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: BillMiddlebrook
Info: Henson creek road is open to the Nellie Creek 2WD trailhead. Nellie Creek 4WD road is still snow-covered and vehicles must park at the bottom. There were some long, rough sections along the 4WD road, so snowmobiles will also have a tough time right now. We were able to carefully ride the sleds 2.5 miles up the road.
Posted By: Kiefer
Info: Hansen Creek Road is plowed down to bare dirt a short ways past the outhouse (which is stocked BTW). A 2x4 vehicle can make it to the lower trailhead. If you have truck or Jeep, DO NOT try and take it up the 4x4 road. It‘s packed down fairly well but there is a healthy amt of ice buildup underneath. The road is packed all the way to the 1st creek crossing and after that, a decent trench goes all the way to the upper 4x4 trailhead and beyond.
There‘s a few places to turn around and park as well along the road.
Posted By: oldschool
Info: Made it all the way to the Uncompahgre Peak parking lot on 10/23/09. Minimal snow/mud. Not a bad ride at all. Of course needed high clearance 4wd. New snow of late may have changed all of this.
Posted By: theredmex
Info: Drove up 2 Jul with no problems in a 4runner. Some muddy spots due to recent rain & streams were easy to get through. Camped up close to trailhead in a great spot. If you‘re in Lake City for dinner, check out Restaurant & Cafe Sol. Delicious! I had the Virado a Paulista and my fiance had the Salmon Tapas. Both were great!! Mocha Moose Coffer around the corner has great Espresso and Coffee Milkshakes.
Posted By: Ericjlindy
Info: Free of snow. Streams are fast but no problems crossing. Watch for fallin rock.
Posted By: Dorje1018
Info: Clear and dry, no scrapes in stock XTerra.
Posted By: IWannaGoHigh
Info: Went up 5/28. Wet and muddy in a few spots, creeks are running high. Made it to 1st creek crossing in a stock Honda Pilot (scraped a few spots, but not bad). Higher clearance could probably make it to upper TH. Logs have been placed over creek to cross on foot.
Posted By: pete
Info: On 9/8/08 the road was a bit challenging but not bad with a high clearance 4WD. Nothing compared to S. Colony IMHO. Not sure how a Subaru would do but I‘d be comfortable with any 4WD truck or SUV on this road. The first 200 yards were representative of the rest of the road (though runoff could change that), so check this section out and decide if your vehicle is up to it.

Note that the restroom at the upper trailhead is closed. The forest service sign says it‘s due to freezing temp‘s. But someone I spoke with in town said it was closed in July also. There is a public restroom facility on Henson Creek Rd. about 100 yards past the Nellie Creek turn off.

Good camp sites at the upper trail head with even better sites a half mile below, where the road opens into a large meadow for the first time on the drive. Several other sites along the road as you drive up.
Posted By: ronbco
Info: 8/23/08: My view is that this road should not be attempted by a vehicle without considerably high clearance. It is steeper and rougher than I expected and the "speedbumps on steroids" are very large. I consider it almost as demanding on a vehicle as S. Colony Lakes. A vehicle with a long wheel base such as the Suburban I drove will hit bottom several times. But the reward of Uncompahgre is worth it!
Posted By: 3-Bean
Info: 8/15/2008

A little rougher than Matterhorn trail (the last 3 miles of Matterhorn anyway). The trail is steep and needs 4 wheel low to climb. 2 river crossings were negligable. Got a 2000 Dodge Durango up it with minor scraping.
Posted By: ChloeBlue
Info: I drove up the road on July 15th - - it took 45 minutes to drive from Lake City to the upper trailhead, in a stock 4Runner. The first river crossing (closest to Lake City) is currently the highest/the rest of the road is passable with some skillful driving. Watch out for the abundance of 4-wheelers.
Posted By: Carl
Info: Slides were cleared and road was repaired this week. Passable now all the way to the TH in high clearance 4wd.
Posted By: robby40
Info: Saturday June 21. Road open to road split at 2.3 miles (see route description). Beyond the split is a mud hole a short ways up which is pretty dry now and may or may not be passable and there will probably be more road work there. Quite a bit farther up there is a land slide that includes whole trees with roots and five feet of earth below the roots, making the road width about an axle width wide, with a drop to the stream to the left - this may take a while to get cleared. It took me about 45-50 minutes to walk from the road split to the regular trailhead. The crossing of Nellie Creek is not too bad but it is running pretty hard. Definitely 4WD vehicles with decent ground clearance only .
Posted By: PKR
Info: Road still impassable by car.
Posted By: KirkT
Info: The road up to the 2WD section is bone dry. The actual 4WD drive road up to the 4WD trailhead is inpassable by any forms of transportation. The snow starts almost immediately and is consistent the complete 4 miles to the Trailhead. Snow ranges from 1-6 ft in places on the road. There are also 3 avalanches that are covering the road. One of them is at least 100ft long along the road. These will require Forest Service clearing. Expect at least Mid June before the snow completely melts.
Posted By: Chicago Transplant
Info: Nellie Creek is in good shape for the first 2.3 miles, basically right to the road split mentioned in the trailhead directions. Above this the road is VERY icy in the morning. There is one spot in particular that was impassable and I had to back down the road to a small pullout and go back to the junction. Above that there were several other short sections of icy snow. The road MAY be drivable in the afternoon when softer, but my recommendation is to stop at the road split and hike the extra 1 3/4 miles. Hey look at the bright side, you can get 3000’ on your ascent that way!
Posted By: TravelingMatt
Info: Dry. On the way up I met a party on horseback coming down... don’t drive in a manner that might spook horses. Strangely, the toilet at the trailhead was locked.
Posted By: Matt
Info: The tree is gone, but a boulder has fallen in a narrow, semi-exposed spot somewhere the big creek crossing. Two strong people could move the rock if it’s still there.
Posted By: otr13
Info: I easily drove around the tree on 6/14 and it was removed by the time I drove out on 6/15.
Posted By: CRAIGO
Info: Road is clear all the way to the trailhead. Near the top of the road was a large fallen tree that required negotiation around.
Posted By: cjw
Info: Made it 2.6 miles in, just shy of 2nd creek crossing.
Posted By: lordhelmut
Info: Drove to the 2.2 mile mark (1.8 from TH) last weekend in a Landcruiser. First stream crossing is easily forded, didn’t make it to the second one. No more trees in the road, tore 2 of them out. Stopped at a switchback a ways past the stream crossing, got the Toyota stuck and had to tow out w/ Xterra and then camped there. Probably won’t be accessible till later in May or early June. If you have time and interest, you can work on the snowbanks, but with the incline and the road passed, its probably safest to just stop, camp and hike an extra 1.8 miles.
Posted By: contour900
Info: As of 8/18/2006 there are sections of the 4WD road to the Nellie Creek TH (between the 2 stream crossings) that have humongously huge and deep mud wallows because of the almost daily rain. Pick your line carefully to avoid bottoming out in these sections.
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: Road is open to the upper trailhead. It has some rough, narrow sections and some tight switchbacks. Short, 4WD vehicle recommended.
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