Climbing Mount of the Holy Cross about to get trickier |

Climbing Mount of the Holy Cross about to get trickier

Matt Terrell
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jake Wilhelm, left, and John Sanft pack up their campsite off of Tigiwon Road near Minturn on Wednesday morning. The road will likely be closed next summer in order to remove pine beetle-infested trees. (Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily)

MINTURN, Colo. ” Tigiwon Road, the long, rocky path to popular hikes such as Cross Creek and Mount of the Holy Cross, will likely be closed for an entire summer either in 2009 or 2010.

The U.S. Forest Service will close Tigiwon, which is off of Highway 24 just south of Minturn, to cut down the growing number of dead, beetle-infested lodgepole pines that now line the road. When those trees start falling, hikers and campers will be put in danger.

The Forest Service will have to close the road for at least one summer, and possibly have it closed three or four days a week the following year if more work is needed. It hasn’t been decided yet when all the work will start.

The closure, while necessary, will no doubt leave hikers without easy access to some of the most visited and beloved spots in Eagle County, foresters say.

For the ambitious hiker, there are alternative routes to these areas, but they’ll require overnight trips, and in some cases, some pathfinding skills.

At the top of Tigiwon Road is Half Moon campground and the trailhead for Half Moon Pass, which is the most popular route to reach Mount of the Holy Cross, the only 14,000-foot peak in the county.

“It’s the allure of the 14er ” that’s what brings so many people there,” District Ranger Brian Lloyd said.

Brendon Harris, who was hiking on the Grouse Lake Trail Thursday morning, said he and his son have made it up Holy Cross for the past three years together.

“It’s sort of a ritual now,” Harris said. “Maybe we’ll find a way up. I don’t know. We’re adventurous.”

There’s also the trailhead for Fall Creek Pass, which leads to Lake Constantine or Notch Mountain, a 13,000-foot peak known for its in-your-face view of Holy Cross.

Also on Tigiwon road is the trailhead for Cross Creek, a long, fairly-flat trail popular with backpackers, but also has some spots perfect for day hikers.

“It’s a nice hike, not that difficult. You can take friends from out of town there and you can get to that wonderful waterfall,” said Minturn resident Carol Thayer.

For those who have their heart set on making it up to Holy Cross when Tigiwon is closed, there are other ways. They’re just longer, a little trickier and meant for experienced hikers.

Hikers who head to the Homestake area, which is several miles down Highway 24 past Red Cliff, and start on the trailhead for Holy Cross City will be on their way to Mount of the Holy Cross.

From Holy Cross City, head to Fall Creek Pass, through Seven Sisters Lakes. That’s where things get tricky. It’s possible to find the ridge leading to Holy Cross from there, but hikers will be doing it without a trail, Lloyd said.

“It’s not a marked trail, and it’s for people who have route finding skills and can use maps and compasses,” Lloyd said. “A GPS (global positioning system) would be great, too.”

Those who stay on Fall Creek Pass will also go past Lake Constantine and be able to connect with the trail for Notch Mountain.

Because Tigiwon Road will only be closed to motorized vehicles, one could still actually hike up to the Cross Creek trailhead, which isn’t that far up Tigiwon.

Those who follow Cross Creek all the way to East Cross Creek will find another way to climb to Holy Cross, but going that way will also require some navigation skills.

So, hikers will have some options, but they’ll likely require camping. Hikers shouldn’t expect to climb Holy Cross in a day.

“These would be long trips. There probably won’t be any day hikers to Holy Cross, like there are now,” Lloyd said.

These changes though are at least a year away, maybe more. When the time does come, the Forest Service says it will be happy to help hikers and campers find these new routes, or make suggestions to some of the other hikes in the area that perhaps aren’t seen as much.

For those who can’t escape the allure of the 14er, there are other choices, including Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive in Lake County, a 30-minute drive away.

“It would be a great time to find out what else the wilderness here has to offer. There are so many great hikes here,” Lloyd said.