"IN WILDNESS IS THE PRESERVATION OF THE WORLD." Henry Thoreau
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
Close-up view of Mount of the Holy Cross
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.
LEAVE NO TRACE
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.
The following trailheads access the wilderness:
Access from US HWY. 24: I-70 to Exit 171 (Hwy. 24/6), travel south on US HWY. 24.
Grouse Mountain: Proceed 1 mile on US HWY. 24 south to trailhead across from Meadow Mountain Business Park.
Martin Trail: Proceed 3 miles through Minturn of US HWY. 24 south to trailhead on the right (behind blue house).
Beaver Lake/Turquoise Lake: Take I-70 to Avon Exit, head south on Village Road to Beaver Creek Ski area. Travel 2.5 miles and park in parking structure. Follow 5 Senses trail.
Access from Tigiwon Road: I-70 to Exit 171 (Hwy. 24/6), travel south on US HWY. 24 for 4 miles to Tigiwon Road FDR 707.
Cross Creek: Proceed 2 miles on Tigiwon Road to trailhead on right.
Halfmoon Pass (Mt. of Holy Cross and Fall Creek Trails: Proceed 8 miles on Tigiwon Road to the end of the road.
Notch Mountain: Same as Fall Creek trailhead. Hike the Fall Creek trail for 2 miles to the junction with Notch Mountain trail.
Access from Homestake Road: I-70 to Exit 171 (Hwy. 24/6), travel south on US HWY. 24 for 14 miles to Homestake #703.
Whitney Lake: Turn right onto Homestake Road and proceed 5 miles to trailhead.
Missouri Lakes: Travel on Homestake Road for 7 1/2 miles to Road #704. Turn right and continue for 1 1/2 miles.
Fancy Pass: Same as Missouri Lakes trailhead.
East Fork/Lonesome Lake: Proceed approximately 10 miles on FDR #703. Trailhead on left.
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 Vail: The Holy Cross Wilderness lies to the southwest of Vail. It can be accessed from several trailheads off Highway 24, from Beaver Creek, or from Lake Creek Road, south of Edwards.
Directions from Beaver Creek: The Holy Cross Wilderness lies to the south of Beaver Creek. It can be accessed from the Beaver Creek Trail, south of Beaver Creek village, from several trailheads off Highway 24, or from Lake Creek Road, south of Edwards.
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 patterns change quickly. Warm sunny days can turn into powerful electrical storms. Be prepared for snow even in August)