Monarch Pass, a mountain road in Colorado.

Monarch Pass
Monarch Pass

Monarch Pass is a high mountain pass in Colorado. The pass is located in the Rocky Mountains of the western United States. Monarch Pass in Colorado is considered one of the most beautiful in Colorado. It provides a 360-degree view of the southern end of the Sawatch Range from the summit.

Where is the Monarch Pass located?

The route is situated in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, about 250 kilometers (160 miles) to the southwest of Denver city. It will take you about 3 hours to drive there from Denver.

The pass acts as a border between Chaffee and Gunnison counties.

It also goes through the Monarch Pass ski resort. The pass is located on the famous coast to coast U.S. highway 50. The Pass is situated on the Continental Divide at the southern end of the Sawatch Range. It is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Salida town.

You can locate the road on the map below:


Enlarge the map

Some information about the Monarch Pass.

How high is Monarch Pass in Colorado ?

The pass is at 3448 meters (11300 ft) above sea level, making this one of the highest in the United States. The Monarch Pass is one of the most spectacular mountain routes in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It is an asphalted road in good condition.

The average gradient of the road that climbs to the Pass from Maysville is about 5,5% and 17 kilometers (10 miles) long. Although there are some sections with more than a 7% gradient.

You will find parking spots on the top if you decide to take a break at the summit to enjoy the view. Also, there is, at the summit, a gift shop and a restaurant.

There are emergency ramps for trucks or cars in distress
located approximately halfway between the east and west sides of the pass.

View Monarch Pass
View from Monarch Pass

History

Before the construction of the new road in 1939, there was another road called Old Monarch Pass (today an unpaved FR237 road). This old road is accessible from Highway 50 on the east side of the summit of Monarch Pass or from White Pine Road (CR 888) on the west side.

This route designed for automobile circulation was built in 1921. Before that, there was a toll road that opened in 1880, traveled by wagon or stagecoach, and crosses what is now the Monarch ski area.

The new road has been designed to reduce tight turns, increase safety, and shorten the distance.

How to get to Monarch Pass?

The Monarch Pass Colorado is situated on US Highway 50.

If you drive from Salida, you should take the west direction by driving highway 50 in Montrose direction. In the same way, you have to take highway 50 in Salida direction if you drive from west to east.

Also, if you are looking for a road trip in Colorado, we also suggest you drive to the Million Dollar Highway, or the Loveland Pass to enjoy the amazing landscapes of that state.

You can easily find an example of an itinerary from Denver to the Million Dollar Highway on this map:

What to do near the Monarch Pass?

The Pass is located in an area when you can practice many activities, hiking during the summer season, and skiing during winter.

For example, you can, in the winter ski at Monarch Mountain ski resort. That is a small family resort.
Opened in 1939 with a tow rope and improvised means, the station was really developed in the 1950s.

Today the resort has 5 chairlifts which serve 63 fairly straightforward pistes between 3290 and 3650 meters above sea level.

The station is open every day between mid-November and early April. It is possible to buy a Monarch ski pass online (you can also choose the Monarch season pass). Also, you can have a view of the slopes with the Monarch Pass webcam.

In the summer, you can take the Monarch Crest Scenic Tramway to the top of Monarch Ridge. At the top of the ridge, you will enjoy a panoramic view of the Sawatch Range. At the bottom, you will find a gift shop and a snack.

A preview of the drive:

Either if you are planning to drive the Monarch Pass or not, you can watch this video to discover that scenic drive:

Is Monarch Pass open?

The road is generally open all year round. Although, as it is a high mountain pass it can be frequently closed during winter because of snowfalls or the Monarch Pass weather.

During wintertime, it can be mandatory to have snow tires or to have snow chains. This rule is even more important for 2WD (Two Wheel Drive) cars.

The road is not really dangerous but you have to watch out for speed limits and ice or snow.

Also, as it is a tourist road, you should avoid the high season or at least try to come early before the traffic increases.

If you are looking for accommodation, you will find some lodges near Monarch ski resort. Camping is available on Old Monarch Pass as soon as you start the drive on the eastern (Salida direction) side of the pass.

If you are looking for a scenic drive in Colorado you will surely enjoy the Monarch Pass. You will have so cool landscapes. Although pay attention to the fact that the road can be dangerous. Fast-changing weather conditions in winter can trap you.

Pictures credit: By The original uploader was Nationalparks at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5767514 / By Hogs555 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35715199


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