Nellie Creek Trailhead


Range: San Juan Mountains
Coordinates: 38.06209, -107.42158
14ers: Uncompahgre Peak, Wetterhorn Peak
Elevation: 11,400'
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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 the lower TH at 9,300'. 4WD to 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.
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: mvandergrift
Info: No problem in Jeep Wrangler stock 2 door. Road is rough with tight switchbacks with moderate obstacles. Mostly dry except for the two river crossings.

When we left around 1030, the trailhead parking lot was exclusively Jeeps and ATVs.
Posted By: rebeccasimeone
Info: We tried the creek crossing with a Subaru Forester and did not succeed. We got through the creek just fine, but the part after is the tricky spot. Like others have stated, the small section after the creek crossing is now rutted out. Posting a pic for reference.
Posted By: ochres
Info: Made it up to the 4WD trailhead in a stock 4Runner with all-terrain tires. Nothing terribly gnarly if you’re a confident driver--just go slow and pick your lines. All Jeep Wranglers and 4Runners at the top.
Posted By: haowawa
Info: Due to heavy rains in the past few days, the creek is deeper and wider. The path to Upper TH requires a ATV or jeep. I saw regular cars/SUVs parking at the lower TH or stopped in the mid-way.
Posted By: Kekman
Info: Drove to Nellie Creek TH on Sunday to hike Uncompahgre. Dry, no trees blocking but heavily rutted requiring high clearance in places. Both creek crossing are running relatively light and easily passable even on low clearance. The exit on the inbound from the first creek crossing is the roughest spot (see pic) given the pitch/incline and rocks, deep rut on sharp turn. The switchbacks thereafter require 3 point turns if not in a jeep or short wheel base. I was in a stock Jeep and had no issues. Saw several stock, long wheel base pickups camping (above creeks) and at TH. Doable, w clearance, just takes patience - 40 min by jeep.
Posted By: JamesK
Info: road to 4x4 TH is completely open. Drove up from dirt road in about 35 minutes in a stock 4runner TRD.
Posted By: sierramtngoat
Info: Miller Creek Road is high clearance 4-wheel drive minimum however, the description is inaccurate in that there is no difficult section at the beginning. It looks like the forest service must have regraded the bottom the because it’s relatively Smooth compared to the rest. Passenger vehicles are probably good to the first stream crossing where there is some serious articulation, so if you’re low clearance in the front you’re probably going to scrape coming out of the water. The most difficult part is probably the second switchback, especially on decent. There is a fallen aspen tree that’s blocking the road partially; this might be a problem if your car is super wide; my Jeep was able to get around it without scraping.
Posted By: climbingcue
Info: If you have the skill level any 4wd suv can make it to the end of the road. My climbing partner made to the top with a stock 4wd Ford Expedition, she is a badass driver. So just know the road is clear to the end. Good luck.
Posted By: coopereitel
Info: Drivable to ~10,700’ then there is a 200 yard not passable snow bank. Main stream crossing down low aint no thang but a chicken wang.
Posted By: COnaive
Info: We were able to drive to the first creek crossing, probably could have pushed through some more snow drifts a bit higher to where the road splits, but past that had a couple north aspects with 4+ feet of snow. Continuous snow was only maybe the last mile to the trailhead, the wife made it there without flotation, just a bit of post holing on the way down. Also, we found an Oboz boot higher on the road that looked like it fell of a pack recently, brought it down to the 2wd parking and hung it on a post.
Posted By: Squirrellysquirrel
Info: From the lower Henson Creek TH, packed in a snowshoe trail to just over 3.5miles. Ice flows present over road and three minor stream crossings with unstable snow bridges. Knee to thigh deep powder started to be more consistent at the turn-back point for my hike as the snow became unmanageable with and without snowshoes; snowpack on adjacent slopes to the road varied from safe (first 2 miles) to questionable. Rollerballs (2-8 diameter) present over my tracks for east-northeast slopes on the return hike after the 30-40 mph winds kicked up. Test holes reveal weak underlying snowpack 6-48 with soft slab atop as the weather heated up.
Posted By: Squirrellysquirrel
Info: 4WD recommended to get to lower TH at Henson Rd junction. After that its probably best for a snowmobile type: Jeep Rd to upper TH is not maintained and presently has about a foot or more of mostly unconsolidated snow pack. Yesterday boot-hiked up about a mile, but didnt attempt anything big just wanted to get a sense of trail; concern over avy potential *leading up to* upper TH, CAICs special bulletin and call for a Considerable 3, did another route to get a sense of snow potentially in this area. Included a picture of untapped grandeur here, taken today, from aforementioned alternative route. Got snow stats if anyone wants to geek out on that, too.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: Some large, long snow and ice patches on the road. The first creek crossing looks gnarly, but we hiked the entire road instead of driving. There are a couple of less-than-stellar walkable creek crossings on icy rocks and logs - be careful. Someone did drive all the way up to the upper trailhead so if you’re super brave driving on snow and ice you can still make it.
Posted By: sagepf
Info: Rough road but made it all the way to the trailhead with stock F-150 w/ A/T tires (crew cab long bed), took about an hour each direction. No scrapes but just slow going.
Posted By: Hiker Mike
Info: Certainly the worst road I have been on. Longest four miles I have ever driven. It took about 45-50 minutes each way? My stock 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk made it up and down okay. I scrapped a couple of times. 4WD with good clearance is must.
Posted By: tipiman
Info: Road is hacked...still VERY SUPRIZED that an Outback can do it... here is my vid:
Posted By: Jnaffy
Info: I drive a stock Jeep Wrangler unlimited. This road is easy outside the two water crossings. Those require higher clearance, knowing your lines and 4wd. Other than that i never was in 4wd.
Posted By: gretchhhh
Info: As mentioned in previous reports, the first stream crossing is definitely the crux of the road--very steep lefthand turn with large, protruding boulders. Pick your line carefully and you should be fine. With that said, I would not recommend this road for cars with less than 9.0" of clearance. Trucks with long wheelbases should be able to make it with an experienced 4x4 driver but may have more difficultly on the narrow, sharp turns. At the upper TH, there were 4Runners, Jeeps, Tacomas and Tundras (Subarus or similiar sized vehicles parked before the first stream crossing) and I made it easily in a TRD Pro 4Runner.

