Yankee Boy Basin Trailhead


Range: San Juan Mountains
Coordinates: 37.995, -107.78472
14ers: Mt. Sneffels
Elevation: 12,460'
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Add

Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
Easy 4WD to the restrooms. 4WD to the upper TH.

Driving Directions

Take US 550 to Ouray. 1/4 mile south of town, turn west onto Country Road (CR) 361 (2WD, Dirt) toward Yankee Boy Basin and start measuring mileage from this point. Your mileage may vary slightly, but the following list describes the turns and milestones:
  • 4.6 miles: Stay right on CR 26.
  • 5.2 miles: The road is cut into the cliffs like a "C" so there is rock hanging over the road.
  • 5.9 miles: Stay right on CR 26 at the junction for Imogene Pass.
  • 6.7 miles: Stay right at the junction for Governor Basin. The remaining drive is 4WD and 2WD cars should park at or near this junction.
  • 7.5 miles: Reach the lower "trailhead" where there's a restroom.
Driving beyond this point requires high-clearance 4WD
  • 100 yards after the restroom parking area, pass a large rock and stay right at a junction.
  • 8.0 miles: Stay right.
  • 8.2 miles: There's a sign that recommends only 4WD, high-clearance, short-wheelbase. 4WD vehicles can continue another mile to the signed, upper trailhead at 12,460'.

Winter Access

Usually closed low on the road.

More Info

Parking: Room for ~15 vehicles at the lower (restroom) parking. Some pull-offs and parking higher and room for 5 vehicles at the upper, 4WD trailhead.
Camping: Dispersed camping along the road.
Restrooms? Yes
Fees? No
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: HikesInGeologicTime
Info: I can understand why an earlier report said to park your Subaru Outback at 10,700, but with slow, careful driving, I was able to get mine up to the outhouse. Almost everyone who attempted to go past there quickly turned around; I only saw Jeeps, a dirt bike, and one brazen Tacoma make the upper TH.
Posted By: 9patrickmurphy
Info: Got my stock 2004 4Runner almost all the way up. It just rained, everything was super slippery and I just got tired of it, but didn’t run into anything that was too difficult and I never even scraped. Good tires are a must since the rocks are pretty sharp in places, and just leave your Subaru at the lower trailhead, you definitely low-range 4WD. Additionally, if you’re not confident in your off-roading skills, just don’t. It’s a tough road but I didn’t find it /that/ much harder than, say, Nellie Creek.
Posted By: JakeByk
Info: Road is passable with AWD to 10,700 feet. It’s a bit wet, but nothing a Subaru Forester couldn’t handle. Do not go above 10,700 feet unless you have a Jeep, a Taco or don’t care about your car. Also, just walk it. The connector trail going by Wright Lake is very pretty.
Posted By: Been_Jammin
Info: At the upper trailhead I saw several Wranglers, a 4runner TRD, a Taco TRD, a Tundra TRD, and a stock F150.

I parked my Tahoe Z71 about a quarter mile above the bathroom. After walking the trail and seeing other full size trucks at the very top, I’m confident Chevy Z71’s could make it to the top also.

In conclusion, the TH above the bathroom is definitely a 4/6 on difficulty... but, I don’t think short wheel base is 100% necessary to get to the top (currently). Full size 4*4 trucks with decent tires can definitely do it. But, it will be bumpy! Probably want skid plates if you attempt in a full size SUV/Truck.

P.S. Don’t attempt in a Honda Civic. Saw a Honda Civic quite a bit above the 2WD parking area and it was stuck... also looked like he ripped something out of his undercarriage. Lol.
Posted By: angry
Info: Dry, easy drive to parking area at the lower 4WD trailhead next to restroom.
Posted By: Wentzl
Info: Yeah, they worked on that road big time. In the best shape ever. I have been going up there since 1995 and I have never seen it so well groomed. They fixed all the wash outs.

Now the road up beyond the outhouse, that is another story. More washed out than I have ever seen. I did see a jeep at the 4WD trailhead and several 4-wheelers, but since I hiked up via Wright’s Lake, can’t comment on the whole road. But the short section before the Wright’s lake turn off was beat up.

