|Typically Open:||05/21 - 11/22|
(SEVERE - EXTREME)
|Highest Elevation:||11500 feet|
|Duration:||About 6 hours|
|Shape of Trail:||Out & Back|
|Best Direction to Travel:||N/A|
|Nearest Town w/ Services:||Minturn|
|Official Road Name:||759|
|Management Agency:||White River National Forest|
|District:||Holy Cross Ranger District|
Located in the Sawatch Range, on the side of 14,009 foot Mount of the Holy Cross, Holy Cross City is one of the most difficult and famous hardcore rock-crawling trails in the state. Stock vehicles should not attempt this trail. Best known for its two biggest obstacles, French Creek and Cleveland Rock, this trail also provides amazing scenery and fantastic historical highlights. Required equipment for this trail includes a winch, 33'' or larger tires, locking differentials, and various recovery and repair equipment. This trail is always crowded on the weekends, so expect a full day on the trail as you wait your turn to conquer the major obstacles.
Rocky or undulated road surface. Rocks more than 10' tall. Vertical ledges more than 8' tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls more than 18' foot. Poor tire placement. Extreme steepness and/or off-camber.Read more about our rating system
The trailhead for Holy Cross is well marked. There is no trailer parking here, but there is enough room for a group to air down before starting the trail. The next 1.3 miles is one-way uphill only.
Stay straight to continue. This is the end of the one-way section and the exit for the trail. If the trail has been challenging for you thus far, you may want to consider exiting here as it only gets significantly harder going from a moderate trail to a difficult trail.
You will encounter this small ledge obstacle shortly after the exit. Pay close attention to the fall line of this obstacle. It is off-camber and a wrong line could send you flopping into the tree on the left. The most difficult line is the far left and can be almost impossible to climb if there is water or mud at the base. The right side is an easier line. Please be sure to use a tree strap if you need to winch at this obstacle.
This small ledge obstacle is less challenging than the prior one but has a few different lines that will test your vehicle's suspension flex.
This obstacle provides plenty of entertainment for every vehicle type. The far right is the easiest line, but gets extremely tippy leaning you towards the bushes. It is not uncommon to see large wheelstands on that line. The green TJ above is taking this line. The center is the hardest line as it is a large, vertical, rock face climb requiring large tires and superb suspension travel. The far left is not as hard as the center, but still requires fairly large tires, good traction, and an excellent brake over angle. The black JK above is taking this line. As you crest the ledge on this side, be aware that there is a slight drop off on the far left just above the ledge.
This premier obstacle always gathers a crowd. With car-sized boulders guarding the exit from the creek, it is not uncommon for traffic to back up here for hours. The lines change from season to season, or even from storm to storm as water flows move boulders around and hinders tire traction. Although not well marked, there are a number of winch points around the creek going up and coming back down. Please be respectful of other users on the trail, and if your vehicle cannot exit the creek after multiple attempts, take a strap or winch your vehicle out of the way so that others users can continue to progress through the trail. Do not stage your vehicle in the creek if traffic is not moving! This sole obstacle on the trail has been the culprit of many heated debates and if proper care is not taken to keep the creek clean, it could eventually get the trail closed. Do not park in the creek, and make sure your vehicle is not leaking any fluids when you attempt the crossing.
This obstacle has changed drastically over the last decade. Once known as the Tippy Tree, there was only one off-camber line against a tree on the right side. The tree is now gone, and the trail is much wider to the left side. You can still encounter the thrill of the old tippy tree days by staying high right on the off-camber line.
Known to have flourished between 1880 and 1884, Holy Cross City was a mining town of around 300 people. There are still two, very intact cabins at the site, with a ton of mining equipment scattered around the area. This is a popular lunch stop and where many people turn around to head back down the trail or at least park their vehicles to see the action up on Cleveland Rock. Between the city and Cleveland Rock, there are a couple brief obstacles but there is not much parking up there. Only enough for a few vehicles. If you do not plan to attempt Cleveland Rock, it is recommended that you park at the city and hike the less than a quarter mile to the next obstacle so that you do not create a traffic jam for that obstacle.
This obstacle is an extreme obstacle for extreme vehicles. There are no easy lines and no bypasses. Mechanical failure, body damage, and rollovers are a very high possibility on Cleveland Rock. The left side is a steep granite slab made harder by the ever present water hole at the base of the climb. The right side is a series of large stair climbs that requires you to snake your way back and forth to reach the top. There is one winch point straight back at the top of the rock on the other side of the trail.
Not many vehicles make it to the end because of obvious reasons, so the turn around spot at the end of the motorized route is not that well defined. You will see the wooden fence barrier with a sign stating the trail continues only for non-motorized travel. This is the boundary for the Holy Cross Wilderness. Beyond this point, there is great fishing at Cleveland Lake and Hunky Dory Lake.
Motor vehicle use off of designated roads for the purpose of dispersed camping is permitted for up to 300 feet from the centerline of the road (both sides of the road), where not specifically prohibited, unsafe, or causing resource damage. Motor vehicles used for dispersed camping shall be the same vehicle as the road allows and shall be the same season as the road is open. Motorized access for dispersed camping is allowed only on National Forest System land. Dispersed camping is allowed all along the Holy Cross Trail and also along Homestake Road. Spots can be hard to find during busy weekends. Developed camping is available at Gold Park Campground.