Monarch Pass

38°29’48”N
106°19’32”W
11,312 FEET
(3,448 M)
6.4% ASPHALT
EAST OF GUNNISON AND SOUTH OF BUENA VISTA
Monarch Pass Elevation

Monarch Pass is in the Rocky Mountains of south central Colorado on the Continental Divide at the southern end of the Sawatch Range. The pass traverses U.S. Highway 50 over the Sawatch Range, and usually remains open year-round. (Partner Pass: Old Monarch Pass)

Suggested Route (Paved) 32.5 miles

Begin in Sargents and ride northeast on US 50
Continue on to Monarch Pass Summit--mile 10.0
Continue on to Salida--mile 32.5
See The Climb for an alternative ride to capture Old Monarch.

THE CLIMB

From Sargents the climb is consistent with an average 6 percent grade. In the middle of the climb, the cyclist encounters a steep half-mile. The summit is not visible until the very end of the climb due to hairpin turns, but cyclists can reward themselves with snacks and gifts at the gift shop, or a scenic ride on the gondola. One mile past the summit--mile 11.0 is a left hand turn onto CR 237. A gravel road which leads to Old Monarch Pass Summit--mile 12.4 from Sargents. Proceed down CR 237 to CR 888 and turn left/south--mile 21.6. CR 888 will bring you back to US 50--mile 26.2 where you take a right back to Sargents--mile 27.5. Upon your arrival in Sargents you will need to pedal around for a few extra miles to get your 30 mile limit. It’s a great idea to combine these two passes if possible.

NEARBY TOWNS

Sargents, 10.2 miles to the south
Gunnison, 41.8 miles to the west
Poncha Springs, 18.2 miles to the east
Salida, 22.5 miles to the east

FUN FACTS

During the first ski season of 1939-1940, a season pass to Monarch Ski Area cost one dollar and sixty-four cents ($1.64). For the 2016-2017, a season pass costs $499.00, while a day pass costs $84.00, or $69.00 if purchased online. This season pass also includes three free days at the Arizona Snowbowl and eight other ski areas.

HISTORY

In 1936, Monarch Ski Area had its beginning. James Kane and the Salida Winter Sports Club (SWSC) brought a Chevy truck engine up to the pass and built a rope tow. The first run cut up at Monarch was Gunbarrel, an expert trail with a 30 percent slope. At that time, the town of Salida officially owned Monarch. In 1952, Ray and Josephine Berry, of Salida, purchased the resort for $100.00. By the 1960-61 ski season, Monarch had installed its first chairlift made from used parts of oil derricks.

 

The pass is one of the most scenic in Colorado, offering a panoramic view of the southern end of the Sawatch Range from the summit. Monarch Mountain Lodge is located about five miles from the summit. During the summer, an aerial tram from the summit parking lot carries visitors to the top of Monarch Ridge above the pass (at approximately 12,000 ft. above sea level), allowing a wider view of the surrounding peaks.