Matterhorn Creek Trailhead


Range: San Juan Mountains
Coordinates: 38.02962, -107.49102
14ers: Wetterhorn Peak, Uncompahgre 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)
Rough 2WD dirt to 10,300'. 4WD to 10,800' at the TH.

Driving Directions

From Lake City, turn west onto Second street. Drive 0.1 mile and turn left onto Henson Creek Road (Alpine Loop Scenic Byway) and begin measuring mileage from here. Near 5 miles, pass the Nellie Creek trailhead sign. Near 9 miles, turn right onto the North Henson Road which is more rough than the Henson Creek road but can still be driven by most good-clearance vehicles. Near 11 miles, there is another junction with a sign indicating the Matterhorn Creek trailhead is ahead. Park here if you don't have a 4WD vehicle or turn right and continue 0.7 mile to the trailhead and parking area.

Winter Access

Usually closed a short distance up the Henson Creek road - many miles from the TH.
Status Updates 
Posted By: finick01
Info: Road is snow-free and dry except for some scattered puddles. Pretty much any car should be able to reach the North Henson turnoff, but its not worth going any further without higher clearance (as others have said). Its doable, but so slow and such a pain in the ass that youre better off walking that stretch.
Posted By: Thevirtualsherpa
Info: County is slowly improving CR20 (Henson Creek) - in really great shape before the turnoff to CR24. From 24 (North Henson), road is in usual rougher condition but had no issues with Forester getting to lower and upper Matterhorn Creek TH. Minimal snow but lots of mud which made drive very tricky. No bottoming out or spinning out with low gear driving and experience/patience.

Way down, found a lovely screw and had a major issue replacing our tire. Wanted to sincerely thank the two guys who were able to help us out with the local towing company. Can’t thank you two enough!!

Lesson learned on putting e brake on Subbie when replacing tire.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: Hinsdale County seems to have really embraced off-road culture, and by that I mean they’ve given up even the slightest appearance of taking care of their county roads. Enjoy the non-stop potholes and washboarding to the CR 20 (Engineer Pass)/CR 24 (North Henson Creek) split, and once on CR 24 add giant potholes and tons of rock, both loose and embedded, to the mix. I drove my Civic to the lower trailhead years ago, now I wouldn’t drive anything that has less clearance than an Outback up there. I was glad to have 8.5" of clearance and 4x4, and the road to the upper trailhead (which I did not drive) looked like a war zone. I continued to the switchback at the end of CR 24 and the road deteriorates significantly getting there, basically just piles of rubble for the last half mile or so.
Posted By: Midwestlungs
Info: First 5 miles of dirt road to Nellie Creek TH is doable in any vehicle. Next 4 miles to N Henson Rd is rough but probably doable in any vehicle going real slow. The 2 miles up N Henson Rd to where the true 4wd road begins was about as much as Im willing to take on in a rental suv. Had a Kia Sorrento
Posted By: patrickmcl89
Info: Made it to 4wd trailhead in stock Nissan Xterra (9.1 inches of clearance) with duratracs. Road is in good shape, just need to maneuver around the bigger rocks.
Posted By: RyGuy
Info: From Hinsdale County Road and Bridge:
Friday, July 30 - 7 pm
A mud and rock slide on Engineer Pass (CR 20) has closed the road near MM 13 or 14. Road and Bridge Dept are headed to scene. Estimated to be near Capital City, but exact location not yet determined.
Heavy rains in the Lake City area predicted this weekend can cause mud sides and close roads. Use great caution in the back road and be prepared to turn around. Never attempt to drive through or over a mud or rock slide.
Posted By: chow
Info: Road is nice and dry. Last 0.7 miles is rough and narrow at a couple of places. Definitely need a high clearance 4wd.
Posted By: kimbuk2
Info: Drive a 2016 Land Cruiser, no lift, 9.1 of clearance.

