This moderate trail in the Holy Cross Wilderness is incredibly popular. Hike it and you’ll see why: stunning scenery without a long hike, leading to a pretty lake and a high mountain pass. The trail begins near Homestake Reservoir. Turn onto Missouri Creek Road (rougher but okay for most cars) and follow it to the trailhead, which is also used to access Fancy Lakes. The hike is 4.4 miles, mostly uphill, to Missouri Lakes. From here the trail continues above timberline to Missouri Pass, at nearly 12,000 feet, from which the Holy Cross Wilderness opens up before you. Return the way you came or, if the weather is cooperating, hike a mile across the tundra to Fancy Pass, which drops down to Fancy Lakes and returns to the trailhead, making an 8.8 mile loop. The trail is in wilderness so only foot and horse traffic are allowed.
As we huffed and puffed our way up Missouri Pass, after a lovely night camping at the lake below, I spied movement at the top. People? A bear? Then a horned mountain goat came into view, showing no inclination to get out of the way. I’d experienced mountain goats before and knew their weakness, that they require salt that is difficult to attain up here. So I relieved myself away from the trail and sure enough the goat raced over to lick it for the salt. We proceeded on the trail and the goat got his, um, breakfast.
- Make a loop by climbing Missouri and Fancy passes, which won’t add much to your total mileage but allows you easy access to a wilderness known for long approach hikes.
- Great campsites can be found at Missouri Lakes and Fancy Lake, though the U.S. Forest Service has banned campfires because of the heavy use the area receives.
- From Fancy Lake it’s a one-mile side trip to Holy Cross City, a ghost town with several well-preserved buildings.
Recommended season(s): Summer to early fall.
–R. Scott Rappold