March 13, 2014
Make no mistake - this trail is advanced for a number of reasons. 1) elevation STARTS near 12,000 feet and climbs immediately. 2) length -- 30-plus miles, but most options to bail early trade mileage for technical difficulty. 3) weather -- in a normal summer, you must be back below treeline before noon to avoid being a human lightning rod...this requires a very early start and maintaining a good pace if doing the full Monarch-Rainbow combo.
That said, this trail is by far one of the best epics in the US. I've also taken the Green Creek downhill, which narrows to less than a foot with tons of rocks and roots -- great if you're on an all-mountain rig, but will be exhausting (or bloody) on an XC whip. In my opinion, the best time to go is late August/early September when the monsoons have calmed down and the early-season snows either melt quickly or haven't started yet.
Most longer routes in Crested Butte; Colorado Trail