Holy Cross Wilderness - White River
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.
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 – Dogs must be kept under control and may not harass wildlife or other visitors.
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.|
|Restrictions:||Wilderness restrictions apply|
|Closest Towns:||Vail, CO; Aspen, CO|
|Water:||Treat all non-potable water before consuming.|
|Operated By:||Forest Service|
General InformationGeneral Notes:
For more information about climbing Colorado’s peaks please visit the Rocky Mountain Region 14ers page.
Forest Service Topography Maps: These maps overlay Forest Service assets, such as roads, trails, and campgrounds, on USGS's topographic maps. They are available for download by quadrangle.
Buy maps online
National Forest Store: Offers a full, nationwide selection of National Forest, Ranger District, Wilderness, and Specialty Maps for purchase online or by phone, fax, and mail.
Go to Wilderness.net for additional maps and information about Wilderness.
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.
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information