Marshall Pass-Monarch Pass Extension
River Rafting isn’t the only activity offered in the vicinity of Salida, Colorado . One only need drive a few minutes to find themselves on the Segment 15 of the Colorado Trail . Some of this segment is shared by a piece of the Continental Divide Trail . The Marshall Pass trailhead affords access to section 15.2 of the CT, which just happens to be the section Trail Trek has sponsored. The trip to the junction where the CT and the CDT go their separate ways is a little more than 5 miles, one way.
When you arrive at the parking lot, you’ll have this view of the 13,971’ Mount Ouray.
After taking in the view, head across the road to this sign, where you pick up a service road that is the trail.
For probably a mile, or more, the road is your trail.
Early on in our hike we came upon this grouse. Perhaps, someone out there could share whether this is a blue grouse or a dusky grouse.
Eventually, the service road turns into a proper trail.
After passing through a couple miles of forest, dense enough to prevent you from seeing much but trees, you’ll come upon this first west-looking view.
A little further, still, and the first of a very few boulder fields, which must be crossed, appears. Not to worry, though; there’s no talus/boulder hopping as the trail through the rocks is quite well groomed. What boulder field would be complete without its chirping four-legged inhabitants? Hello, Mr. Marmot.
Your surroundings begin to open, around you, and you come to the Agate Creek Trail Junction. If you choose, you can take a left, at the junction, and continue on Agate Creek Trail. Otherwise, keep right to continue on section 15 of the Colorado Trail. Only a few feet beyond the junction are other choices. You could choose to walk Little Cochitopa Creek Trail, which intersects Mount Ouray and Chipeta Mountain, which, it would appear, is a trail much less traveled by mountain bikers than the main trail.
A few hundred feet along and you will be afforded a grand open view.
Shortly, the trail drops into a shallow valley, and travels through a tree dead-fall area.
At about mile four, you’ll find yourself at the Green’s Creek trail junction. There, you will find a nice shelter, if you need it, and afforded a wide open view to the north east.
There is also a nice view of where you’re headed next.
From the Green’s Creek junction, there is another steady climb.
Once you get to the ridge, you’ll find a host of beautiful views.
After another half mile, or so, walk, up a gentle hill, you’ll find yourself at the Fooses Creek Trail
From this point, you can head down to Fooses Creek, continue on to complete section 15 of the Colorado Trail, which empties out at the Monarch Pass summit, or turn back and go back the same way you came. Regardless of your choice, you can’t go wrong.
Based on distance, and depending on fitness level, I’m going to rate this moderate to difficult.
Wanna go? From Salida, go west on HWY 50. At Poncha Springs, turn south on HWY 285 and travel 5 miles to County Road 200 and turn right. From this point on there is good signage for you to follow. Count on about 30 minutes of driving after you turn off of HWY 285. From that point on, the roads are dirt, and mostly in good repair, however, there are a few rough spots. No need for 4WD. Remember to pack out what you packed in.