Saguache County, Colorado
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Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Salida, Poncha Springs, Sargents
Nearby Trails: Poncha Creek, Lime Ridge, Toll Road Gulch, Poncha Loop
Trail Length: 30.4 miles
Elevation: 8,503 to 10,784 feet
The Marshall Pass trail follows an old railroad right-of-way for almost its entire length, so the climbs and descents are gradual. For the most part, the roadbed is smooth and wide. There are a few spots where the roadbed has some exposed rocks, though it seems that a driver of a 2-wheel drive car could pick the way through these without damage to the car. However, given the smooth nature of the majority of the road, excess speed could result in the driver being in the rocky area before it's recognized, potentially leading to serious damage.
As described here, the trail starts on the east side of Marshall Pass and provides an interesting alternate route to the paved road over Monarch Pass. The driving time is about 1 hour and 45 minutes without stops for sightseeing.
The trail maintains a steady climb for its first half, with a scenic turnout beside the trail above O'Haver Lake. Continue to follow the railroad bed as it ascends, keeping an eye out for the occasional narrow cut where oncoming traffic could be a problem.
Approximately halfway through, the trail crests at the summit of Marshall Pass. The views are great here, including the view of the south side of Mount Ouray.
Continue on as the trail gradually descends, eventually emerging from the trees into a valley leading to the town of Sargents. Here the trail leaves the old railroad right of way to follow the contours of the hillsides on the northeast side of the valley. Look for signs of the old railroad embankment and small bridges still visible in the fields.
The trail ends at the intersection with Highway 50 at Sargents. You can return to Salida and Poncha Springs following Highway 50 over Monarch Pass or return the way you came via Marshall Pass.
Information last updated on July 31st, 2010.
From Salida, drive approximately five miles south on Highway 285 toward Poncha Pass. Turn right onto Chaffee County Road 200, following signs to O'Haver Lake and Marshall Pass.
Meet at the Salida Cafe at 300 West Sackett Avenue in Salida.