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    Mount of the Holy Cross Trail

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    Very Hard
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    18.8 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    1,686 m
    User Ratings
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    Directions to Trailhead
    Mount of the Holy Cross Trail

    Are you an experienced hiker seeking your next big challenge? Well, look no further! The Mount of the Holy Cross Trail is an incredibly rewarding, but extremely technical ascent up to the summit of a famous Colorado fourteener (14er). With a snowfield cross etched into the southeastern face of the peak, this stunning mountain is one of the most photographed summits in the Sawatch Mountain Range. Go see for yourself, you will be astounded by the unique scene.

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    Route Description for Mount of the Holy Cross Trail

    ​Immerse yourself in the stunning natural environments of the Colorado wilderness. The American Lake Trail is an epic adventure through the high country that is sure to please all its hikers. Located in a mountain cirque, the trek up to the lake travels at high elevations, so it is essential to be mindful of the weather. Check the forecast before your adventure and set out in the early morning to mitigate the chances of getting caught in an afternoon storm. If you choose to camp around the lake, be sure to set up shop at least 100ft from the lake, beneath the treeline. Pack a pair of microspikes to help navigate the likely icy and snow-cloaked terrain when venturing the trail in the winter or late fall.

    Revel in the diversity of Colorado’s topographies as you trek the American Lake Trail. Offering the best of both worlds, this incredible adventure offers forestland walks and hikes through exposed terrains that reveal awe-inspiring vistas of the surrounding mountainous wilderness. Initially hiking through vibrant aspens, you will be drowning in a sea of golden leaves before ascending into verdant evergreen woodlands. The exposed alpine tundra near the lake warrants expansive views of the neighboring peaks that flank the lush vegetation below and often presents the opportunity to spot wildlife. The American Lake Trail is an awesome introductory hike to those hoping to eventually ascend a Colorado 14er. We love this hike, and if you venture it, you will understand why.

    Embark on your adventure along the American Lake Trail from the trailhead on Castle Creek Road. From here, the American Lake Trail will guide hikers across a small alpine stream before diverting southwest into the aspen forest. Admire the towering golden aspens and let them distract you from your burning legs as you hike up the gradual grade. The path will eventually curve south, ascending into an evergreen forest. Enjoy the increasingly sparse tree shade before graduating from the treeline and into the alpine tundra.

    As you wander through the alpine meadow, keep an eye out for pikas and overly friendly marmots! Enjoy the sights of the encompassing mountainous wilderness as you begin your final push up to the alpine lake. Navigate the now rocky terrain, scrambling up the scree dotted with wildflowers. Notice a small waterfall on the left that feeds Devaney Creek. Summit the scree field, and your breath will be taken away as the sights of the alpine lake flanked by craggy cliffs come into view.

    Nestled between towering walls capped by snow and encircled towering pines, the green-hued lake presents a postcard-worthy scene. Revel in the picturesque panorama and explore the shoreline of the inviting waters. If you are camping overnight, set up your tent below the timberline, sheltered from the threat of an afternoon storm. After dipping your toes in the frigid waters and admiring the scenery, begin your descent. To get back, simply retrace your footing along the path to the trailhead, marking the end of your alpine adventure.

    Trail Highlights

    Mount of the Holy Cross

    Mount of the Holy Cross is an incredible Colorado 14er, so named by William Henry Jackson, a famous explorer of the American West, in 1873 because of the holy cross etched by a snowfield in the northeast face of the summit. Standing at 4,270 m, this peak ranks 25th on the list of Colorado’s highest peaks. Located in the Sawatch Mountain Range in the Holy Cross Wilderness, the Mount of the Holy Cross is a technical and dangerous ascent. Reserved for intrepid adventurers, this hike demands stamina and a Class 2 scramble. One of the most photographed mountains in the Sawatch Mountain Range, the Mount of the Holy Cross Trail is a must-do the next time you find yourself in the Vail area.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long does it take to hike the Mount of the Holy Cross Trail?

    The answer varies greatly, but generally, the Mount of the Holy Cross Trail takes between 8-11hrs to complete.

    Why is it called the Mount of the Holy Cross?

    Mount of the Holy Cross was named due to the distinct cross-shaped snowfield on its northeast flank.

    How tall is Mount of the Holy Cross?

    Mount of the Holy Cross is a Colorado 14er that stands at 4,270 m of elevation.

    Insider Hints for Mount of the Holy Cross Trail

    • This trek is extremely challenging, so make sure you are well prepared
    • Due to the length and elevation gain, it is recommended to camp at the East Cross Creek Campsites—breaking this adventure into a two-day expedition
    • Acclimate to the area’s elevation before attempting this trek
    • Microspikes are a must in the fall and winter months when the terrain is snow-cloaked and icy
    • Consider trekking poles to help navigate the steep and technical terrain
    • After your trek, head into Vail and grab a latte at Loaded Joe’s

    Getting to the Mount of the Holy Cross Trail Trailhead

    The Mount of the Holy Cross Trail departs from the Mount of the Holy Cross Trailhead at the end of the Notch Mountain Road.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground


    • When to do


    • Pets allowed

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Mount of the Holy Cross Trail Elevation Graph

    Weather Forecast

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    Mount of the Holy Cross Trail Reviews

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