Mt. of the Holy Cross
ElevationAscent: 5,312' 1,619 m
Descent: -5,311' -1,619 m
High: 13,968' 4,257 m
Low: 10,391' 3,167 m
GradeAvg Grade: 19% (11°)
Max Grade: 61% (31°)
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“Mt. of the Holy Cross is one of the most rigorous Sawatch 14ers and also one of the most scenic.”— Tyler Prince
This run exclusively uses the USFS Half Moon Trail.
As always, bring plenty of food, water, clothing, and sun protection, and be wary of bad weather above tree line.
Fast runners can expect a roundtrip time of 5-6 hours although most folks will take 8-10 hours.
The remaining description is the standard north ridge route up Holy Cross. Run about 1.5 miles up a moderate dirt trail with some roots to reach Half Moon Pass at about 11,600 ft. 13er Notch Mountain is up and to your left; Holy Cross will come into view shortly after you start down the pass. Drop down the clear trail on the other side of Half Moon Pass, losing pretty much all of the elevation you just gained, and coming to a stream at about 2.5 miles. You may camp here, although Holy Cross is an excellent day run. But remember, you'll have to run back up the elevation you lost on the pass!
Continue along some flat, rocky terrain for a bit before the grade cranks up, taking you up a rocky path switchbacking through the trees. The trees begin to thin out, and, by 12,000 ft, you'll be running up a rocky path devoid of life. CFI has maintained this trail very well, and there are even rock steps built into much of the path. This area is steep and draining, but massive cairns make getting lost next to impossible, and the ridge is not that far away.
At about 4.5 miles in, the ridge begins to flatten out. Follow the trail up and to the left to reach the summit. You only have about 400 more feet to go. The path fades out fairly quickly, and it's more fun to simply scramble up the class 2+ terrain just below the summit than to waste time looking for the exact path. Reach the top and enjoy 360 degrees of world-class views!
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Land Manager: USFS - White River - Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District