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Backpacker Magazine – December 1997

Colorado's Heavenly Holy Cross Wilderness

Wilderness doesn't get much better, or higher, than Holy Cross.

by: David Kotzebue

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QUICK TAKE: Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado

DRIVE TIME: Holy Cross Wilderness is located in the central Colorado Rockies, 108 miles (13/4 hours) west of Denver.

THE WAY: From Denver take I-70 west past Vail, then turn south at Dowd's Junction onto US 24. Just south of Maloit Park, turn right onto Forest Road 707 (Tigiwon Road). Cross Creek trailhead is less than a mile from the turnoff, and Fall Creek trailhead is only 6 miles farther.

TRAILS: The Fall Creek-to-Cross Creek Trail loop is 28 miles long. Some other recommended hikes include: the 24-mile roundtrip up East Lake Trail to Upper Camp Lake; the 18-mile roundtrip to Turquoise Lakes; and the 16-mile West Grouse-Cross Creek loop, which requires a car shuttle.

ELEVATION: Fall Creek Pass, 12,600 feet, is the high point on the Fall Creek-Cross Creek loop; the low is the trailhead, at 8,500 feet.

CAN'T MISS: Holy Cross City, a ghost town that was once a booming mining center.

CROWD CONTROL: Hike in May or September or on weekdays if you want to be alone.

MAPS AND GUIDES: Trails Illustrated's Holy Cross map (#126) encompasses most of the wilderness, but you'll need Vail Pass (#108) to cover the trailheads ($8.99 for each map, 800-962-1643). Good trail descriptions can be found in The Complete Guide to Colorado's Wilderness Areas ($24.95, Westcliffe Publishers, 800-523-3692).

PIT STOP: The town of Minturn off US 24 offers several low-cost, relaxing watering holes.

WALK SOFTLY: Open fires are permitted but discouraged. Camp at least 100 yards from any water source. Steer clear of fragile meadows and alpine tundra.

MORE INFORMATION: Holy Cross Ranger District, White River National Forest, P.O. Box 190, Minturn, CO 81645; (970) 827-5715.

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