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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|1.(7750ft,mile00) START-END NORTH:
2.(8187ft,mile05) Vail village
3.(8649ft,mile10) cross under I70 to north side.
Sevice road eventuall becomes biketrail
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
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 viewpoint.
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 m1:91.08.24).
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 m18.104.22.168).
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
F745 Lime 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
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