The photo shows where all the cars were parking last year because of the wash out. Now smooth as glass
Posted By: KDinCO
Info: Thanks to the previous reports I read about the ditch about 200 yards below the lower lot and didn’t plan to attempt it in my stock 4Runner. However, driving in the dark I just kept going and ended up at the lower trailhead, which surprised me as I was expecting for the ditch to be more noticeable and stop me. Maybe it was modified? There were definitely some pretty rough spots on the road to the lower trailhead, but my 4Runner didn’t even scrape going over that ditch. Coming down I saw the ditch more clearly and it looked gnarly, but again, I passed over it with no scraping. If you have decent clearance (4Runner is about 9.6") and drive carefully, you should be fine.

Restroom wasn’t locked but left a lot to be desired. Bring your own toilet paper!
Posted By: Misi197
Info: Pretty similar situation to 7/12. The ditch about 200 yards below the lower lot is something to be reckoned with. The four pics included here are all taken from the ditch or just below it. Only modified jeeps, or vehicles that were rented, seemed to be making the trip up and taking on the wear and tear. Once to the lower lot, the road is in fairly standard condition until it dead ends into a snowfield about a third to a half of a mile below the upper trailhead.
Posted By: Beekman
Info: There is a large washout about 200 yards short of the lower lot. Several vehicles were making it over, but none on two wheels, not even modified jeeps. The rest of the road is clear to the upper lot from all the avalanche debris.
Posted By: two lunches
Info: road is cleared to the restrooms (which are locked)
beyond that are many feet of snow, and there’s no way anything but a snowmobile can make it to the sneffles trailhead.
recent slides in the area, many many feet of snow still linger along the trail to the basin, but the waterfalls are gorgeous and the road is in great shape
Posted By: Scary_Canary
Info: Road was a bit sloppy from the recent rains. There were some places it looked more like brown swiss cheese, but its in ok shape. Even with some puddles as wide as the road, my tiny little car did just fine. If your car has low clearence like mine, park at the 2wd area. It gets pretty rough after that, but any car with AWD or a decent amount of clearance can make it to the outhouse. As for the summer 4X4 TH.... I dont forsee that melting out very soon.
Posted By: Wentzl
Info: Road clear to outhouse. Nasty obstacle that was holding vehicles up about half way between the Virginius/Yankee Boy intersection and outhouse has been removed. Road actually in pretty good shape so far this year.
Posted By: Wentzl
Info: Bulldozer still working from Governor basin up to outhouse. Today it was best to just park at the junction and walk up. I included a photo of the upper 4WD trailhead. The signs that are usually 7 feet tall, just about the top 6 inches are showing, so don’t plan on driving up there till mid August, if at all. I would guess by next weekend driving to the outhouse will be possible
Posted By: Unknown
Info: Any vehicle can make it to ~9800’, where the first 4WD sign is. The overhanging narrow rock cut section has patches of ice that might be dicey for low clearance 2WD. I didn’t chance it and risk having to reverse after dark, but a Toyota Corolla made it to 10,600’ just after the Imogene Pass turn, before the first stream/large puddle crossing. Effectively wet summer conditions to that point. Most cars with decent clearance can make it to 10,750’ and park. Skiers can start skinning here with continuous snow if you use the skintrack running parallel on the north side. Mix of snowy, slushy, icy, muddy on the road up to 11,100’ where continuous snow starts.
Posted By: Wentzl
Info: Winter access gate, supposed to open on May 1, still locked on May 7, 2019 at noon. Met a guy driving one of those sight seeing trucks based out of Ouray. He said he didn’t know why it wasn’t open yet and didn’t know when they would open it. Second photo shows the slide path just above the Senators Gulch climbing area. Third and 4th photos show a house just below the winter closed gate. Hope no one was home!
Posted By: c13mueller
