Minturn, Colorado

Scramble the Halo Ridge on Mt. Holy Cross

15 Miles Total - 5210 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Brian Lewis

The Halo Ridge on Holy Cross is a long, dramatic ridgeline that provides a good introduction into class II scrambling without much dangerous exposure. Along the way you'll find the absolute best view of the famous Cross Couloir, the historic Notch Mountain Shelter at over 13,000 feet and dizzying views into the Bowl of Tears.

The Halo Ridge is by no means the easiest route to the summit of Mt. Holy Cross, but it is definitely the most interesting and scenic. You'll begin at the Half Moon (Tigiwon) trailhead, but instead of the popular Halfmoon Trail, you will start on the Fall Creek Trail as it leaves the campground.

The Approach

Follow the gentle Fall Creek Trail for about two miles until you reach the intersection of the Notch Mountain Trail, where you'll turn right and the real climbing begins. At a meadow at 11,600 ft you'll find excellent camping if you want to break up this very long day. A stream through the meadow is the last water source you'll see from this point on, so be sure to filter here if needed.

From the meadow you'll switchback steeply up a talus slope to treeline where you'll reach the Notch Mountain Shelter at 13,077'. The stone shelter was built in 1924 to accommodate large numbers of religious pilgrims that were traveling to the mountain to view the famous Cross Couloir. The shelter is now managed by the Forest Service (unfortunately camping is currently prohibited).

The climb to the shelter and the amazing views of Holy Cross and Notch Mountain would make for an excellent day hike, but if you plan to continue, your day is really just getting started. The summit is still over two miles of cumbersome talus scrambling away and - once committed - there is absolutely no retreat in case of bad weather. Evaluate the conditions here and decide wisely.

The Halo Ridge

If you decide to continue, you'll need to climb and descend three distinct landmarks on the ridge - starting with PT 13248, then PT 13373 and finally PT 13831. Each summit involves a steep scramble up to a high point then a decent to a saddle before starting up to the next.

Your final reward after PT 13831 is one final push to the summit of Holy Cross itself at 14,005'. Once on top you'll have amazing views of the semi-circular ridgeline you've just crossed, over to Notch Mountain and the surrounding peaks of the Sawatch, Elks and Gores.

You can return the way you came for a grueling 15 mile day (know you'll have to RE-climb all of those smaller peaks along the ridge on your way back!). To shorten it by two miles, you can continue down the more popular Halfmoon Trail back to the trailhead.

Online Resources

14ers.com Route DescriptionUS Forest Service Description of Notch Mountain Trail

Read More

Tags

Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Forest
Scenic

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Great Report for a real adventure

My wife and I crushed Halo Ridge this past July. End of June to Mid September are the best times to avoid snow on the peaks. Brian, great pointers on water and when to make weather decisions. This was one of the harder day hikes I've ever done. The unreal views, mini-wildflowers above 13k and sense of accomplishment is all worth the screaming knees.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

Stay Nearby

Leadville, Colorado

Camp Hale Memorial

Overview Camp Hale Memorial Campground sits at an elevation of 9,200 feet, offering guests a wonderful setting for recreation and relaxation. Camp Hale is historic because the 10th Mountain Divisio...

Leadville, Colorado

Camp Hale East Fork Group

Overview Located in the wide-open spaces of a lush green valley near the headwaters of the Eagle River and East Fork Eagle River, Camp Hale East Fork is the ideal spot for large group camping. The ...

Meredith, Colorado

Chapman Campground And Group

Overview Situated above the Ruedi Reservoir, Chapman Campground sits at the base of a wide valley adjacent to the Fryingpan River in White River National Forest.Sites are surrounded by lodgepole pi...

Turquoise Lake Road

Printer Boy

Overview Printer Boy Group Campground is located near Turquoise Lake, in an area with plenty of recreational opportunities, including boating, fishing and hiking.Recreation Hikers enjoy the 1.2-mil...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to Tuhare Lakes

    Overview: About a 12 mile hike, with 3 alpine lakes, a significant climb and views worthwhile Photos: See all photos here. Getting There: The hike is accessed from the Half Moon pass parking lot - from the Fall Creek trailhead. The parking lot and...

    12 miles 3000 ft gain

  • Climb Mount of the Holy Cross, North Ridge

    Just a few miles South Minturn, Colorado, turn onto Tigiwon Road (dirt) and take it about 5 miles to the Half Moon trailhead at . Tigiwon Road is easily accessed by 2WD vehicles and the trailhead should be reachable in the Summer months after the ...

  • Ski Notch Mountain

    What's not to love - you'll be skiing in the off season! We did this hike/ski in late June, our skis, boots, and avi gear packed with our hiking shoes on our feet. May could potentially be the most opportune time for this adventure. The hike you w...

    10 miles 3000 ft gain

  • Backpack the High Alpine Seven Sisters Lake Chain

    This lake chain is in a spectacular, undeveloped bowl of jagged and rugged mountain goodness located in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. This hidden gem is easily accessible and, to my amazement, it is relatively unheard of even among many locals. ...

    12 miles 1000 ft gain

  • Summer, a season not to be missed in Aspen!

    "I came for the winter, and stayed for the summer," is a phrase you'll often hear around town. The weather is one of the highlights. During the day the temperature hovers in the 70's and 80's, and by evening the mercury will drop into the 60's. Aspen is a place to explore and a place to recharge. Breathe in the crisp mountain air while you discover our wide-open spaces by footbike, or horse. Restore your mind, body and spirit as you reconnect with nature and loved ones in Aspen’s great outdoors. Join us for a summer adventure that’s anything but ordinary.

    Learn More