Climbing a 14er is something that every person who sets foot in the great state of Colorado must do. While none of the 14,000 ft mountains are necessarily easy, there are some that definitely take more effort than others. I didn’t really have any expectations approaching Mount of the Holy Cross, but after finishing the adventure I wish I had done more research, because it was vastly harder than I had expected!
At 14,009 ft Mount of the Holy Cross is one of the smaller 14ers from an elevation perspective, however don’t let that fact fool you into thinking it’s one of the easier ones. The major difficulty in attempting to summit this beast of a mountain is the fact that you have to hike up and down another mountain just to reach the valley where the trail to the top starts! Now I would consider myself in fairly decent shape and although I did spend 30-45 minutes at the top (great place to drink a beer!) the total trip took me almost 8 hours in total. The majority of the hike is just a fairly steep walk through the trees, but the last portion is an exposed rock field where you need to scramble a bit. Make sure you start early, because like any 14,000 ft mountain the weather can turn on you in an instant and make things quite dangerous.
While I can’t claim that I’ve climbed every 14er in Colorado (yet) I’ve been up enough mountains to where you can take my opinion on whether a climb is worth it or not, very seriously. Despite the lengthy and difficult journey, I think this is one of the better 14ers from a scenery perspective. Once you reach the top of the first mountain and get a complete view of Mount of the Holy Cross and the pine forested valley below, you will be nothing short of amazed. While it’s often difficult to see, the mountain was named for a very distinct snow field in the shape of a cross that spanned one face of it. Being the highest peak in the area, the view from the top is 360 degrees of mountains that span as far as the eye can see. One last thing, Which Wich Sandwiches gives a free sandwich to anyone that hikes a 14er with one of their bags and takes a picture with it at the top!
To try your hand at climbing this majestic mountain, take I-70 to Minturn (the exit between Vail and Beaver Creek). Then head 2.85 miles south on US 24 until you reach a dirt road called Tigiwon Road. From there you should have a high clearance SUV to drive the 8 miles up the mountain to the trailhead. It’s a nice, pretty drive through aspen trees if you have the right vehicle! The map below will give you a better idea of the mountains location.