Holy Cross City

Minturn, Colorado (Eagle County)

Last Updated: 06/06/2022
4.8 / 5 ( 6 reviews )
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Highlight: Holy Cross City
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.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Highly Modified 4X4 (Big Lift, Locker(s), Larger Tires)
There are large rocks along the entire length of this trail, but the high-end rating only comes from the last obstacle, Cleveland Rock.

Technical Rating

Rocky or undulated road surface. Rocks and less than 54" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 54" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 10' foot. Tire placement not good. Can be steep and off-camber.
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Community Consensus

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If you are looking for trailer parking to start your day, please read the "Directions to Trailhead" section above. The trail starts off quickly climbing the mountainside with a handful of small boulder obstacles that you will need to traverse. The first 1.3 miles is one-way uphill only, so you should not run into any other traffic on this section. You come to an intersection on your left, which is the exit for the trail. You will return to this point at the end of your trip. This intersection is also used as an entry point for groups coming up to recover damaged or disabled vehicles, as well as hikers hiking to the city. Continue past this intersection where the trail gets increasingly harder with forest service signs announcing the same statement. There are a number of small, slightly off-camber rock ledge obstacles within the trees that you will make your way over starting with the Knotch just past the exit. Eventually, you make your way to a wide clearing with a much larger ledge obstacle called the Steep Rock. Steep Rock is the first major obstacle on the trail and has a number of different lines, all of which are challenging. Once above this rock, French Creek is the next obstacle you encounter. French Creek is a major bottleneck if there is any traffic on the trail. This obstacle changes every year and the easy line from a prior year may look nothing like it did before. Do not park your vehicle in the creek if waiting in line for your turn to complete the obstacle. Without lockers or a winch, this obstacle will be impossible. Please remember to stay the trail, and always use tree saver straps if winching to nearby trees. Past French Creek, the next obstacle you will come to was once known as the Tippy Tree. The tree is long gone, and the trail has widened quite a bit here, but the climb is still a challenge. Eventually you come to the surviving mining cabins of Holy Cross City. There is a lot of parking here, so stop for awhile and explore the rich mining history you are seeing before you. Be sure to leave things as you found them. Many groups will turn around here and head back down the trail as the next obstacle is extreme. Shortly after the city, you will traverse 2-3 small obstacles that pale in comparison to the massive rock obstacle known as Cleveland Rock. This obstacle will find the weakest link on your vehicle and will expose it immediately. Large ledges and holes on the right side will swallow up tires under 40 inches. The steep slab to the left seems to ignore the laws of friction providing zero traction for hard compound rubber tires. To top things off, mother nature throws salt on the wound by deliberately planting a mud hole at the base of the obstacle. If you are lucky enough to conquer Cleveland Rock, you can continue a short distance over 3 more small obstacles until the trail ends at a fence noting the end to the motorized route. There are several lakes just a short hike away that we are told provide some great fishing opportunities. You must return back down the way you came up, taking the exit route noted earlier. From here, take the easy Homestake Collection Systems Road and follow it back to the main dirt road you came in on, and back to the highway. Holy Cross Ranger District MVUM


1. Trailhead (0 mi)
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.
2. Exit Route (1.3 mi)
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.
3. The Knotch (1.5 mi)
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.
4. Small Ledge Obstacle (2.1 mi)
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.
5. Steep Rock (2.5 mi)
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.
6. French Creek (2.7 mi)
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 other 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.
7. Old Tippy Tree (3.1 mi)
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.
8. Holy Cross City (3.6 mi)
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.
9. Cleveland Rock (3.8 mi)
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 right side of the obstacle is a series of large stair climbs that require you to snake your way back and forth to reach the top. The left side is a steep granite slab made harder by the ever present water hole at the base of the climb. Both vehicles in these pictures are using the left-most line. Note that any line appearing to drive up and around the obstacle on the far far left, or up against the trees is illegal. Please stay on the rock face and do not create resource damage by attempting any bypasses. There is one winch point straight back at the top of the rock on the other side of the trail, about 20 yards from the top of the rock face.
10. End of Motorized Route (4 mi)
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 for those that hike in.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Minturn

From Highway 24, between mile markers 156 and 157, turn southwest on Homestake Road, FSR 703. Follow this road for 7.3 miles past Gold Park Campground until you reach a very well marked trail sign with a small parking lot on your right. Trailer Parking: There are many spots along Homestake Road that can be used for truck/trailer parking if need be. One of the best locations is 1.9 miles from Highway 24 on the southeast side of the road. There you will find a very large, open area typically used by those visiting with trailers just for the day.


