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Holy Cross Wilderness

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Area Management

The Holy Cross Wilderness is part of the 109 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Holy Cross Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

General Wilderness Prohibitions

Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited on all federal lands designated as wilderness. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters, unless provided for in specific legislation.

In a few areas some exceptions allowing the use of motorized equipment or mechanical transport are described in the special regulations in effect for a specific area. Contact the Forest Service office for more specific information.

These general prohibitions have been implemented for all national forest wildernesses in order to implement the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is "unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness." Use of the equipment listed as prohibited in wilderness is inconsistent with the provision in the Wilderness Act which mandates opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation and that wilderness is a place that is in contrast with areas where people and their works are dominant.

Wilderness-Specific Regulations

Wilderness managers often need to take action to limit the impacts caused by visitor activities in order to protect the natural conditions of wilderness as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Managers typically implement 'indirect' types of actions such as information and education measures before selecting more restrictive measures. When regulations are necessary, they are implemented with the specific intent of balancing the need to preserve the character of the wilderness while providing for the use and enjoyment of wilderness.

The following wilderness regulations are in effect for this area. Not all regulations are in effect for every wilderness. Contact the Forest Service office for more specific information about the regulations listed.


The following regulations apply to all visitors in the Holy Cross Wilderness:

1. Maximum group size is 15 people or a combined total of 25 people and pack or saddle animals.

2. Camping is prohibited in the following locations:

a. within one hundred (100) feet of any lake, stream, National Forest System Trail, or any "No Camping" or "Wilderness Restoration Site" sign, or;

b. along the Halfmoon Trail (FDT 2009) within the East Cross Creek valley, except in designated sites;

c. inside the Notch Mountain Shelter.

3. Campfires are prohibited in the following locations:

a. within one hundred (100) feet of any lake, stream, or National Forest System Trail;

b. within 1/4 mile of, or above treeline;

c. within the Missouri Lakes, Fancy Creek, and East Cross Creek watersheds.

4. Storing equipment, personal property, or supplies for longer than 72 hours is prohibited.

5. Dogs or other animals must be under physical or voice control and may not harass wildlife, people, or damage property.

6. Possessing or using a wagon, cart, bicycle or other motorized or mechanized vehicle including a wheelbarrow or game cart is prohibited.

7. Shortcutting a switchback in a trail is prohibited.

8. Overnight visitors must possess a valid wilderness use permit for each group or individual overnight camping.


The following regulations apply to all stock users in the Holy Cross Wilderness:

1. Hay and straw is prohibited. Livestock feed that has been processed through chemical or mechanical means in a manner that will destroy viable seeds including pelletized feed and rolled grains is allowed.

2. Hitching, tethering or hobbling any pack or saddle animal within one hundred (100) feet of any lake, stream, or National Forest System Trail is prohibited.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.

Wilderness Permit System

A wilderness permit system has been implemented for this wilderness. This involves a mandatory permit, which does not limit use. Wilderness permit systems are implemented to collect information on use levels and patterns and as an education and information tool. People interested in visiting the Holy Cross Wilderness should contact the Forest Service office for more information about this permit system, which may vary by location or time of the year.

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