ElevationAscent: 2,831' 863 m
Descent: -2,831' -863 m
High: 13,084' 3,988 m
Low: 10,342' 3,152 m
GradeAvg Grade: 10% (6°)
Max Grade: 31% (17°)
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“Abundant wildflowers and stunning views characterize this lesser-known alternative to summiting Holy Cross.”— Megan W
Resist the urge to bed down among the colorful flowers and continue the steady ascent. Large glacial boulders and erratics are scattered along this valley. At about 2.3 miles, you'll reach a large, shady trail junction where the Notch Mountain Trail #2000 leaves towards the west. Take the Notch Mountain Trail #2000 contouring up through forest and more scattered wildflower meadows. Soon, the trees become more sparse and you reach tree line. Intense high-altitude sun and no more shade mean you should sunscreeen/cover accordingly. The chunky talus slopes open up and the views get better and better the higher you climb. The rocky trail gradually becomes more narrow and the switchbacks get shorter, but the overall steepness remains manageable – just keep chugging away.
The trail does not pass through the "notch," but instead ascends up and over a southern shoulder. When it finally ends, the trail levels out and deposits runners onto a wide saddle (13,077 ft) between the two summit peaks. This beautiful alpine landscape is covered with large boulders and tufts of fragile tundra mosses (try not to tread on the grasses). The stone shelter atop Notch Mountain was built in 1924 by the CCC. Mount of the Holy Cross looms over Notch Mountain from across a large valley, and it is even possible to see climbers along its ridge and summit. Peek over the edge facing Holy Cross: the sapphire blue lake is called Bowl of Tears, presumably a reference to the famous cross couloir photographed from this location by William Henry Jackson in August 1873. When you've had enough high-alpine splendor, retrace your steps back down the switchbacks to the junction with Fall Creek Trail #2001 and then back to the Half Moon Trailhead parking area.
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Land Manager: USFS - White River - Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District