Holy Cross Wilderness Area
Government information and links are at the bottom of this page.
Located in San Isabel and White River National Forests
Neighboring towns: Redcliff, Gilman, Minturn, Vail, Leadville, Twin Lakes, Aspen, Norrie, Meredith, Ruedi, Basalt
Free permits are needed
in the Holy Cross Wilderness area. More...
The Holy Cross Wilderness lies immediately west of the Continental Divide, just over the ridge from the Arkansas River Valley. Some among Colorado's conservation community call Holy Cross a "water wilderness" - an odd appellation given its rugged peaks more than two miles above sea level. What they refer to, however, are the innumerable pools and cascades of the area's many streams, the dozens of alpine lakes, and the wide expanses of valleys inundated by spring snowmelt. Holy Cross's abundance of water sets the state for one of Colorado's longest running and most bitter conflicts over wilderness versus water development.
The wilderness takes its name from 14,003-foot Mount of the Holy Cross. The famous photographer William H. Jackson embellished the peak's reputation by doctoring his 19th-century photographs of the perpendicular snow-filled gullies, or couloirs, on the mountain's east face. Jackson's additional white touches enhanced the already strong resemblance of these couloirs to a cross and drew countless thousands of pilgrims in subsequent years. This fourteener is by no means the only high peak in the northernmost extension of the Sawatch Range; more than twenty-five peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation dot the wilderness.
Holy Cross represents the archetypical Colorado wilderness area - soaring ridges and peaks built of 1.7 billion-year-old schist and gneiss tower over immense, U-shaped glacial-carved valleys whose headwaters contain placid emerald lakes. The streams run full of fish, and the area's remote valleys offer refuge for deer, elk and a multitude of other solitude-loving creatures, such as black bear, bobcat and lynx. In fall, hikers sniff crisp air foretelling of winter and shuffle through leaves fallen from the ubiquitous aspen groves, blazing golden amidst dark forests of spruce and fir.
Size: 122,797 acres
Elevation: 8,000 to 14,003 feet
Miles of trails: 164
Year designated: 1980
Hunting areas: 44, 45, 444, 48
For more information contact:
Pike & San Isabel National Forests, 1920 Valley Drive, Pueblo, CO 81008
Leadville Ranger District, 2015 N. Poplar, Leadville, CO 80461 (719)486-0749
Pikes Peak Ranger District, 601 So. Weber, Colorado Spgs, CO 80903 (719)636-1602
Salida Ranger District, 325 W. Rainbow Blvd., Salida, CO 81201 (719)539-3591
San Carlos Ranger District, 3170 E. Main St., Canon City, CO 81212 (719)269-8500
South Park Ranger District, Box 219, 320 Hwy 285, Fairplay, CO 80440 (719)836-2031 Fax: (719)836-2033
South Platte Ranger District, 19316 Goddard Ranch Court, Morrison, CO 80903 (303)275-5610
For more information contact:
White River National Forest
Headquarters, 900 Grand Ave., PO Box 948, Glenwood Spgs, CO 81602 (970)945-2521
Aspen District, 806 West Halam, Aspen, CO 81611 (970)925-3445 Fax:(970)925-5277 Aspen District
Blanco District, 317 East Market St., Meeker, CO 81641 (970)878-4039 Fax:(970)878-5173 Blanco District
Dillon District, 680 River Parkway, PO Box 620, Silverthorne, CO 80498 (970)468-5400 Fax:(970)468-7735 Dillon District
Eagle District, 125 West Fifth St., PO box 720, Eagle, CO 81631 (970)328-6388 Fax:(970)328-6448 Eagle District
Holy Cross District, 24747 US Hwy 24, PO Box 190, Minturn, CO 81645 (970)827-5715 Fax:(970)827-9343 Holy Cross District
Rifle District, 0094 County Rd 244, Rifle, CO 81650 (970)625-2371 Fax:(970)625-2532 Rifle District
Sopris District, 620 Main St., PO Box 309, Carbondale, CO 81623 (970)963-2266 Fax:(970)963-1012 Sopris District
NOTE: Eloquent descriptions of our wilderness areas provided by Mark Pearson, author of "The Complete Guide to Colorado's Wilderness Areas", Westcliffe Publishers, Englewood, CO. The book also contains many beautiful pictures by renowned photographer and Colorado resident John Fielder.
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