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: dvivs11
Info: Road was fine in a Tacoma with Duratracs. Did scrape the hitch coming out of the first river crossing and perhaps one other time right near the top, but nothing a 4x4 can’t manage (Tacoma, 4Runner, Jeep, etc). Saw some other SUVs and a Subaru or two at the top, but not sure I’d do that if you care about the underside of your vehicle...
Posted By: Squirrellysquirrel
Info: Used Nellie Creek TH for a non-14er hike, the water crossings and road proved too soggy and wet, parked 4WD truck prior to river crossings, could be due to the excessive rain day before; got pictures of the backside of Uncompahgre.
Posted By: pjcolorado
Info: While the road is rough, it is clear - summer conditions. I made it in a 2019 Honda Passport. There was a Jeep Cherokee (?) there when I got there. The next day a Toyota Highlander made it up. Both of the major water crossings were not bad, just ease into them. And I see why some long vehicles have a problem making it around those switchbacks. THEY can be tight.
Posted By: jmfb3
Info: Road was clear. Made it all the way to trailhead in a Subaru Crosstrek, but it required putting into "manual" (1st gear w/ paddle shifters) for some of the steeper parts, particularly after crossing the streams. No snow below treeline.
Posted By: CaptCO
Info: Made it up somehow in a stock RWD F150 (18s). Scraped 3 times, wouldnt recommend driving up with that setup, but for a mechanic it beats walking. Will update the trail tomorrow
Posted By: mtnmaneric
Info: Road to the TH is free and clear of snow. Nellie Creek crossings were navigable with a Tacoma.
Posted By: Eagle Eye
Info: A big front end loader is parked on Henson Creek Road, at the bottom of Nellie Creek road. From the tracks and the sides of the road the county has recently been working there, clearing Nellie Creek Road. At 2.2 miles the loader put up a wall of snow that completely blocks the road. There is an almost level turn-around (and/or parking place) near this dead end. The closure is about 1.8 miles from the summer TH. Otherwise, its just a very steep and muddy road that street tires might not get through.
Posted By: Peak200
Info: Clear 98 percent to 2.3 miles where you hit north
Facing slopes and ice flows
Posted By: markf
Info: I parked at the lower trailhead and walked to the upper trailhead. Henson Creek Road to the lower trailhead was open, clear, well travelled and appeared to be getting plowed. Not sure how long this will last, so keep an eye on weather reports and call the Hinsdale County road department or the county sheriff before you go. From 9200 ft to 11,200 ft a snowmobile would quite likely be the best motorized option, although the lower part of the road was melting out pretty fast when I walked down today (10/31). The stream crossings between 9200 ft and 11200 ft were all exposed and running. Walking with microspikes from 9200 ft to the summit was straightforward.
Posted By: wolfgangstiller
Info: Creek crossings are not a problem but the road is rougher than I have seen it on previous trips. Definitely needs high clearance w4d.
Posted By: JacerJack
Info: Overall, about as expected from the description. However, the described "rough section at the start of the road" seemed to be non-existent, so use the first creek crossing at 1.7 miles as a gauge as to whether or not you can make it the rest of the way. Both creek crossings were running low.

There were a few switchbacks that I had to make some tight 2 or 3 point turns in an F-150, and scraped my running boards twice, but it was pretty easy other than that. A couple other folks in our party mentioned that the road was a lot worse than they remember from 3 or 4 years ago, leading me to believe the road’s condition is deteriorating. Our party had a stock Chevy Colorado, and two leveled F-150s, and everyone made it to the upper TH without a problem. A good driver can make it all the way in a stock SUV with good clearance. Friendly reminder to park head-in as the lot fills up quickly, and there’s not much room.
Posted By: DixieFlyer
Info: I went to the Uncompahgre TH today in a Jeep Wranger. We took our time and did not have any issues. There were 2 other vehicles at the TH: a Rubicon and a stock 4Runner Trail.
Posted By: hike-n-climb
Info: Parked at the 4WD trailhead with a stock Jeep Liberty with AT tires. Went slow (took us about 45 minutes to go the 4 miles of 4WD road), chose our line carefully and incurred no damage. The first river crossing is only about 6-10 inches right now. The second crossing is about 3-6 inches. The tight, rocky, rutted steep switchbacks after the second river crossing made us happy we had a short wheelbase. We didn’t encounter any mud. The whole 4 miles is very rocky with a few short reprieves of easier sections. The road is narrow with an occasional pull out for passing - we met 2 vehicles coming up when we were going down and a bunch of UTVs.
Posted By: Flyingfish
Info: The first river crossing is still pretty high so be aware of where your air intake is if you plan on crossing. Road is also pretty muddy the last mile before the parking lot.
