Shrine Pass is the most often
visited road in order to see distant views of
Mount Holy Cross. With a name like Shrine, how can
it be otherwise ? Many of the surrounding summits,
accessible by bicycle or foot, or even motor
vehicle, have more expansive views. The ridge to
the north over Commando Run is one of these
vantage points onto the northern Sawatch Range. A
little distance to the south of Shrine Pass, Ptarmigan Pass
also offers more extensive views. Instead the
vantage point from Shrine Pass has the attraction
of being historically more interesting.
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NORTH: Dowds Junction
2.(8187ft,mile05) Vail village
3.(8649ft,mile10) cross under I70 to north
side. Sevice road eventuall becomes
4.(10604ft,mile19) Vail Pass, turn left
onto Shrine Pass dirt road
5.(11050ft,mile21) TOP: high point
6.(11089ft,mile22) Shrine Pass
7.(10354ft,mile24) turn right to continue
on Shrine Pass road
9.(8592ft,mile32) START-END SOUTH:
junction with Tennessee Pass and Battle
Hill Summit profiles.
From North West. In one way of thinking
Shrine Pass is little more than a 300 foot rise on
a dirt road from the top of Vail Pass. But that
also means that this approach to Shrine Pass
contains all of Vail Pass and even more.
After climbing above all the hubbub of the Vail
summit parking lot, the pass quickly reaches high
meadows near treeline. Turning back the Tenmile
Range and Jacques Peak make the most impressive
panorama that can be seen from the immediate road.
A parking area near the highest point of Shrine
Pass is as busy as a pass summit in the alps in
August (only the tour buses are missing). This
point serves as popular trailhead for the Shrine
Ridge hiking Trail. Bicycles are prohibited on the
trail. The top of the pass is fairly flat and
there are no pass signs or any other designations.
From South West. (also described upwards)
From Redcliff a good all weather dirt road follows
a deep, heavily forested canyon. It rarely
ventures far from the valley floor to afford views
of further surroundings until it approaches the
meadows near the summit.
A short distance below the summit a official
national forest sign announces the Mount Holy
Cross viewpoint trail. This is by far the most
interesting spot along the route. A short, smooth,
well constructed trail that can also be used by
the infirm, leads to a wooden deck in the forest.
The view presents Mount Holly Cross, sublimely
framed by pines. Early light is best for this
view. The construction of the deck is also very
interesting. It resembles a church like setting.
On one end a small bench sits under a wing like
wooden tent structure, resembling the position of
an altar. Facing it at some distance are more
benches, resembling in look and function the
benches in a church.
Past this point, there is not much climbing
involved to get to the summit, just a bit of sand
maybe. But there is no need to rush away from the
Dayrides with this point as highest summit:
PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED:
Shrine Pass , Battle
Hill Summit: Vail > Vail Pass(shp)
> Shrine Pass > Redcliff > Battle Hill
Summit > Minturn > Vail: 56miles (mech odo
Shrine Pass , Vail Pass
, Battle Hill
Summit : Frisco > Copper Mountain
> Vail Pass > Minturn > Battle Hill
Summit > Redcliff > Shrine Pass > Vail
Pass(shp) > Copper Mountain > Frisco:
73miles (mech odo m126.96.36.199).
Notes: this route touches Vail Pass twice, once
as a summit point, once as a shoulder point.
This is basically the same loop as above, with
the out and back from Frisco added.
Dayrides with this point as intermediate
summit are on page:
Creek Rd s(u)
Highways: Historically Shrine Pass was an
easy way to view Mount Holy Cross. While other
pilgrims by the 100s climbed nearby Notch Mountain
for the image that made Mount Holy Cross famous,
here you could let your motor car do the work for
you. Wide spread public Interest in visiting Mount
Holy Cross declined after WW2. At that time the
national monument, which had been established in
1929, was decommissioned.
Prior to the construction of the Vail Pass road in the
1930s, Shrine Pass was the fastest way to get from
Denver to point west, like Glenwood Springs.
Cycling: An early mountain biking guide
book that described part of this route as an out
and back ride was William M Stoehr's "Bicycling
the Backcountry", published in 1987. He lists the
route as "Vail Pass to Redcliff".