Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route

Holy Cross Wilderness

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Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
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  • Start of the North Ridge Trail. - Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • North Ridge Trail ascending toward Half Moon Pass.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • View of the false summit.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Half Moon Pass.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Mount of the Holy Cross comes into view during the descent of Half Moon Pass. - Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • East Cross Creek camping information. - Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • East Cross Creek.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Climbing toward treeline.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Ascending the north ridge toward the false summit.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • A hiker climbs the north ridge toward the false summit.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • A hiker stands on the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Hikers make their way up the ridge over the rocks.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Traversing the ridge. - Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • A hiker makes his way down the final pitch of the climb.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Mount of the Holy Cross summit.- Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Summit view looking east toward the north ridge. Half Moon Pass can be seen in the distance. - Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Summit view looking south. - Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
  • Mount of the Holy Cross. - Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge Route
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Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Overnight backpacking option.
Cons: 
Gaining and losing 1,000 feet of elevation over Half Moon Pass twice.
Region:
Gore + Mosquito Range, CO
Congestion: 
Moderate
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
Not Required
Total Distance: 
11.00 mi (17.70 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
10,314 ft (3,144 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
3,628 ft (1,106 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking, Horseback
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Dogs allowed: 
Yes

Current Local Weather

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Today

Light snow (under 1 in.) in the morning and overnight.
34°F
24°

Wed

Snow (2–5 in.) until evening, starting again overnight.
30°F
12°

Thu

Snow (1–4 in.) throughout the day.
21°F

Fri

Snow (1–2 in.) in the morning and afternoon.
21°F
-1°

Sat

Snow (1–3 in.) until evening.
25°F
11°

Sun

Light snow (1–3 in.) throughout the day.
28°F

Mon

Light snow (1–3 in.) throughout the day.
26°F
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Hike Description

Hike Description

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With an elevation profile that looks like an electrocardiogram and a 5,600-foot total elevation gain over the 12-mile hike, climbing the 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross is not for the faint of heart.

After traveling a little over 8 miles on Notch Mountain Road, the North Ridge route begins at the Half Moon Trailhead. A 1.5-mile climb to tree line takes hikers over Half Moon Pass, where a 1,000-foot descent down to East Cross Creek awaits. This is where hikers get their first look at Mount of the Holy Cross.

Mount of the Holy Cross gets its name from a massive cross-shaped snow field on the northeast face that is not visible via the North Ridge Route. Prospectors in the 1860s sought out the hidden peak’s cross, but it wasn’t until 1873, after several failed expeditions, pioneer photographer William H. Jackson captured the first images of the cross from the top of neighboring 13,237-foot Notch Mountain.

Backpackers can choose a more relaxed pace over two days by spending the night at one of several campsites nestled among aspens and pines along East Cross Creek.

The climb begins in earnest after the creek crossing, where the trail gets progressively rougher as it moves above tree line and through a mostly defined trail that leads to a false summit. While traversing the ridge, the gradient offers a bit of respite before the steep final pitch toward the summit. At around 13,700 feet Angelica Couloir drops off the ridge to the left before before the scramble to the top.

The Class II scramble to the summit finishes at 14,005 feet, where several 13ers and the runs of Ski Cooper can be seen from the top. Fellow 14ers Grays Peak (14,270’) and Torreys Peak (14,267’) lie about 50 miles to the east.

Route finding on the scramble back down is fairly intuitive, although rock cairns help guide hikers down the ridge, back into the trees, and over East Cross Creek before tackling the 1,000-foot ascent back to Half Moon Pass. After over 8 miles of hiking, the climb might feel twice as long as it was on the way out, but it’s a 1.5-mile downhill stroll through fields of wildflowers back to the trailhead from the crest.

As with any of Colorado’s 14ers, it is essential to get an early start to minimize the danger of afternoon thunderstorms. Mount of the Holy Cross carries an even higher risk because the return climb over the pass leaves hikers exposed above tree line later in the day. If hiked safely, the reward is well worth the effort that this mountain requires.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(15 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(32 within a 30 mile radius)

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