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Old 05-08-2013, 10:57 AM   #1
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Monarch Pass Colorado

I am wondering about going over Monarch Pass in Colorado. Can anyone tell me about their experience? I live in Illinois and haven't had any experience in mountain driving. I will be driving a Georgetown 351, pulling a Equinox using a tow dolly. Thanks.
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Old 05-08-2013, 11:16 AM   #2
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We don't have a motorhome so can't be specific except to say we did it with no
problems pulling our rig. Take it slow on the down hills and enjoy the ride!
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Old 05-29-2013, 04:34 PM   #3
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Just saw your post, so may be to late to help you. Monarch is relatively easy as passes over the continental divide in Colorado go. Just long, but now has some passing lanes that should help you. Without experience in the mountains, two passes to definitely stay away from are Independence Pass, north of Monarch, and Wolf Creek Pass, south of Monarch. However, the lowest and easiest pass over the divide lies just south of Monarch--Cochetopa Pass on CO 114. It will get you from the same place--Salida--to the same place--Gunnison--as US 50, but makes a longer trip because it is not as direct. But at least you have a choice, so it is your decision on which pass to take.
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Old 05-29-2013, 05:19 PM   #4
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Ditto Wolf Creek. I'd never pull my trailer over Wolf Creek. Scares the carp out of me in the truck with no trailer.
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Old 05-30-2013, 02:34 PM   #5
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CO 114 is two-lane, just like US 50 is two-lane. The difference is that Cochetopa (North) Pass is at 10,149 feet and Monarch is at 11,312 feet. So, you don't have to climb that extra 1200 feet, but you have drive more miles to get to the same place. More climb uses more gas and more miles uses more gas, so the difference there is probably 6 of one and a half dozen of the other. If it helps keep you from flipping a coin to decide, Monarch Pass is more scenic, especially on the west side.

The only completely 4-lane road over the continental divide in Colorado is I-70. Other passes, like Berthoud, Rabbit Ears, and Wolf Creek have some 4-lane, some 3-lane, and some two-lane on the same pass.

I have no idea how many curves each pass has--lots on every pass. There are no passes in Colorado without curves, but probably Vail Pass has the fewest because it is crossed by I-70.

BTW, where are you going in Colorado? There are multiple ways to get most places on our Western Slope, even if it means staying on I-80 through Wyoming, where the Continental Divide is a basin instead of a mountain pass, then cutting south to Steamboat Springs or Craig. The problem with that route is that you have to drive through Wyoming instead of scenic Colorado!
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Old 05-31-2013, 12:51 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by fanrgs View Post
CO 114 is two-lane, just like US 50 is two-lane. The difference is that Cochetopa (North) Pass is at 10,149 feet and Monarch is at 11,312 feet. So, you don't have to climb that extra 1200 feet, but you have drive more miles to get to the same place. More climb uses more gas and more miles uses more gas, so the difference there is probably 6 of one and a half dozen of the other. If it helps keep you from flipping a coin to decide, Monarch Pass is more scenic, especially on the west side.
I certainly would not argue much with that, especially with a guy who lives up there in God's country! I'll just say that for about 10 years we made a frequent trip from Texas to Crested Butte, mostly in the dead of winter for skiing, but pretty often in the summer. BTW, never with a RV behind. I never had any problem negotiating either route, although in the winter with all the semi traffic, the Monarch can get exasperating. We most often used the CO 114 route. Never had a problem even after a particularly heavy snowfall one winter. As I recall, the 114 route is a little narrower than US 50, but not really that bad. And I love the scenery up in the Cochetopa basin near the pass! Bottom line, take your time - either route is great and beautiful!
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Old 05-31-2013, 01:15 PM   #7
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We have driven Monarch pass in our HM and wasn't concerned at all, just take it slow up and down. Enjoy the sights along the way.
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Old 05-31-2013, 01:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hogan513 View Post
I am wondering about going over Monarch Pass in Colorado. Can anyone tell me about their experience? I live in Illinois and haven't had any experience in mountain driving. I will be driving a Georgetown 351, pulling a Equinox using a tow dolly. Thanks.
Have traveled over Monarch Pass many times going between Colorado Springs and Gunnison, CO. It's a very well maintained highway by the state. There are lots of passing lanes on the way up so you wont bother those folks in a hurry. For on the way down on the other side, make sure your brakes are in good order and use low gears. It will take 10-15 mins to make the decent.

Summer's the best time to be in Colorado !

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Old 05-31-2013, 05:01 PM   #9
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I think we are all assuming you are traveling through Salida on US 50. If you are and you are taking either pass, think about spending a couple of nights at the O'Haver Lake Forest Service campground. It is just off Poncha Pass (US 285) on the Marshall Pass Road and you can make reservations--absolutely required!--on recreation.gov). The longest of its 30 dirt camping slots is about 45 feet (all back-in). It has hand pumps for water and pit toilets and a lake stocked with trout.

Since you won't be able to leave the toad on the dolly and get into any of the slots, you will have to take the Equinox off. But, that is the whole reason for camping there, because then you have the perfect excuse to drive the Equinox over the dirt and gravel Marshall Pass road to Sargents, then circle back to O'Haver Lake on US 50 over Monarch Pass. That way you can scout out the Monarch Pass route in the comfort of the Equinox and decide which pass to take with the MH. And, as a bonus, you get to drive Colorado's original narrow-gauge transcontinental railroad mainline.

The original D&RG went from Pueblo through the Royal Gorge to Salida, then over the continental divide at Marshall Pass, and on to Gunnison, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Montrose, and Grand Junction, where it met the Rio Grande Western narrow-gauge line from Salt Lake City. Can you imagine riding an early version of the Durango & Silverton narrow-gauge tourist line for 800 miles between Denver and Salt Lake? Those were hardy people in the 1880's!

BTW, the Monarch Pass road has lots of curves, but they are all railroad curves, meaning not very sharp; hairpins only near O'Haver, where the road leaves the railroad grade for a short distance; no steep grades, and a very fast gravel surface once you are off the pass and on the downhill side in Gunnison County. It is a little narrow in spots, but nothing that would hurt the Equinox. In the fall, when the aspen are turning, it is one of the most popular roads in the state, so it can't be too bad even for a newcomer.

Just trying to add a little Colorado fun to your trip. Whatever you decide--enjoy!
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Old 06-01-2013, 02:24 PM   #10
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Sorry, my previous post should have said "BTW, the Marshall Pass road has lots of curves . . .
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