Nellie Creek Trailhead


Range: San Juan Mountains
Coordinates: 38.06209, -107.42158
14ers: Uncompahgre Peak, Wetterhorn Peak
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Road Difficulty

Moderate 4WD, long wheel base vehicles not recommended. Good clearance required. 4   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt to 9,300' at the lower TH. 4WD to 11,400' at the upper TH.

Driving Directions

From Lake City, turn west onto Second street. Drive 0.1 mile and turn left onto Bluff Street which turns into the Henson Creek road/Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. Drive 5 miles to the sign for the Nellie Creek trail (#877), on the right. If you don't have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, park on the Henson Creek road and start here. It's 4 miles up the rough Nellie Creek road to reach the trailhead. If your 4WD vehicle makes it through the rough section at the start of this road, you'll probably be able to make it to the trailhead. Cross Nellie Creek at 1.8 miles. At 2.3 miles, stay left at a junction. At 2.7 miles, cross the creek a second time. Grind up the remaining narrow road to reach the trailhead.

Winter Access

Usually closed a short distance up the Henson Creek road - many miles from the TH.
Status Updates 
Posted By: hollamby
Info: Made it to the top. No snow drifts.
Posted By: gdlyons
Info: I made an attempt to go up the road and encountered a 2-3 foot snow bank blocking the road 3 miles up from the turnoff from the Alpine Loop.
Posted By: WillRobnett
Info: Drove up to 10,500 / 7.3 from the milage start. Cleared the road of boulders and slide debris up to 10,500. Above 10,000 feet you will find manageable snow drifts and very muddy sharp turns. Frequent snow drifts hiking above 10,500. Solid pack above 11,000. No visibility to see avy conditions above of 12,500.
Posted By: mojah
Info: Dry to 2WD TH, and melting fast to the 4WD. Was able to skin up the road in the morning on snow from the last storm, but was not able to ski it down in its entirety. North facing snowdrifts are still big, there‘s a big debris pile about 0.5 mile past the 2WD TH, and a decent size boulder maybe a mile below the 4WD
Posted By: Eagle Eye
Info: In an Xterra 4wd I was not able to drive all the way to the TH. The second (big) creek crossing was flowing good and iced up on the banks. After the 2.3 mile junction there was a long section with deep snow on it -which had not been driven through. Several other areas past that were not draining and very muddy. I turned around in a small, open parking area roughly ~ 1 mile from the TH.
Posted By: Guevargas
Info: Outback made it all the way up with no problems. A couple of places had some large puddles but otherwise the road was fairly dry.
Posted By: Krullin_14ers
Info: 2012 stock Outback all the way to the top of the trailhead. Zero damage. - Just make sure to power thru that creek!
Posted By: tylermacguire
Info: Drove a 10 year old Nissan Exterra up to the trail head. No issues, damage and never rubbed anything. As previously stated, the first hundred yards is about as bad as it gets.
Posted By: ezabielski
Info: A tough road but somewhat normal SUVs made it to the top.
Posted By: ZenZin
Info: Road is open all the way to 11,400‘ at the now locked and soon to be destroyed restroom at the trailhead. Clearance is the key on this road. My jacked up Xterra never scraped bottom and the 4wdLO gear was very helpful. One Subaru Outback made it (with some damage). I would not take anything described as a "car" up that road! Or even an AWD vehicle. The stream crossings are easier than they look at first blush, but the water was flowing very swiftly. Decent camping spots are not too plentiful at the trailhead. The road is wider than the Princeton road and there are a number of spots to pull over when meeting a vehicle coming the other way.
Posted By: Dunston540
Info: I drive a Jeep G.C.L. with pretty beefy Tires, clearance is good as it gets for Stock. Made it up just fine, but I would caution any lower clearance vehicles that the 2 river crossings are not for the faint of heart. If you get them at the higher times (5-10 pm.) You‘ll have to negotiate a rock in the middle that is tricky. After that you are good. Please remember the person going Uphill has the right of way. Please pass this knowledge on for other Jeep Trails as the increase in people renting and riding is getting dangerous at times. I was up here on a Tuesday/Wednesday and saw a ton of vehicles. So summer is on, and that‘s fine, just keep safe. Nellie Creek T.H.‘s Bathroom is NOT open though, lot‘s of bugs up there too as it‘s right on the Creek. Take your Bug repellent or you‘ll be sorry. Love Uncompahgre Peak!!
Posted By: samburg
Info: Nellie Creek is clear all the way to the TH. Rough ride, but easy in high-clearance 4WD vehicles. BTW the toilets up there are closed an apparently about to get torn down per the notice on the door. Bring your shovel and TP if you camp!
Posted By: San Juan Ron
Info: Road is rough and not passable beyond 2 miles. Nellie Creek is very, very high. SJ Ron
Posted By: bergsteigen
Info: Winter closure still in effect (minus the first 20‘ of dry road). First 0.5 mile patchy deep snow with many dry spots. Mostly dry for next mile. Then after 1.5 miles continuous snow. Stream crossing are... sporting!
Posted By: Eagle Eye
Info: Snowplows have put a huge snowbank blocking the start of the Nellie Creek Road. There is a plowed & safe pull-off area just feet away (on the Henson Creek Road) where a couple of cars can park.
Posted By: rambis_21
Info: Car camped at the start of the Nellie Creek Road start of Henson Rd out of Lake City. No snow at the start. Headed up Nellie Creek Rd 6:30 am. Road was dry past the first creek crossing then had maybe 1 inch to 2 inches of snow on the north facing switchbacks of the road. The 2nd creek crossing was flowing but had lots of ice/snow on the road and around the edges of the water seeing it was easily mid-teens in temp. this morning. My friend‘s Xterra crossed no problem. The last quarter mile had about 4 inches of snow max under tree coverage. We crept slowly slipping in the snowy areas but luckily the road is not steep at all so it was easy to get to the TH. As of yesterday, the road is still very passable all the way to the TH. Get up there soon if you want to still make the TH! The road is not bad at all but would agree a long wheel base vehicle may bottom out on 2 spots where there are small washout ridges in the road. Snow hiked Uncompahgre with success!
Posted By: barryfagin

