Colorado Trail m272.1(sh)
section: Marshall Pass - Silver Creek


The best known biking portion of the Colorado Trail is probably the Monarch Crest Trail. But the section adjoining it to the south, is almost as popular. It can easily be cycled separately in a loop, without the need for motorized support.



click on profile for more detail
1.(7490ft,mile00) START-END 1 ALT: jct US50 - US285, Poncha Springs
2.(8440ft,mile06) profile turns right onto Marshall Pass Rd
3.(8700ft,mile08) START-END 1: route continues on CR200, still following Poncha Creek, near Shirley trailhead
4.(10846ft,mile20) Marshall Pass
5.(11350ft,mile23) TOP: point of highest altitude
6.(11240ft,mile24) profile turns off Colorado Trail, left down Silver Creek Trail
7.(9460ft,mile28) jct with Toll Road Gulch on right
8.(8700ft,mile33) START-END 2: same as point 3 - Shirley Trailhead

Approaches

From North. The profile starts in Poncha Springs and starts to ascent Poncha Pass, then the old railroad grade, now a dirt road to Marshall Pass. The description starts here.

The Marshall Pass parking lot is .2 miles east of the summit. Here a left up the embankment leads to another multi fanged fork (if forks have fangs). The leftest of these fangs descends Marshall Pass via Poncha Creek Road. The rightest is the double track motorized version of the route following the Continental Divide. We want the middle, a single track containing the joint routes of the Continental Divide Trail and the Colorado Trail.

A meticulously smooth track pleasantly ascends a subalpine meadow. This is the first and only time that a view to the west opens up. Soon the smooth trail enters the forest and rolls along, staying just east of the divide. A short downhill leads to the point where the motorized route and the CT coexist on the same piece of land. Except for a short uphill, all of this section is easily rideable. It does not appear as steep as the profile makes it look.

After about 4 miles a view to the east and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains opens up. This is a signal that this short section of the Colorado Trail is almost over. Staying on the Colorado Trail here looks like a long and rough slog direction Saguache. The view of the mountains also shows the descending route at the bottom of a steep rock cut, following Silver Creek. According to the literature the highest point of the route is at the turnoff down Silver Creek Trail. While riding it, I had the impression that the highest point was slightly before the summit. Drawing the profile with topo software confirms this impression.



From South. (described downwards). The turnoff itself has another great view of the route ahead, this time with very photogenic foreground. It is the last great scenic panorama on this route. Two or tree steep switchbacks lead through a meadow to the bottom of the gulch. The trail becomes rockier as it descends, especially when it crosses the palisades, that looked so picturesque from above. A first crossing of Silver Creek signals the end of the single track. Here a bikable ATV trail ascends to the right up Toll Road Gulch. A little later you can also pick up another single track, the Rainbow Trail, heading direction Salida with detours.

Following Silver Creek downstream a bit, you wonder just where you took the wrong turn into suburbia. A number of elaborate single family housing projects line the dirt road verging on a jeep track. Immediately afterwards the route turns into a good dirt road. The profile follows Silver Creek Road back down to its junction with the Poncha Pass Road.

 

Dayride with this point as highest summit:

PARTIALLY PAVED / SINGLE TRACK

(<FR400 Gardner Road s(u)|FR869 Toll Road Gulch s(u)>)
ColoTr m272.1(sh) , Marshall Pass: campsite a few hundred feet above Shirley site > up Marshall Pass Railroad Grade > Marshall Pass(shp) > Colorado Trail south > ColoTr m272.1(sh) > down Silver Creek Trail > down Silver Creek Road > up Poncha Creek Road > Marshall Pass > down FR200 or Marshall Pass railroad grade > back to starting point: 46.9miles with 4690ft of climbing in 5:59hrs (VDO MC1.0 m5:12.9.23).
Notes: This route contains Marshall Pass twice, once as a shoulder point and once as a summit point.

 



 

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