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Mountain Biking: Colorado > White River National Forest > Eagle Ranger District

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Holy Cross Wilderness - Eagle Ranger District Wilderness Area

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General Description



The Holy Cross Wilderness encompasses 123,410 acres in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains of Central Colorado. This wilderness, located on the White River and Pike/San Isabel National Forests, derives its name from its key landmark, Mount of the Holy Cross. High on the the northeast face of this peak lies a deep crevice, which retains snow longer than other crevices and appears as a "Latin" cross from a distance. The area was first made famous by photographer William Henry Jackson in 1873.

Elevations within the wilderness range from 8,000 to over 14,000 feet. These elevations support lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, aspen, and spruce/fir vegetation communities, as well as alpine tundra above 11,500 feet. One-third of the wilderness is above tree line, with the Continental Divide forming its southern boundary. The area contains a myriad of creeks and lakes. There are many constructed trails available for travel through this rugged terrain, which offers moderate to difficult hikes.


As humans, we must minimize our impacts to help preserve this resource for present and future generations.

GROUP SIZE: Holy Cross Wilderness use regulations allow no more than 25 people and/or stock.

DOGS: Please remember, dogs must be on a leash at all times! Dogs may harass, stress, injure, or kill wildlife, annoy fellow hikers, and introduce disease. In protecting the natural ecosystem, the USFS enforces the leash regulation.

HUMAN WASTE: Deposit human waste in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp or trails. Pack out toilet paper.

TRAILHEADS: The following trailheads access the wilderness:

Access from Lake Creek Road: I-70 to Edwards Exit 163. Travel south to US HWY. 6 and travel west 0.7 miles to Lake Creek Road. Follow signs for West Lake Creek RD.
East Lake Creek: Travel on West Lake Creek Road for about 4 miles. There is a small parking area and bulletin board at the trailhead.
Dead Dog: Same as East Lake Creek.
Middle Lake: Follows signs for West Lake Creek Road for 2.8 miles. This road turns into a rough 4 WD road FDR 423 for 3.2 miles until it dead ends.
New York Mountain: Same as Middle Lake.

Access from Brush Creek Road (FDR 400): I-70 to Eagle Exit 147. Travel south to US HWY. 6 and turn west. Turn left on Capitol (which eventually turns into Brush Creek Road). Follow this paved highway 10 miles to a fork where the pavement ends. Turn left onto East Brush Creek Road #415.

Lake Charles and Mystic Island: Continue for six miles following signs for the Fulford Cave campground. Trailhead is at entrance to the campground.
Nolan Lake: Drive 10.3 miles going past Yeoman Park and following the road as it curves left sharply uphill. Trailhead is on the right, just past the road into Fulford.

WARNING: The area above New York Lake has been closed for public safety reasons. Be aware that there may be unexploded munitions in the area.


The following maps cover different portions of the Holy Cross Wilderness. They can be purchased at district offices or outdoor recreation shops

National Forest Maps: White River and Pike/San Isabel.

USGS Quads (7 1/2 minute series): Fulford, Grouse Mountain, Minturn, Crooked Creek Pass, Mt. Jackson, Mt. of the Holy Cross, Nast, Homestake Reservoir, Leadville North.

Directions from Eagle: The Holy Cross Wilderness lies to the southeast of Eagle. The trails on the Eagle Ranger District portion of the wilderness area are accessed by either East Brush Creek Road, south of Eagle, or by West Lake Creek Road, south of Edwards.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: Summer through Early Fall (NOTE: Seasons vary depending on snow depth and weather. Many trails travel through high elevations and are not clear of snow until Mid-Summer. WEATHER: Weather patterns change quickly. Warm sunny days can turn into powerful electrical storms. Be prepared for snow even in August!) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Updated: 2000-11-30 15:04:00.0

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Kim Fenske (Copper Mountain, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Great trails in the Eagle to Avon vicinity of Holy Cross Wilderness Area include Nolan Lake Trail, Lake Charles Trail, New York Mountain Trail, Dead Dog Trail to Middle Lake, Beaver Lake Trail, and Turquoise Lakes. All of these trails have a diverse offering of wildflowers during the month of July. Further details can be found in Holy Cross Wilderness Area hiking guide, with links to further information at: http://coppersnowboarder.tripod.com. All of these hikes can be accomplished as day hikes or overnight dispersed, leave-no-trace camping.

Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Hiked up to lake nolan, and lake majestic in august 1999. First time I had ever been to colorado. I live in Georgia near Athens, Plan on going back this year August 2000. Loved it, it was absolutly amazing, cant wait to go back! I thought the hike was kinda hard but then im not used to high elevations.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking
ICON Forest Areas Holy Cross Wilderness - Eagle Ranger District Wilderness Area
ICON Hiking & Walking
ICON Horseback Riding
ICON Mountain Climbing

Related Activities
Brush Creek General Forest Area - This area south of Eagle includes both the East and West Brush Creek drainages.

Fulford Cave Campground - This small campground is located south of Eagle up East Brush Creek at an elevation of 9,400 feet.

Holy Cross Wilderness Trails - Holy Cross District - The Holy Cross Ranger District portion of the Holy Cross Wilderness lies to the southwest of Vail and Minturn. The different trails are accessed from either US Hwy. 24, Tigiwon Road, or Homestake Road.

Holy Cross Wilderness-Sopris Ranger District Wilde - The Sopris Ranger District portion of the Holy Cross Wilderness lies to the east of Basalt. The different trails are accessed from various points in the Frying Pan drainage, above Reudi Reservoir.

Yeoman Park Campground - This scenic campground with 23 sites sits along East Brush Creek south of Eagle, at an elevation of 9,000 feet.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Eagle Ranger District, 125 W. 5th St., P.O. Box 720 , Eagle, CO, 81631, Phone: 970-328-6388, Fax: 970-328-6448


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