CO – THE Colorado Trail, Segment 9, Holy Cross Wilderness (07/22)

Holy Cross Wilderness is named after Mount of the Holy Cross, which became famous in 1873 when William Henry Jackson first photographed the cross of snow on the northeast face of the mountain. The area became protected as a national monument in the early 1930’s. The United States Congress designated the Holy Cross Wilderness in 1980 and it now has a total of 123,409 acres. The wilderness is characterized by rugged ridgelines and glacier-carved valleys, spruce-fir forests, cascading streams and dozens of lakes; elevations range from 8,500 feet to 14,005 feet.

Segment 9 is 13.6 miles with 2,627′ elevation gain and 3,004′ loss. I hiked this segment as three out-and-back sections.

Timberline Lake Trailhead

I hiked north from the trailhead to the segment high point. It was a 9.6 mile 2,600′ elevation gain/loss round trip hike.

The view as you leave the parking area.

Oh look, I found Mount Massive. If I hiked the trail in the traditional manner, starting with Segment 1 and continuing sequentially, I would have seen this view prior to hiking Segment 10 where I felt cheated.

During the long climb I had many opportunities to enjoy the view of Mount Massive, plus the point to the left is Mount Elbert.

Soon the corn lilies will be blooming.

Lakes, ponds, bodies of water . . . reflective wonderful.

I found these elephant head orchids blooming along the shorelines.

Where there’s water, there are mosquitoes. After the recent rains, the hatch is evident.

I think these are a clover.

Just after I reached the high point, I found alpine tundra heaven.

Colorful blooms and views of Homestake Peak at 13,209 feet.

As you can imagine I sat up on the ridge for at least an hour admiring the views and wondering what I’m missing off to the left.

I used this snow patch as my turnaround spot.

Of course I had to study the alpine beauties first. I believe this might be lewisia.

The worst part of this hike was the rock jumble terrain. It took so much energy.

By the way, I never did see a sign indicating a trail junction to Timberline Lake. If you want to go there, you’ll need to be watching your map.

Wurtz Ditch Road Crossing

I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the miles and elevation gain from Tennessee Pass so I was glad to find this option. I hiked south. This was a 12.5 mile 2,000′ elevation gain/loss round trip hike.

Finding the trail wasn’t a problem. This area gets used for winter sports, and as such you’ll see lots of blue diamonds on the trees marking their routes.

Soon enough I was back in the wilderness looking forward to meeting Galena Mountain.

I was motivated to beat the thunderstorms and was thrilled to find this front row view of Galena Mountain.

I took a detour to Porcupine Lakes for a WOW view. THIS is why I wanted to hike The Colorado Trail! Many hikers are in such a hurry they don’t take time for such detours. I’m grateful that I can prioritize experiences over miles.

The pond lilies were just starting to blooms. Soon the pond will be covered in yellow.

I found my first Mountain Heather blooms.

Then it was onward back to the alpine tundra traverse. But first some trail porn.

As if on cue, the afternoon clouds warned me not to dilly dally too long.

On the way back I stopped at one of the meadows and found these blooms which I believe might be saxifrage.

Just another beautiful day on The Colorado Trail.

Tennessee Pass Trailhead

The next morning I hiked south from the trailhead back to Wurtz Ditch Road to complete this segment. It was a 5.5 mile 460 feet elevation gain/loss round trip hike.

This section was unremarkable. According to my guidebook this swing offers outstanding views of Mount Elbert. Now you must use your imagination as the trees block all evidence of Colorado’s highest peak.

This was an unusual bridge. I’m not sure if it was built with skiers or cyclists in mind.

Of course I had to enjoy a sit and swing on both my way out and back.

I’ve been emptying my inhalers with all this climbing. Thank goodness for this wonder drug!

Colorado Trail Segments Hiked:

  • 1-5
  • 12-13
  • 11
  • 10

Tips:

  • The Guthook/Far Out App and Colorado Trail Association Guidebook and Databook are helpful in planning section hikes. The guidebooks details parking and trailhead options along with the elevation profile. Far Out was a great way to plan my turnaround based on mileage and elevation gain/loss. I also used Gaia with the Colorado Trail Nat Geo layer.
  • Leadville is nearby and is an excellent town for resupplying, doing laundry, grabbing a shower and using WiFi.

Resources:

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