Mount of the Holy Cross. Photo Credit: Spencer McKee

Mount of the Holy Cross. Photo Credit: Spencer McKee

Perhaps one of the more striking fourteeners in the state of Colorado, the climb to the summit of 14,005-foot tall Mount of the Holy Cross provides a rewarding challenge amid a stunning natural landscape.

The 12-mile hike up the standard North Ridge route means 5,600 feet of vertical gain. What makes this fourteener's gain a bit different than many other mountains is that a large chunk of the vertical gain comes on the return trip.

The hike to the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross starts at the end of a long dirt road near Minturn, rough in spots but drive-able by most vehicles. Parking is quite limited and fills up quickly on the weekends.

The start of the trail winds upward through a lush forest toward a ridge. The trail is often flanked by wildflowers and from the ridge, hikers get their first view of the distant summit.

Mount of the Holy Cross Spencer McKee

Mount of the Holy Cross. Photo Credit: Spencer McKee

After reaching the ridge, the trail to the summit drops down into a valley, losing around 1,000 feet of elevation that must be regained by hikers on the return trip.

Eventually, the trail winds across a creek and through campsites at the base of Mount of the Holy Cross. This is when the most strenous ascent begins.

As hikers climb the mountain on easy-to-find trail, elevation is gained quickly. Eventually a boulder field is reach and hikers must scramble with a bit of route-finding until they reach the summit.

Spencer and Nala on Mount of the Holy Cross. Photo Courtesy: Spencer McKee

Spencer and his dog Nala on the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross. This summit was Spencer's 25th unique fourteener summit and Nala's 7th. Photo Courtesy: Spencer McKee

The return trip means six more miles with a climb of roughly 1,000 feet approximately 4 miles in. The trail through this section is well-maintained, but on tired legs it can be taxing.

Overall, the standard route to the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross was one of the prettier of the 25 unique fourteener routes I've traveled.

A lush landscape surrounded by big mountain views makes this trek just about as picturesque 'Colorado' as it comes. Personally, I liked that the vertical gain came in chunks rather than all at once, though all may not feel the same. If you're looking for another intermediate fourteener to add to your summer bucket list, this should be it.

Editor's Note: Climbing high-altitude terrain in Colorado is no joke. It can be deadly. Do thorough research prior to taking on any trail and be prepared for the worst case scenario. Only experienced hikers should attempt the trek featured in this piece. Find more safety tips about climbing fourteeners here.

Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee manages the OutThere Colorado digital publication as the Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to rock climb, trail run, and mountain bike. Follow along with his adventures on Instagram at @spence.outside


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