Holy Cross Wilderness - White River

Large alpine lake with snowy patches on rocky mountain peaks.

The United States Congress designated the Holy Cross Wilderness (map) in 1980 and it now has a total of 123,409 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Colorado and is managed by the White River and Pike San Isabel National Forest. The wilderness is characterized by rugged ridgelines and glacier-carved valleys, spruce-fir forests, cascading streams and dozens of lakes; elevations range from 8,500 feet to 14,005 feet.

Holy Cross Wilderness is named after Mount of the Holy Cross, which became famous in 1873 when William Henry Jackson first photographed the cross of snow on the northeast face of the mountain. The area became protected as a national monument in the early 1930’s. More recently, the wilderness has become known for its excellent hiking and backpacking on over 150 miles of trail.  The ever increasing numbers of visitors means that solitude can be difficult to find in areas such as Mount of the Holy Cross, Missouri Lakes, Fancy Lake, Beaver Lake, Cross Creek, Fall Creek and Timberline Lake.

Protect this special place for the future by always using Leave No Trace techniques and following all special Wilderness restrictions including but not limited to:

Camping – Wilderness appropriate campsites are previously impacted sites, at least 100 feet from trails, lakes and streams.

Human Waste and Trash – Poop and litter is piling up in popular destinations. Do you part, pack out all trash (DO NOT BURN) and consider packing out your poop to prevent sanitation issues. 

Dogs – Pets are required to be on a leash to protect wildlife, other visitor’s experience and your privilege to have them with you.

Climbing Mount of the Holy Cross

The standard route on Holy Cross is the Halfmoon Trail from Tigiwon Road. This is a very strenuous hike with over 8,000 vertical feet of elevation change and several miles of walking on rock (each direction) to climb the peak and return to the trailhead. Holy Cross is also notorious for bad weather; be prepared! 

Camping along Halfmoon Trail is restricted to 10 designated sites near East Cross Creek. Sites are first come, first serve; if all sites are full, you must share with another party. Camping outside of the designated sites is prohibited to protect East Cross Creek and the surrounding riparian areas from camping impacts and poop. Campfires are prohibited in this area. 

Additional information on Holy Cross can be found on 14ers.com.

At a Glance

Permit Info: Registration required for overnight camping: Free, self-issue registration forms are available at Wilderness trailheads and are required for overnight camping. *No registration is required for day-use. 
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Restrictions: Wilderness restrictions apply
Closest Towns: Vail, CO; Aspen, CO
Water: Treat all non-potable water before consuming.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center:

General Information

General Notes:




Over 25 trailheads provide access to the Holy Cross Wilderness.  The highest concentration of popular access points to the Holy Cross Wilderness are on the eastern border of the wilderness in Eagle County near the towns of Vail, Avon and Eagle, Colorado.  

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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