Holy Cross Wilderness

July 2, 2020

Destination: Porcupine Lake Today's Miles: 11.90

Start Location: Tennessee Pass Trip Miles: 150.50



Today’s hike up Tennessee Pass and into the Holy Cross Wilderness was spectacular. After following the trail alongside the highway for a while we cross over and skirted the edge of a large high mountain meadow.

It was a chilly morning, we could see our breath and there was frost in the meadow. We made good time and enjoyed the large mountains looming ahead. Gradually we worked our way up to an old railroad bed which took us past some interesting, large ovens once used to cook ore for mining. Shortly beyond that we arrived at the Tennessee Pass trail head.

Here we turned, heading towards the Holy Cross Wilderness 6.5 miles ahead the sign said. This part of the trip was awesome! The forest was enchantingly beautiful. Gradual dips and rises were punctuated by big mountain views. We stopped for a minute and enjoyed a wooden swing before continuing on. There are huts (more like houses) for rent in the area and we saw a couple of people - but not many.


One man we ran into was an older gentleman northbound on the CDT who still carried his ice axe and climbing gear. He said he had to turn around and go back 17 miles because he could not get over a pass on the west collegiate route. He said he even caused a small avalanche. Of course we had interest in this news but as he reminded us it was 10 days old so current conditions have surely improved.


Soon we were climbing higher and higher along this stretch until reaching the wilderness boundary. We had been traveling up a side drainage for a while now and we could tell we were gaining on our destination – Porcupine Lake. Yesterday we had a longer than planned day so today we were going to quit a little early and enjoy the high mountain lake.


I knew we would be in for a bit of a climb and sure enough – just after entering the wilderness the real climbing began. It took some time but we were hurried along by the numerous mosquitoes that had joined our ascent. They were insanely bad. Not so much if you kept moving but with such a steep grade stops were in inevitable. Any more than three breaths and you were swarmed.


Soon enough we were at the top gasping at the views before us. Another 1/10 of a mile and we were walking up to Porcupine Lake.

There were a few people picnicking on a large smooth rock. They had arrived from the other direction on horseback. Only one side of the lake had any camping opportunities and that was up in the trees. The other side of the lake was a rocky bench. We set out to find the flattest spot possible.


The flat spot turned out to be at the far end of the lake which was out in the open and had a spectacular view of both the lake and Mt. Galena towering behind. We went to work setting up the tent.

Oh the mosquitoes. They were so bad we put on our rain gear to keep them at bay. Still, they swarmed us so intensely before long I retreated to the hot tent rather than continue the torture.


Through the mesh of the tent I noticed several other hikers drifting in and going through the same process we had gone through earlier looking for a camp spot. Most picked spots on the hill in the trees.

We turned in early and were planning to get an early jump on the day tomorrow.