The Monarch Crest Trail is revered as one of the best rides in the U.S. for a slew of good reasons, but to be honest I'd forgotten just how good it was until revisiting it in mid-September.
For one, it's rare you get to ride this much singletrack above treeline. After the initial climb it snakes in and out of the alpine, approaching 12,000 feet before plummeting thousands of feet into Salida, Colorado.
There are definitely some ups in between, but the downhill is so sustained and rowdy at times that your hands literally go numb. The Silver Creek section of the Crest is officially one of my top five favorite descents on the planet.
Needless to say the views are as breathtaking as the high altitude. On clear days, six mountain ranges are visible from the Crest: Pikes Peak and the Mosquito Range to the east; the Sangre de Cristos to the southeast; the San Juan Mountains to the southwest; the Uncompahgre Plateau to west; the Elk Mountains to the northwest; and the Sawatch Range to the north.
Fall was just starting to show its colors, especially at higher elevations. We opted to add on the Rainbow Trail at the end, and the nine miles of dips, drops, stinger climbs and flowy track did not disappoint. The Rainbow Trail is rowdy right to the very last switchback, and just when I thought my hands would fall off I popped out onto the road that carried us the last several miles into Poncha Springs and the truck we left in town.
It was nearly 10 p.m. by the time I made it home to Crested Butte after running shuttles and grabbing mandatory pies at Mikey's in Gunnison. An epic mission, for sure, and one for the memory books.