Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
Marshall Pass Road began life as a railroad grade during Colorado’s mining days.
Today the railroad tracks are gone, but in their place is a dirt road of perfect grade for climbing on a mountain bike. Marshall Pass is the climb of choice for most riders who are attempting to do loop rides in the region adjacent to the Monarch Crest trail.
Whether attempting to loop Silver Creek, Starvation Creek, Tank Seven, Agate Creek, or even something more ambitious, Marshall Pass is the go-to climb.
It even serves as a portion of the Tour Divide route, with riders pedaling up from Salida and heading all the way over the top and down to Sargents. As riders grind up the Pass, beautiful views unfold in all directions of the nearby mountains, including the monolith of Mount Ouray towering high above.
This dirt road also serves as a convenient bail out option off the Crest.
If riders reach Marshall Pass and are well and truly in over their heads, bailing off down the dirt road is the way to go. During the winter, Marshall Pass is the closest fat biking area to the town of Salida.
While Marshall doesn’t see the same regularity and quality of snow grooming that Cottonwood Pass to the north does, infrequent grooming combined with frequent snowmobile use keeps the surface of the snow reasonably packed down.
Combine that packed surface with a mellow grade thanks to the railroad days, and this pass provides a great escape into the alpine for two wheeled addicts, even in mid-winter. The only downside? Sometimes getting to where the snow begins is tough in the winter, requiring 4x4 and/or snow chains.