Holy Cross Wilderness Area

#4 in Best Things To Do in Vail
Holy Cross Wilderness Area picture
clare_and_ben/Flickr

Key Info

Holy Cross City Road

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.4scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Straddling the Arkansas River about 30 miles south of Vail, the Holy Cross Wilderness Area makes for a great daytrip during the warmer months. Encompassing an impressive 122,797 acres of rugged Colorado scenery  including jagged mountains, lush valleys and verdant aspen forests  the park is home to 164 miles of hiking and biking trails. Just make sure to bring your camera: You're sure to come in contact with a few elk. 

Recent visitors recommended the 7-mile Missouri Lakes/Fancy Pass Loop, which offers a scenic route through alpine lakes and towering evergreens. Start your trek at the Missouri Creek Trailhead, just down the road from the Fancy Creek Trailhead. The Vail Recreation District also offers a variety of guided hikes through Eagles Nest and Holy Cross. You can make reservations in advance on the Vail Recreation District website

The Holy Cross Wilderness Area is open to visitors year-round; however, this park is subject to heavy snowfall during the colder months, so wintertime visitors should be extra cautious about not getting lost in the snow. While you don't have to pay to explore Holy Cross, you will have to register for a free permit before beginning your hike. To get to Holy Cross from Vail, start out on Interstate 70 and then take the Minturn exit. The Homestake or Tigiwon Forest Service roads are the most popular access roads. For more information, visit the wilderness area's website.

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Though Vail's ski terrain receives much of the spotlight, the area's many hiking trails are just as impressive. If you've got a car, you may want to consider driving to Eagles Nest or Holy Cross – two wilderness areas with impressive trails well-suited for backpackers. If you're hoping to trek closer to town, you'll find several trails on Vail Mountain, accessible from the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Here, you'll find trails ranging from short 1-mile hikes (Eagle's Loop and Fireweed) to more intermediate treks (Berrypicker and Ridge Route). Though you will have to pay for the gondola ride ($36 for adults; free for children accompanying a paying adult), the hiking trails won't cost you a thing to access.

If you'd rather not pay the gondola fee, you'll find several hikes on National Forest Service land that are accessible via Vail's free bus system, including Bighorn Creek, Booth Creek, Deluge Creek, Gore Creek, and Pitkin Creek, among others. Recent visitors especially liked the Booth Falls Trail, which sits a little more than a mile from Interstate 70 in East Vail. It's a steep trail, but a favorite among travelers for its wildflowers, waterfalls and view of the Gore Range. You can also sign up for a guided hike of the area with an interactive hiking expert. For more details, visit the Vail resort website.

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