Holy Cross Wilderness Trails
Some among Colorado's conservation community call Holy Cross a “water wilderness”—an odd appellation given its rugged peaks more than 2 miles above sea level. What they refer to, however, are the innumerable pools and cascades of the area’s many streams, the dozens of alpine lakes, and the wide expanses of valleys inundated by spring snowmelt. Holy Cross’ abundance of water sets the stage for one of Colorado’s longest running and most bitter conflicts over wilderness versus water development. But first let us consider the uncommon beauty of Holy Cross. The wilderness takes its name from 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross. The famous photographer William H. Jackson embellished the peak’s reputation by supposedly doctoring his 19th-century photographs of the perpendicular snow-filled gullies, or couloirs, on the mountain’s east face. Some believe that Jackson’s additional white touches enhanced the already strong resemblance of these couloirs to a cross; regardless, his images drew countless thousands of pilgrims in subsequent years. This fourteener is by no means the only high peak in the northernmost extension of the Sawatch Range; more than 25 peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation dot the wilderness. Holy Cross represents the archetypical Colorado wilderness—soaring ridges and peaks built of 1.7-billion-year-old schist and gneiss tower over immense, U-shaped, glacier-carved valleys whose headwaters contain placid emerald lakes. The streams run full of fish, and the area’s remote valleys offer refuge for deer, elk, and a multitude of other solitude-loving creatures such as black bear, bobcat, and lynx. In fall, hikers sniff crisp air foretelling of winter and shuffle through leaves fallen from the ubiquitous aspen groves, blazing golden amid dark forests of spruce and fir. This trail guide includes descriptions of Lonesome Lake, Mount of the holy cross, notch mountain, eagle lake, mystic island lake, turquoise lakes, upper camp lake and East Lake Creek, Polar Star Inn Ski Tour, Fancy Pass/Missouri Lakes, Fall Creek to Cross Creek, and Grouse Mountain Trail.
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Directions to: Holy Cross Wilderness Trailsprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Skill Level||Easy to Strenuous|
|Season||Best Spring through Fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||7,800 ft|
|Top Elevation||14,003 ft|
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