Posted By: reymannadam
Info: Drove this road weds/thurs in a newer Ram 1500 w/ 3" lift and off-road tires providing 17.5" clearance to the rocker panels. There were two crux maneuvers and one other notable obstacle. The first crux is at the lower creek crossing. The crossing itself is fine, with water at least up to the rocker panel, but the ramp to get out of the creek is a steep wet trough with largish rocks into an immediate steep sharp left turn that is muddy and rutted. This was the roughest part of the road. The next obstacle comes in between the creek crossings where there is a short but deep, steep, muddy washout across the road. Longer wheel-base vehicles and vehicles with low clearance or bad tires could have an issue. I bottomed out and felt tire-slip climbing out of it on the way up. The other crux maneuver is right after the upper creek crossing where there are a number of tight steep switchbacks. On the way up I had to make 3-point turns in a couple of them. The last two are back-to-back and the 2nd (last) of them has a large rock on the inside and a left-hand slant to the outside. I put the left wheel on the rock and crawled up it. It would be a challenge with low clearance or bad tires. Driving back down the road was much easier, no need to make 3-point turns or whatever. The only other obstacles were vehicles traveling the opposite direction. Lots of razor and atv tours up there, and the road is narrow with few pull-outs.
Posted By: nagodekar
Info: This was a concentrated effort on my Off-Road 4Runner with a 2 inch lift. The 4WD road is 4 miles long and 80% of the road has a lot of small boulders everywhere, but a good driver can navigate them. The creek crossing at 1.9 mile mark is around 20 inches. If you stay left as you are heading up, you can manage it quite well. The biggest challenge for me was a steep hairpin after the 2nd creek crossing (which is much shallower than first). You have to choose between a significant side tilt or going up a big vertical rock. It’s more iffy coming down. The road between the 1st and 2nd creek crossing was very muddy and parts of it were slippery. After the hike, the vehicles I saw on the upper trailhead were all Jeep’s, 4Runners and Trucks. I saw a Subaru and Toyota RAV4, parked just before the 1st creek. High clearance helps a lot.
Posted By: BethL
Info: Creek crossing running ~20 inches deep. Water was up to the bottom of the door of our RZR. There are a few tight switchbacks that require careful driving for longer vehicles. The start of the road is much improved from a few years ago. Gravel was brought in that makes it a much easier start than it used to be.

Picture looking at the creek crossing from the uphill side, and the other was taken while in the creek crossing.
Posted By: JQDivide
Info: Several vehicles of different make/models made the 4wd TH. Even a Ford Edge almost made the TH, but hit a rock which knocked out its fuel line. High clearance helps. So does picking good lines. Saw a Suburban going up, think it had a small lift.
Posted By: kendricb
Info: Road crews have been out repairing damage at the first stream crossing this week. Although it looked deeper given the constricted reroute, seeing a RZR cross easily gave us confidence. We had no trouble crossing the creek in a stock 4Runner and were eventually joined by several other vehicles at the trailhead (several Jeeps, a Tundra, and another 4Runner).
Posted By: bosnian2014
Info: Road to upper TH (cr23 or Nellie Creek Road) was closed for vehicles yesterday and this morning but reopened today afternoon ( we were picked up by a driver who gave us a lift back to 2wd TH) . It was open to hikers - we did Uncompahgre from 2wd TH. There are logs placed across both creek crossings. First crossing, there are 2 logs. Left one is a little unstable. I would try to keep the weight on the (climbers) right log. Some groups turned back at the first water crossing. Second crossing is short, but only has one log across. I have videos of the crossings if anyone wants to see them, feel free to message me.
There is significant washout on the road before you enter the creek (first crossing).
restroom at upper TH is operational.
Posted By: sdicenso
Info: Temporarily closed due to runoff.
Posted By: tpk7500
Info: Made it all the way to the parking lot in my 2010 Lincoln Navigator. Road was clear of trees and snow. Nellie creek is at peak runoff and eating up the first crossing. Both photos were taken on the way down. The picture that still shows the road is the second crossing.
Posted By: salleybthomas
Info: CR 20 is open to the Nellie Creek 4x4 road, rented a 4x4 in Lake City and made it a quarter mile from the trailhead. Both creek crossings are high and fast, but doable. Lots of snow drifts still on the road but we were able to get through in the Polaris. High clearance definitely necessary
Posted By: marianne
Info: I talked to the chamber of Commerce in lake City They told me they have closed the nellie creek TH and Engineer pass is closed for now. they said there is 80 feet of snow on cinnamon pass right now.
Posted By: Yalegirl09
Info: Per Hinsdale county - CR20 is closed at the ATV staging area a mile out of town while the Treasure Dam is removed. It is closed to all traffic including foot traffic. Nellie Creek trailhead is inaccessible until further notice.
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