Monarch Pass

Gunnison, Colorado | C.1939

Photo Credit: Andrew Hoffman

This is not an easy road. Crossing over the U.S. Continental Divide with almost 60 miles of paved highway, the Monarch Pass takes daredevil drivers through a mountain range path laden with sharp turns and high descents–a roadway not for the faint-hearted passenger. 

Known as one of the most scenic and beautiful drives in the United States, Highway 50 through Monarch Pass was constructed in 1939 as part of a highway revamp system. This path area is actually the third to be named “Monarch Pass” in the region, as the first two trails from the late 19th Century proved not to be suitable for motor vehicles, with curves and descents too dangerous at high speeds. This third iteration of Monarch Pass is also the only version to have been paved road—as it was quickly discovered dirt pathways weren’t great for traveling in the snow. 

Reaching an 11,312 ft elevation, the Pass is known for some intense weather, and can be closed during the winter season due to large amounts of snowfall. A US weather station located at the top of the Monarch Pass has recorded winds up to 148 mph, the fastest recorded gust in Colorado history. 

At the highest point of Monarch Pass lies a gift shop, and observation deck to take in the sights or rest a driver’s white knuckles. There is a restaurant as well, though some may opt for food once they pass through this Pass. 

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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