Saturday, September 12, 2015

Continental Divide Trail at Monarch Pass



On our first cloudless day in quite a while Kim joined us for a hike up on Monarch Pass, about 18 miles west of Poncha Springs, CO. The Continental Divide Trail stretches for 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada, and we have hiked very small sections in many states over the years but missed this portion when we were in the area a few years ago. From Monarch Pass to Marshall Pass there is an 11 mile section called the Monarch Crest, a popular mountain bike trail, and also a great trail for a day hike.

Kim and Jim coming up the part of the trail that’s an old road. Although there were only a few short steep sections, at 11,000 - 12,000’ our lungs could sure feel it.




Besides hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, motorbikes are allowed on the trail. We only saw a few bikers, hikers, and two motorbikes. A weekday in September was the perfect time to be there.




We came across quite a few of these, amanita muscaria, a mushroom known to have hallucinogenic effects. Remember Alice in Wonderland?


Kim and I took lots of photos, while Jim kept his hands in his pockets much of the time as there was a very cold wind blowing once we got above tree line.



Jim headed back while Kim and I went a bit farther to a higher spot.


The top of this little hill was calling me, so we put our windbreakers on and I climbed up.



The views were breathtaking. I was definitely on a Rocky Mountain high, no mushrooms needed.





We turned around after four miles of relatively easy hiking, only gaining 900’ of elevation. Since it was a fairly easy eight miles, I think this would be a really great hike if you could leave a second car at Marshall Pass and do the 11 miles from pass to pass. Maybe next time…


  1. Great ridge-line! Love the "pass to pass" idea!

  2. Beautiful! We are leaving Lopez Island in a couple of days, heading to North Cascades NP, providing the winds don't bring in more smoke-filled skies. I think we are in trouble as we have been at sea level for quite a few weeks. But we cannot miss out on the Maple Pass hike.

  3. Great photo's again. Did you guys ever track how many miles you hiked. It would be interesting to know. Safe travels on foot and in the RV.

  4. Eleven miles at such an altitude seems like A LOT to me. You guys are amazing hikers. Love those mushrooms. How cool looking are they. Your pictures of this trail are just outstanding. Even I might be willing to risk motorbikes on a trail, which I always absolutely avoid, to see those sights.

  5. Wow! Gorgeous pictures. I'm just not sure about the 11,000 foot beginning elevation.

  6. Now are those really magic mushrooms, or the kind that kill you? Gorgeous area. Yet another spot we haven't been to.

  7. Those are some incredible views! We've hiked a few bits of the CO Trail as well, but none with views like that! It sure is nice to find a hike above 10,000 feet that doesn't kill you with its verticality!

  8. Beautiful:) How nice to find a hike that didn't kill you for the view! Once you get to 11,000 ft the oxygen levels really seem to drop quickly. Thanks for taking us along:)

  9. Better a natural high than those possibly deadly shrooms. Gorgeous vistas!

  10. I finally got a chance to see you pictures and they are great. Our kids grew up skiing on those mountains. Thanks for the reminder.