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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Lee

Mount of the Holy Cross via Halo Ridge

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

August 31, 2022

PT 13248, PT 13373, PT 13831, Mt. of the Holy Cross (14,007 feet)

14.7 miles; 6900 feet elevation gain

Total time: 11 hours 50 minutes


Another alternate 14er route that is not for the faint of heart. This route is by far the hardest route I have ever done, we were on the trail for 12 hours, with about 9.5 hours of hiking time. I carried 5.5L of water and had just enough, I would recommend carrying 6L if you are hiking with a dog. Our timing statistics of hiking & breaks is below!


We camped the night before at the paid campground right next to the trailhead, it is $15 per night. There is also dispersed camping on Tigiwon road. Tigiwon road is an easy gravel road, accessible in most cars. We started at 4:30am, with a new moon it was veryyyy dark. You head out of the parking lot on the Fall Creek Trail, not the standard trail, both are well marked and easy to find. You hike through the dense forest with a couple of creek crossings for about 3 miles until the trail opens up into a meadow with stunning views. We made it to this spot for sunrise which was perfect. Then the 2 miles of seemingly endless switchbacks begins, it is very gradual climbing but it feels long. About 5 miles into the loop you reach Notch Mountain Hut at 13,077 feet. From here you can see the rest of your route (see photo) along Halo Ridge to the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross. The halo ridge route encircles the Bowl of Tears, a beautiful blue lake, and is consistent talus field for majority of the route. There is a lot of alternating ascent and descent along the route but you will be above 13,000 feet for a long time! This route is labeled as difficult class 2 because of the strenuous nature and scrambling that you encounter along the way. It is no joke, it is an exhausting route that requires a lot of mental and physical endurance. You are exposed for a long time so having a great weather day is a must. There are also no water sources above tree line so carrying plenty of water is important.


Once you reach the summit you can descend on the standard route to make it a loop. This route is about 6 miles long and presents quite the challenge of 1000 feet of elevation gain in 1 mile when you are about halfway into the descent. The first 2 miles of the descent remain very rocky/consistent talus then it turns to a more defined trail for the remainder of the route. There are a few water sources once you are back below tree line.


I am so glad I did this route, the views were absolutely unreal. You have views of the Elks, Indian Peaks Wilderness, the Front Range, the Mosquito Range and the Collegiate Peaks. You also get views of 10+ alpine lakes along the way. It is much more scenic that the standard route but also much more challenging. Be prepared for a long day with a decent amount of exposure, both actual exposure and weather, and route finding (there is no trail for the entire ridge). I highly recommend preparing for the route with the directions from 14ers.com and having this description ready to look at as you hike, it was extremely helpful for route finding. While Nyx and Maggie had no issues handling the terrain or the length, it is a challenging route for a dog so make sure your dog is prepared for the conditions and duration if you choose to bring them. The standard route is much easier class two terrain and much more dog friendly. Overall, an incredible day that I will never forget.



Timing Breakdown:

Start time: 4:30am

Sunrise Photo Break: 45 minutes

Notch Mountain Hut: 7:50am

Break: 25 minutes

PT 13248: 8:40am

PT 13373: 10:10am

Break: 30 minutes

PT 13831: 11:40am

Mount of the Holy Cross: 12:40am

Summit break: 30 minutes

Finish time: 4:20pm


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Josh Schimberg
Josh Schimberg
02 Ağu 2023

Myself and a friend are planning to do this loop in a couple weeks, and are very much looking forward to it! Great trip report, and photos!

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