Took my friend‘s 2008 Toyota Tundra, V8 Engine, 10" clearance and a 10 1/2 ft wheelbase. As others have reported, big rocks aren‘t the issue, it‘s the perpendicular bumps in the road. So you want to be careful with a large wheelbase vehicle like this one.

First stream crossing at 1.9 miles, second at 2.7. Neither were a problem, estimate 4-6" of water maximum. Ironically, the only problem I had was at the trailhead, the last tenth of a mile, because of the long wheelbase there were a couple of bumps where I scraped the runnerboards. If you have a long wheelbase vehicle, park at the first set of spaces at the trailhead (near the toilet), not the last ones, those last few feet aren‘t worth it.

Toilet is still closed, presumably for the season. See my Uncompaghre trip report of 9-21-13 for more pictures.
Posted By: maxpika
Info: The toilet is permanently closed. Apparently due to "extreme" conditions.
Posted By: zsmith
Info: With the heavy rain, the road is getting very difficult. The creek crossings are shallow, but 30ft wide. Lots of large puddles. Overall, I would not attempt the road without a truck-based, high clearance, short wheelbase vehicle. The road is roughly as bad as the Wetterhorn road (hence the cut-and-paste). Much to our amazement, someone did make it up with a Sante Fe but I strongly discourage it. I carted out a mangled 6ft piece of someone’s bumper when I left.
Posted By: jimmtman
Info: Drove Nellie Creek in my Explorer with no issues. There has been a lot of rain recently and this has caused large humps in the road that I scraped on behind my back wheels. A shorter vehicle wouldn‘t scrape. I didn‘t bottom out on any rocks. The least 4WD worthy vehicle at the TH was a Honda CRV. Trip up was ~30 min or less.
Posted By: Lville
Posted By: joetsou
Info: I drove my stock 1995 Suburban high clearance 4WD to the upper Nellie Creek trailhead on July 9th, 2013. For years I thought the Suburban\‘s long wheelbase will have problems on tight switchbacks. No, folks, you can drive just about anything to the trailhead, provided you have enough clearance. 2WD or 4WD does not make any difference. If you are not afraid to hit bottom you probably can get a Prius up there (if you\‘re tall enough to cross the two streams) On July 9 and 10 the stream crossing is no problem at all. The water was perhaps ankle deep. On July 9, there was a Isuzu Trooper, 2 Jeeps, 1 Ford F150 truck and my Suburban at the trailhead. On 10th there were 4 Suburbans! I am not kidding. I have enclosed a picture to show you. So, drive your big SUVs up there. The hiking was EXCELLENT!
Posted By: trishkaken
Info: The road to Nellie Creek is stable. Here‘s an indication of the types of vehicles that can traverse this road: Honda Pilot, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jeep, Tundra, high clearance pick-up trucks. Do not try this in a passenger vehicle. While earlier pictures show a Subaru Outback, my hiking partner did not want to try it in her 2012 Outback and I agree, it would have probably bottomed out a couple times on the way down. While the streams are running, both crossings are shallow and will not give you any problems. Watch the brake usage on the way down; I don‘t know how to avoid hot brakes. I stayed in first gear but had to ride them all the way and ended up stopping twice to let them cool down.
Posted By: xavier3181
Info: The Rivers are still raging, but any AWD or 4WD will make it. The trail is 98% free of snow, it‘s ready for the summer.
Posted By: gregpeak
Info: Road is clear of snow all the way to the trailhead. The stream crossing are no problem.
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