Parked at the lower 4x4 trailhead (10,300~), probably could have driven to the upper trailhead. Lower TH is Subaru-able, but would recommend clearance and 4WD for the upper TH.
Posted By: tlgold1990
Info: Made it just below the actual trailhead in a stock 2019 RAM 1500. Parked at the spot that’s less than 1/4 mile from the trailhead. Should have just kept driving since it would have been easy. Road is narrow in a lot of sections but only a few sections with steep drop offs. I did take one corner too sharp and scraped under my running board, could have easily been avoided if I wasn’t trying to hurry down the last section. As long as you know how to navigate around/over bigger rocks, any full size stock truck SHOULD be fine. Again, as long as you have experience.
Posted By: dfralick07
Info: Made it to Matterhorn Creek in my stock 2013 Impreza hatchback.

A few puddles to cross, nothing 2WD couldn’t handle.
The last 0.5 to 1 mile to the crossing would be a little rough for 2WD.
Scraped a rocker panel twice that last half mile, but nothing unmanageable to experienced drivers.

Yeah, you’ll need something with 4WD and higher clearance to get up the last 0.6 miles to the 4WD TH from this point.

But no more snow and ice the whole way up Engineer Pass!
Posted By: ButterDips12
Info: On 5/29 made it to the upper 4wd trailhead in a stock 2017 GMC Sierra Denali with A/T tires. Did not scrape the undercarriage, but some branches did brush the side of my vehicle.
Posted By: coopereitel
Info: Clear to ~10,440’ then snow-banky
Posted By: KyaCav
Info: North Henson Road is good to go. A few large snowdrifts remain, but they have been mashed through. Park at .7 miles from the actual 4x4 trailhead and gate. That last section of Jeep trail is still covered with too much snow.
Posted By: One Sierra Charlie
Info: I was able to drive 1.0 miles above Capitol City before the snow drifts were too deep to cross in my 4-Runner. There are many sections of drifted snow on the road above this but these may melt in the next week or so. The spur to the summer trailhead contains much more snow and will probably not melt for a few more weeks.
Posted By: COnaive
Info: I had no issues driving to Capitol City in a low clearance vehicle, but past Nellie Creek was very slow. Took the old Jeep up North Henson road a few days later (main Engineer Pass road was gated not far past Capitol City but was plowed past the gate), and pushed through some snow to maybe a mile up the road before deciding that getting stuck was highly likely.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: Some snow and ice but a good driver should have no problem reaching the upper, 4WD trailhead.
Posted By: Thevirtualsherpa
Info: Echoing the last report with a bit more context with a different vehicle. The first 9 miles are a bit rough but passable with most vehicles. There is one massive puddle just before right hand turn to North Henson Road that I scraped going in but avoided going out. Hard to tell how deep it is and one large rock in the middle of it. North Henson has really gone to hell over the years, I was able to get my legacy up to the upper 4wd TH split but a handful of spots that required careful navigating to avoid scraping. To be honest, besides 2-3 spots, the difference between North Henson and the last .7 miles is not that different these days. The main difference on the last .7 besides those 2-3 spots is the amount of loose rock on the road.
Posted By: Chicago Transplant
Info: Road to the traditional 4WD trailhead from Capitol City is degraded from years past. There are several rocky sections spread out over that 2 miles that rival the last section to Lily Lake TH in the Sangres (Lindsey). I would call this portion of the road a "3" on the scale now. Luckily one of the rough spots is early, park at the bottom of this road if you have any questions and walk the first 100-200 yards and you will get a good sense of the road. There was one Impreza up there, but it probably scraped? I had no issues in a 2012 Outback with the right driving line, which required a few zig zags. Other vehicles that were up there included a 2017 and 2019 Forester, Hyundai Santa Fe and an Audi Q5. Somehow a CRV was at the upper TH, but I wouldn’t recommend that.

Even the road between Nellie and Capitol City has degraded, there are a few rocky spots and some muddy puddles. One of the puddles is across most of the road and could be an issue for a lower sedan/mini van.
Posted By: MountainBuhn
Info: Lower 4wd: Recent rain made the depth of the puddles on North Henson hard to gauge, but nothing too troublesome for an ordinary crossover with 7+ inches of clearance. Doable with below that but very cautious driving and good maneuvering around some larger rock fields necessary.

