Marshall Pass is between the northern Sawatch Range and the southern Cochetopa Hills. The pass is part of a backcountry alternative to U.S. Highway 50 between the towns of Salida and Gunnison.
Begin in Sargents
Continue riding on gravel FR 243 Marshall Pass Road to Marshall Pass Summit--mile 16.7
Proceed on gravel FR 200 to US 285 where road is paved--mile 30.4
Finish at Poncha Springs--mile 35.5
Another way to do Marshall Pass is, from Salida, ride five miles on pavement to Poncha Springs taking a left at the light on Highway 285. Proceed 5 miles to the Marshall Pass turnoff at Mears Junction and switch to your trusted MTB. Off you'll go on your fabulous ride through pine and gorgeous aspen forests. Be alert, trudging up the long, winding road, and you may spot a handsome buck or even some “wild cows”. After you catch your breath from the surrounding simplistic beauty, prepare yourself for a glorious descent to Sargents!
Salida, 23.8 miles to the northeast
Sargents, 17 miles to the west
Poncha Springs, 18.8 miles to the northeast
The mountain pass was nicknamed “Toothache Pass,” because in 1873, while on a surveying expedition, Lt. William Marshall had a severe toothache. He crossed over the current Marshall Pass in search of a dentist in Denver. The discovery of this route saved him four days of pain and 125 miles of trail.
Marshall Pass is the first crossing of the Continental Divide by any railroad in the state.
Marshall Pass was discovered in 1873 by Lt. William L. Marshall, of the Wheeler Survey, a project to make topographic maps of the southwestern United States. When Lt. Marshall first crossed the pass, he realized that it would be an ideal route for a road, and shortly after this, he organized a company to build a toll road. The Marshall Pass Toll Road was completed in 1880 serving as a stagecoach service road from Gunnison to the Arkansas River, where it connected with the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad “DRGW”.
In 1881, the narrow gauge mainline of the DRGW was built across Marshall Pass on the way from Denver to Salt Lake City. This line saw the daily Shavano passenger train over Marshall Pass. The train was named for nearby Mount Shavano, which was named after the respected Ute Medicine man and Chief Shavano. The train’s old route over the pass was completely abandoned by the railroad in 1955.
Marshall Pass had a small settlement, railroad station and post office, located near the pass. The population was just 11 people with only six buildings in 1948.