food/energy bars
Trail Reflections and Tips:
Our trip started with a friend dropping us off at the trailhead. A local shuttle service out of Poncha Springs that will do the same thing (https://www.monarchcrest.com/).
MTB project rates this trail a "black" (similar rating system as ski runs), which initially gave me a lot of pause. Although I love adventure, I don't like the risk of death or serious injury. After reading several reviews and talking to a few people who had ridden this route before knew my skill level, I felt comfortable tackling this "black" trail. I am glad I did because I would give it a "blue/black" rating. Nothing was terribly dangerous, it was just long, with a few areas when you had to be on your toes. As a whole, nothing was un-rideable for an average/good mountain biker.
A few turns are easy to miss, downloading MTB project and following along as you ride is a great way to ensure you are staying on track.
A post-ride soak at Princeton Hot Springs was a great way to end the day! Although it's not my favorite hot springs venue in Colorado, it felt nice after a long bike ride. In hindsight, renting an AirBnB with a hot tub would been better.
Must haves for this trek: clothing layers, lots of snacks, a good attitude, a crew you can smile with and rely on.
Running 5-10 miles for cardio, 2-3x/week
Weight lifting: focus on quads and glutes
Mountain Biking 1-2x/week
Sometimes outdoor activities lead to injuries. If you're injured, or looking to work on injury prevention skills, schedule an appointment! In-person visits in Denver, CO (Santa Fe Arts District) or virtual visits available globally.
Dr Jessica Klain PT, DPT, COMT, CSCS, OCS, CNPT
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS)
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist (COMT)
Certified Nutritional Physical Therapist (CNPT)
Certified Vestibular Specialist
Certified Concussion Specialist
Trigger Point Dry Needling Certified, Level 1&2
Certified Yoga Teacher
University of Florida, Doctorate in Physical Therapy (2009)
The Ohio State University, Bachelor of Science in Biology (2006)