Back on December 29th, 2016 (6 weeks ago . . . already!), some family visitors wanted to ski and snowboard at Monarch Mountain Ski and Snowboard Area, but Lisa and I wanted to go snowshoeing instead. So, while they hit the slopes, we drove a little further up the highway towards Monarch Pass to the parking area and road to Old Monarch Pass. We drove this in the summer some years ago, but haven’t tried to get to the pass in the winter.
Monarch Mountain and Monarch Pass is on U.S. Highway 50, right along the Continental Divide, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Traveling westbound on US 50 the turn-off to Old Monarch Pass is approximately a half mile past the entrance to the ski area. It is well marked and snowplow drivers clear a wide area for parking on the side of the road. We were the first to arrive, but by the time we left, the parking area was full.
The road to Old Monarch Pass, Forest Service road 237, is closed to vehicles in the winter, except for snowmobiles. There are sections of the road which border the ski area and skiers and snowboarders are zipping by while we hiked along.
The trail . . . road, was packed down from other snowshoeing hikers and cross-country skiers and probably snowmobiles. The packed surface seemed fairly firm, but we found that in some areas, if we took off our snowshoes we might punch through the surface and sink in to our knee.
The pass itself is a narrow cutout in the mountain and makes for a powerful wind tunnel, but the views are excellent!
As is common on most passes over the Continental Divide in Colorado, there is the standard-looking sign
On the return from the pass we stopped for some tea and snacks. Bringing along a stove is a nice way to force yourself to take a break and soak in the scenery. Be sure to bring one that works at cold temps, as I think it was 19F when we began hiking. The stove I like to use is one of my restored M-1942 MOD stoves, made in 1945. Some people refer to this stove as the Mountain Stove as it was used by the Army’s 10th Mountain Division during WWII, and made to work in these conditions.
After our break for tea, we headed off-trail to hike along in the softer and more peaceful powder snow. There’s plenty of space to do this, since it seems that most people stay on the snow-packed road.
We continued our hike back to US 50. It was a beautiful day and a great day for snowshoeing. The hike itself is fairly easy as far as snowshoeing in the Rocky Mountains goes.
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