Info: I drove an AWD sedan comfortably along CR26 until the fork with Governor Basin. I think I could have still made it to the restroom in the afternoon, but it was very icy/snowy in the morning. The road had turned to mud/slush by the time I was hiking down in the afternoon. I saw a Jeep, FJ Cruiser, and aggressively driven Lexus GX 470 up by the sign where high-clearance vehicles were needed. No vehicles made it beyond that point. There was maybe a foot of snow with even deeper drifts covering the rest of the road to the upper trailhead.
Posted By: TravelingMatt
Info: This road has gotten worse since last year. It’s only in one spot, but it will prevent lower-end SUVs from going all the way to the toilet (the "lower 4wd trailhead"). It is around 1/4 mile beyond the junction of the Yankee Boy Basin Road with the Governor Basin Road. See pics; backpack is for scale. The rest of the road to the crapper is easy 4wd as in the past (well there’s one other tricky spot that wouldn’t worry me). I parked at the Yankee Boy/Governor Basin split and it took me 25 minutes to walk to the crapper. Some people are parking immediately below the nasty part, which seems like a bad idea as this reduces the area for pulling over and turning around.
Posted By: paddabbo
Info: Got a stock 4x4 standard cab ’03 Tacoma to the top TH with BF Goodrich AT tires. There are three or four spicy moves that require some thought and solid line choice for those of us without a lift and standard suspension. Fort Lewis college had a 15 passenger van stuck about halfway up the first steep/narrow section above the 2WD
Posted By: Christopher_Tallman
Info: The drive up to the last switchback was tough but manageable in my Z71 Chevy Colorado with stock tires. The toughest obstacle was a bit past the lower trailhead with the restroom. The two boulders in the middle of the road at this point can be skirted around. I think if you can make it past here, you can get to the last switchback before the upper 4wd trailhead ( about 12,150 ft elevation), if you are an experienced off-roader.
Posted By: zsmith
Info: The Yankee Boy Basin road has deteriorated considerably and is not passable to the 2WD lot without a truck-based SUV or pickup with 4-low (XTerra, Jeep, 4Runner, Pickup, etc). We could NOT get a lifted Subaru to the 2WD lot. We had to park the vehicle in a small pull-out with room for only two cars roughly 3/4 miles before the 2WD lot. The road leading up to the obstacle was very narrow and steep and we had to back the Subaru down the hill. The lower road is being worked on and is in great condition, but the upper road is in much worse condition than years past. The road to the top 4WD TH is also much worse. There are 3-4 obstacles that involved rocks jutting out more than 12-14" and holes/rock faces larger than 1.5ft. We got my lifted XTerra to the trail head, but it turned into a "do it to see if we can" challenge, rather than "we should be doing this". A Ford F250 truck was forced to back down a long, narrow section because of the first obstacle with two large rocks over 14" tall in the first 300yds of the road past the big boulder.
Posted By: JROSKA
Posted By: katlane
Info: Wondering if anyone is headed up to Yankee Boy Basin Lower Trailhead tomorrow or was there today and grabbed a black Dakine backpack with a tan north face hat on it. I realllly would like to have that backpack back and would really appreciate it if someone could grab it and bring it down! If you have any information please email katharinelane@gmail.com or call 720-323-6024. Offering a reward for anyone willing to grab it and bring it down!
Posted By: nathansmithpiano
Info: Road totally free of ice/snow. Some stream crossings but nothing deep. My Subaru Crosstrek made it to 11,700 but I should have stopped around 11,400 or 11,500. Then again, I tend to push my vehicles much harder than I should. Trucks, jeeps, and ATV’s were making it to the top at 12,400.
Posted By: Wentzl
Info: The road from Ouray to the Virginus Mine is in as good shape as I have seen it in 25 years. After that, up to the shitter, it is average. After that, going to the high 4wd trailhead it is worse than it has ever been. Anyone know about Ouray County politics? Looks like they are letting that road go to hell so it will become abandoned and eventually closed. I got as high as the trail to Wrights Lake and it was BAD.
Posted By: Kelly M
Info: There are still several large snow drifts that make the road impassable beyond 8.2 miles. A heavily modified Jeep did make it past one of the snow drifts and onto the next one, but did not go any further.
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