Monarch Pass, Colorado

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Monarch Pass


Seventy miles from Crested Butte along US-50, Monarch Pass climbs up the continental divide along the Sawatch Mountains, topping out at 11,312 feet with panoramic views of 14,000 foot peaks all around.

Highlights 

  • Incredible views of the surrounding Sawatch Range and 14,000 foot peaks from the summit. 
  • A fun drive through forests and up into Colorado’s alpine terrain. 
  • Connects the Crested Butte area with Colorado’s Front Range. 
  • The aerial tram offers easy access to the top of Monarch Ridge for even better views.

Overview

US-50’s Monarch Pass is one of Colorado’s most scenic mountain passes; after climbing up the Sawatch Range through forests and open fields, the road reaches a height of 11,312 feet at the top of the Continental Divide, offering stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains and peaks.

Monarch Pass connects the western side of US-50 (Crested Butte, Gunnison, Montrose) with the eastern (Salida, Buena Vista, Colorado Springs). The popular route is open year-round, although it is shut down throughout the winter during some winter storms.

In addition to the overlook and views from the summit of Monarch Pass, visitors will find a gift shop, a restaurant and a tram that runs another 700 feet to the top of Monarch Ridge.

Driving Directions

From Crested Butte, head south on CO-135 to Gunnison. Take US-50 east (toward Parlin and Salida) just over 40 miles to the summit of Monarch Pass. If you’d like to take a different route back to Crested Butte, Cottonwood Pass, which connects Buena Vista CO-135, is a beautiful and less-travelled road the runs right through Taylor Park.

Time/Distance

The summit of Monarch Pass is 70 miles from Crested Butte; while it usually takes about an hour-and-a-half to reach the top, weather conditions can seriously extend travel times.


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