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.
Camping: Holy Cross City

Land Use Issues

This trail is closed seasonally from 11/20-5/21 depending on conditions.

Trail Reviews (17)

Questions & Answers (8)

Q: Hey Ryan! Thanks for the reports back on McAllister and Ptarmigan. We are planning on running Holy Cross on Saturday the 26th. Have you heard if the trail is still snowy and how far you can get?
–Travis Pfalzgraff (06/21/2021)
A: Open all the way to the end.
–Ryan Boudreau (06/21/2021)
Q: We are planning to run the trail this weekend (6/6/20). It would usually be a little early, but with the lack of spring snow I'm thinking it may be mostly open. Has anyone tried it this year yet?
–Travis Pfalzgraff (06/02/2020)
A: If you make it out of French Creek I'd be surprised. When the FS opened Homestake Road on the 21st of May, the trail was still snow packed down to the early exit at waypoint 2. Could have melted a bunch since then though. Report back what you find.
–Ryan Boudreau (06/02/2020)
Q: Is a orv pass required to run this trail?
–Dan Williams (07/27/2019)
A: If your vehicle is not plated, yes. If it is plated, no.
–Ryan Boudreau (07/28/2019)
Q: Has anyone run the trail this year? Just looking for info on whether it's open or not yet. We were planning on running it the 19th of July.
–Travis Pfalzgraff (07/10/2019)
A: As of this past weekend, it was open to French Creek. Right after the creek a group snow bashed for about a quarter-mile but then nothing but snow. I would expect it will easily be open to the city for your trip. Beyond that up to Cleveland Rock, probably not. There is an event running it this weekend so I will have updated info after that.
–Ryan Boudreau (07/10/2019)
Q: Is there a good place to park truck/trailers for a day run?
–jordan (01/27/2018)
A: Excellent Question Jordan. There are plenty of areas along Homestake Road that can be used for truck and trailer parking. One of the best, is 1.9 miles from highway 24. It is a large open area on the southeast side of the road. Very hard to miss. Thanks again for your question! We have updated the guide to include this information.
–Ryan Boudreau (01/29/2018)
Q: Headed to the area Sept 14th, for a couple of days. Looking to back-country camp/fish/ ride Polaris's. Any recommendations on a place to do this?
–Matt (08/22/2017)
A: This trail is a little rough for a Polaris. You might try around Shrine Pass.
–Todd (08/24/2017)
Q: going up july 9th has anyone broken trail past french creek yet ?
–robert (07/02/2017)
A: The trail is clear to the city. Beyond that is currently unknown.
–Ryan Boudreau (07/04/2017)
Q: I'll be arriving on August 6th from Maryland and this will be my first trail to hit, wondering if anyone will be around to ride/guide the trail with me.
–Ed mcdaniel (06/20/2017)
A: We are not available to run the trail during that time. However, you may want to check with one of the local Jeep clubs such as Mile-Hi Jeep Club or Big Horn Jeep Club.
–Ryan Boudreau (06/21/2017)

Writer Information

Ryan Boudreau

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Hi, I'm Ryan! I am a Colorado native and I've been wheeling since I was 16 years old. I grew up with a relentless passion for all things Jeep and off road related, and that passion has never died out. I am a member of the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Patrol 16 Sasquatch Jeepers and currently own an '06 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (LJ) nicknamed "Minion". I am a huge supporter of Stay the Trail and Tread Lightly, and have participated and even been in charge of many trail restoration projects. I have been a trail leader several times for events such as All-4-Fun, ColoradoFest, Set Them Free, 14er Fest, and other. I am also the creator of the Unlimited LJ Adventure. My rig is built for extreme offroading, but I love to get my tires dirty on any kind of trail whether it's rock crawling or just scenic high Alpine drives. I've wheeled all over the country including Colorado, Utah, Kansas, the Carolinas, AZ, and California. I love a great adventure, and love even more to share those adventures with others. If you see the "minion" out on the trail, make sure to stop and say hello.
For individual use only, not to be shared.