More than 200 routes. A million feet in elevation. Sixty-seven towering peaks. Every hiker should conquer at least one of the Lower 48’s 14,000-footers—and Mt. of the Holy Cross gets our nod as the quintessential pick.
As the story goes, 19th-century journalist Samuel Bowles pinpointed the mountain adorned with a cross-shaped snowfield on its northeast face and declared, “It is as if God has set His sign, His seal, His promise there—a beacon upon the very center and height of the Continent to all its people and all its generations...” We agree: For scenery, convenience, solitude, and overall tough-but-beginner-friendly nature, Mt. of the Holy Cross deserves to be on your list. Access the 14,009-footer on a 6-mile climb via the standard North Ridge route south of Vail to earn wraparound views of the Rockies and a bird’s-eye vantage over the Bowl of Tears, a cerulean pool that drains the cross and surrounding slopes. It’s a Fourteener, so expect company, but it isn’t a hiker highway like some of the more popular (and accessible) peaks. Overnight option: Camp at one of a handful of established sites near East Cross Creek around the midpoint.
Starting elevation 10,300 feet Distance 12 miles round-trip Trailhead Half Moon (39.500531, -106.432972; 115 miles west of Denver) on Notch Mountain Road/FS 707