|Trailhead:||Hermit Pass Road (Sangre de Cristo)|
|Date of Information:||08/08/2011|
As per my forum post, I drove my AWD 97 Toyota RAV4 up to about 11,900‘ (38.0966 -105.64194) on Monday- this is about 0.30 mi below the hairpin at Horseshoe Lake. You can see the car as a little silver speck in the attached photo, taken just a few steps down from the hairpin. I was in "L" most of the way. The other photo is of Horseshoe Lake itself.
My impressions: this is a long, long, rough, long road. There are obviously no Jaws-like impediments to getting at least this far, but I was dodging large embedded rocks and squirrelling around on loose cobbles for virtually the entire way. Regardless of the type of vehicle you drive, give yourself a lot of time to get there and back, even more so for borderline vehicles like mine. In a proper high-clearance 4WD this would be fun- in my RAV4 it was rather nerve-wracking and in retrospect probably not a good idea.
After parking at the end of a particularly rough section where the road crosses a scree slope, I probably could have pushed it up to the hairpin for a better place to turn around. After that, the road gets steep and narrow, and although it looks like it might smooth out a bit above 12,000, the narrowness and lack of pull-offs dissuaded me from going higher.
After walking up to the Horseshoe Lake look out, I came back to the car to find a marmot sneaking out from underneath. I checked for damage and found no leaking fluids, but who knows what that little monster could‘ve done with another hour or two on his hands...
The bottom line is that you can, if you really want to, get to Hermit Lake and beyond with a stock AWD with decent clearance. The question is, how lucky/confident do you feel? I myself probably won‘t be doing it again...
PS there are numerous campsite pull-offs below Hermit Lake, at the HL trailhead, and at HL itself (though many may be technically too close (within 300‘) of the lake). A beautiful spot! If I visit again, it will be in my truck...
Photos (click for slideshow):