Saw a couple of foresters get up about a quarter of the true 4wd, but I wouldnt comfortably drive up without more than 9-10 inches of clearance. One stock Grand Cherokee was at the top

Henson creek road has a couple of deeper spots close to the turn off so dont get lazy.
Posted By: sky_high
Info: Second the information from the last report. The road is clear and completely doable with a stock 4wd or high-clearance 2wd to the lower trailhead. There is downed brush that makes some of the route tight, but it generally doesn’t impeded the road. Just an FYI from driving in the dark, don’t be fooled by the lazy right turn at about .5 miles up the 4wd road, go straight instead. The road itself is rubbly and rutted and there are two or three patches that dip significantly, but can maneuvered through easily. That said, the upper 4wd trailhead has some pretty difficult rocks to negotiate and several tight turns. If you weren’t okay with Nellie Creek you shouldn’t be okay with this either. Several lifted Jeeps and a stock Rubicon looked like they made it up okay, but wide trucks will find it hard to avoid the worst obstacles. The parking for the lower 4wd trailhead is just past the turnoff for the upper trailhead.
Posted By: rchacon
Info: Road was easily passable by any crossover up until the last .7 miles. From there, you’ll get a healthy view of what to expect for the last .7 miles to the trailhead. The last .7 miles was more challenging than the Nellie Creek road, but shorter and without the difficult first stream crossing on the Nellie Creek road. I was mistaken in thinking that this road was going to be easier than Nellie Creek - it’s not, just shorter. Still, I easily drove it with a stock 4Runner SR5 (no rear locker) with AT tires. No need for a spotter and similar 4X4s shouldn’t have any issue. I would definitely not suggest taking a Subaru or any crossover the last .7 miles unless you’re willing to hit a few rocks along the way.
Posted By: kspitzer1987
Info: Stock 2015 F150, crew cab, long bed (6.5’), towing mirrors

There are reports in previous posts about downed aspens making the trail so narrow that it was nearly impossible to pass unless somebody brings in a chainsaw to widen it. Well, that must have happened. I went all the way up to the trailhead and never had less than 6" to spare on both sides of my truck (mirrors were folded in). No danger of scraping the side of your vehicle on aspens anymore so long as your mirrors are folded in.
The road from Lake City to the first 4x4 road is doable in a sedan, although it will be a very rough, slow ride. The lower 4x4 road is a different story. I saw a Subaru Legacy halfway up the lower 4x4, but I’m not sure how it made it...I suspect it suffered some scraping and undercarriage damage. If you don’t want to suffer damage to the underside of your vehicle, do NOT drive a sedan up the lower 4x4 trail. I made it very easily in my truck.
The upper 4x4 trail was much more technical than the lower and required significantly more ground clearance, but I still made it relatively easily in my F150. While ground clearance was an absolute must for large rocks, I never had a problem with my long wheelbase. If for some crazy reason a sedan or low-clearance vehicle made it all the way up the lower 4x4 road, I assure you they WILL NOT make it up the upper 4x4 trail, so please don’t try.
Posted By: Been_Jammin
Info: 2003 Chevy Tahoe Z71 made it to the top easily.
Posted By: jharned
Info: The posts describing the downed trees on the way up the road have been cut and moved out of the way to not cause any obstruction to the road. Made it to the 4WD trailhead with no issues with stock Silverado 4WD. You could argue that the last 50 yards before the 4WD TH there is a funky rock to navigate around, but it wasn’t a major issue. Way more mellow than Nellie Creek.
Posted By: hikerjess
Info: Got my 2wd toyota sequoia up to the point about 0.6 miles below the trailhead with minimal/no issues. Just take it steady. There were a bunch of downed trees, but they have since been moved to the side. Lots of exposed rocks and a few ruts, but they are avoidable. Summer conditions all the way. One small water crossing and a mud pit that was only a few inches deep. I would highly recommend 4WD the rest of the way to the trailhead from there. Lots of beautiful spots to pull off and camp along the way.

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