Monarch pass is among the most unique and fun places to visit when exploring Colorado’s high-elevation mountain passes. It’s located approximately 30 minutes west of Salida and lies within the Great Continental Divide.
Onsite, you’ll find a gift shop, an aerial tram, and a weather station. Notably, the spot was among the filmed locations for the Fast and Furious Seven film, so you’ll hopefully catch the similarities.
This briefly outlines the region’s history and an overview of the most unforgettable and can’t miss fall activities in Salida, CO and the monarch pass.
History of the Monarch Pass
The primordial Monarch Pass opened in 1880, traversing the continental divide at 11,312 feet above sea level. This is what’s currently referred to as the Old Monarch Pass. You can easily access the spot at fall using the unpaved Forest Road 237, situated north of the current Monarch Pass beside U.S. Highway 50 completed in the 1930s.
Later on, the Monarch Crest gift shop opened its doors in 1954, serving as a Greyhound bus station. The spot’s original building was razed down in 1988, but a new, improved structure building had been rebuilt by the following year.
The spot is also home to the Monarch Crest Scenic Tramway that began operating in 1966. This tramway continues to attract visitors and their pets, who get to explore the Sawatch Mountains from over 12,000 feet above the ground.
This is among the top spots in Colorado and offers lots of exciting activities for solo visitors, couples, families, or groups.
Fun Activities You Can’t Miss on Monarch Pass
Autumn in monarch Pass is a magical time:
- The sun is less intense.
- The air is crisp.
- The glow of changing leaves keeps the landscape warm.
It’s the perfect season to wax your skis and begin packing up your kayak for the winter. While packing up your shorts and pulling your sweatshirts out, it’s time to make plans for fall in this world-class site!
Here are some of the blissful Monarch Pass fun activities to schedule for fall:
Biking Fooses Creek Off the Monarch Crest Trail
This is among the best in the west, offering spectacular views in all directions. Exploring this region will give you the authentic feel of the continent’s backbone and the surrounding landscape. Windy and sunny conditions are frequent here, so expect less than ideal snow unless you arrive right after a storm. But don’t be deterred by these conditions or the steep, loose scree at the start of the trail, these are merely small hurdles you’ll face during a beautiful adventure.
So, don’t hesitate and bring your friends or family members along for the ride, especially when you have a beautiful sunny and clear day!
Hike to Waterdog Lakes
Both visitors and local residents consider the Waterlog Lakes trail to be among popular day hikes. Remotely situated on Monarch Pass, approximately 22 miles from Salida, this trail will soon join your favorites. Stimulating and challenging, it’s a must-do for any hiking fanatic. You’ll find the beginning of the trail magical with a creek trickling over rocks and a moss covered shoreline.
Notably, the lake got its name from a local salamander species. With a trail map in your hands, you’ll find numerous ways to explore the lake.
ATV or Drive Up CR 240 To The North Fork Reservoir and Billings Lake
This route can be really rocky and bumpy, so those using stock vehicles should be cautioned. You’ll mostly move within trees until you reach the North Fork Reservoir, and the road’s final stretch is wide enough to fit a single car. Billings is a stunning mountain lake for fishing and camping, and you can still camp at different spots along the route, including near McCoy Creek.
Notably, unlicensed automobiles are only allowed beyond the forest boundary, and the trail closes during winter due to the snowy conditions.
Scenic Drive Over the Monarch Pass
The high mountain pass is situated in central Colorado within the Rocky Mountains in the western USA. The road leading to the summit, U.S. Highway 50, is entirely paved, and all vehicles can travel under most conditions. The 59.3-mile highway runs west to east, originating from Gunnison to Chaffee county’s Poncha Springs.
Completed in the 1930s, the monarch Ridge South offers breathtaking views at 11,922ft above sea level.
Hike Mt. Shavano
This hike covers approximately nine miles, a round trip that requires you to endure 4,600 vertical feet. It’s among the most challenging trails, but every step of your hike will let you enjoy the Arkansas Valley and the Sawatch peaks. The ideal time for this hike is from late June through early fall. Forego any pre-hike buzz to avoid being hit by afternoon thunderstorms.
Fly Fishing on the Arkansas River
The Arkansas River is nationally recognized for its excellent fishing quality, and its numerous aquatic insects make it the ideal spot for dry fly fishing. In fall, most days have opportunities to work the surface with caddis, mayflies, midges, stoneflies, or hopers. The diverse and abundant food supply and access to public fishing throughout the river corridor make it one of the perfect fly fishing spots on the river.
Enjoy a Nice Cold Beer at Elevation Brewery After a Big Day of Adventures!
If you’re a craft beer fanatic, this Colorado microbrewery is a place you must visit. The brewery focuses on producing world-class beer, especially barrel-aged and seasonal specialty beers. Enjoy the following products on the menu after a hike:
- Signal de Botrange
- First Cast
- Apis IV
- Little Mo
- Elevation Pilsner
- False Summit
- Elevation Beer Co. Double IPA
- Wave Wheel Wit
- Red Wine Barrel Aged Apis IV
- 8 Second Kolsch
- Oil Man
Stay at Creekside Chalets!
Your homebase is among the most critical considerations for your trip, and you cannot afford to make a mistake. Creekside Chalets is home to the best vacation rentals in Salida, CO. The facilities are proximal to the Monarch Pass and all the other places of attraction in and around Salida.