Link to my video of the road:
Posted By: sky_high
Info: I agonized over this for a couple of days based on the trips reports. Let me be clear, if you are not in a short wheelbase lifted 4wd this will beat up your undercarriage. Took a stock F-150 and must have hit a dozen times (thank god for skid plates!). It is rough and narrow and opportunities to turn around are few. The entire road is rubbly and tough on the tires, but my highway tires and 4wd had plenty of grip. The first crossing requires a tight steep narrow left turn and much of the filler is completely washed out. If you make that crux you’ll be able to do the remainder of the road, but you will still face at least two more steep uneven patches not to mention the unending rubble, ruts, and tight hairpins. I saw a half-dozen stock trucks besides mine at the top; I can only say I’m shocked the route is not coated from leaking oil pans and busted diffs. Took a good hour in the dark, looked worse in the daylight but got down in 40 minutes.
Posted By: Buckie06
Info: Fairly easy for an xterra/4runner/jeep/etc. The only hard spot is the creek crossing. I would not advise attempting with a sedan or low clearance suv. There are plenty of camping spots along the first few miles, but not a bunch of options at and near the trailhead. I had to just camp in the trailhead as the few other spots were taken.
Posted By: rchacon
Info: Road all the way to the 4WD trailhead was manageable in a stock 4Runner SR5 (no rear locker) with AT tires. The crux of the drive was the exit from the first stream crossing - if you have the clearance to make the exit, you will probably be okay to make it to the trailhead. After the second stream crossing, there were a series of muddy switchbacks that could be a problem without adequate tires, but even light ATs will probably be fine. 4Runners, Tacomas, full size trucks, Jeeps, and Razors can easily make it with just a bit of skill. With the recent storm and resultant mud, this was a true 4WD road and only fools would attempt in a Subaru or similar crossover. Once it dries out, crossovers are probably okay with 8+ inches of ground clearance with a skilled driver.
Posted By: ronxhill
Info: I made it up with my Ram1500 with a 4" lift and 35" tires. The first creek crossing seemed to be the critical point and I made it with 3" or 4" to spare. I wanted to try to give people an idea if they’re particular vehicle could make it based on the measurements of my vehicle. Unless you have the same exact vehicle though, the description of my truck may not help much. So here goes: I believe your entrance and exit angles/dimensions on your front/rear bumper will be the most important parts.
My Front Bumper highest part is 20"
Front Bumper lowest part is 17.5" (see photo)
Lowest point on front suspension is 12.5 (see photo)
Rear Bumper highest point is 25"
Distance to tailpipe (coming out the side) is 20" (see photo)

With a long wheel base vehicle like this, be prepared to do a multi-point turn after crossing the creek to make a hard left turn and repeat on the way back out.
Posted By: Been_Jammin
Info: 2003 Chevy Tahoe Z71 made it to the top easily.
Posted By: bmcconahey
Info: Climbed Uncompahgre yesterday and expected to be able to get to the upper trailhead in my Outback. I have made it to some upper trailheads in my car but NO WAY would I attempt this one in an Outback. We came to the first creek crossing and the exit is steep, gnarly with large rocks, with a sharp turn to the left as well. It appears (in a 2008 photo on this site) that there used to be some filler rock that made the exit much easier. Those have clearly washed away. From the first stream crossing to just after the second stream crossing, there are several areas that I would imagine would struggle without high clearance. There were multiple trucks, 4-Runners, Jeeps, and a FJ that made it up to or near the upper trailhead, but I am impressed that a long wheelbase truck didn’t have some issues. I did hear a truck scrape on a section on our trek back down to the first creek crossing. Attached is a photo of the first crossing.
Posted By: JColk
Info: Did this in my stock Jeep Renegade Trailhawk. First creek crossing is definitely the hardest part, there’s a slight "step" that you just sort of have to power through heading up. Round rock right at the foot of the otherside of the creek crossing, not sure if it hurt or helped. I used ’Hill Decent Mode’ on the way down and bumped by cars backend on the round rock, but nothing problematic. Once past that section, you’re set.
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