Castle Creek Trailhead
Added by BillMiddlebrook

Location:  Elk Mountains
14ers Served:  Castle Peak, Conundrum Peak
Road Type:  Moderate 4WD, long wheel base vehicles not recommended. Good clearance required. 4   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD paved access to 9,750’ from the north via Castle Creek road out of Aspen.
Rough, Rocky 2WD access to approx. 9,900’ by turning right on the dirt road at the end of Castle Creek road. This road continues into Castle Creek.
4WD access to 12,800’ by following the same road up past the Montezuma Mine and into a basin north of Castle Peak. Note: Near 11,100’ there is a road junction. Stay right to continue toward Montezuma Mine. Turning left will take you toward Pearl Pass.
Directions:  Take Castle Creek from the roundabout just west of the center of Aspen. Drive 12.5 miles (paved) to the Castle Creek trailhead. To the right, Forest Road (FR) 102 continues all all the way to 12,800’. Good-clearance passenger cars can drive about 1 mile up this road to reach the dispersed camp sites along the road. If you want to shorten your hike by parking higher, you must have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance. From the lower trailhead parking area, proceed 1.3 miles to a river crossing. In spring and early summer, this crossing is a challenge for some 4WD vehicles. Continue another 1.7 miles up FR 102 to a junction. Left will take you up the nasty Pearl Pass 4WD road. Staying right will keep you on the Castle Creek 102 road. If you drove up this far, there are a few parking spots near the junction. The road gets worse as it ascends into Montezuma Basin all the way to 12,800’.
Winter Access:  Closed at the start of the dirt road.
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Date Status Information Posted By  Photos  Comments Likes Dislikes    
2014-06-29 1st creek crossing still raging, but jeeps/Xterras across. Road clear to Pearl Pass. TheseThousandHills         
2014-06-07 Intermittent snow mounds and avalanche debris for a mile after the creek crossing. The creek was swollen with spring runoff. Lots of snow beyond that. it will be a while before the 4WD road fully reopens. esagas         
2014-05-31 Avy debris cleared. Snow starts soon after the first stream crossing bergsteigen         
2014-05-17 Road blocked about 1/4 mile from pavement by several avalanches. Debris field on upper avalanche is quite large. The mayor of Pearl pass is working on clearing. I imagine with the snow and debris it won‘t clear further for a minimum 2-3 weeks. The road is completely snow covered and skinnable from the creek crossing. There is a lot of coverage so I would expect it to be that way for awhile. Hypersnow         
2014-05-11 Road is open from Ashcroft to FR 102. About 1/2-3/4 mile in, the road is blocked by avalanche debris. There are a few places where trees cover the road (or a majority of the road). See photos. It is passable on foot and by snow machine. --bb--  3       
2013-09-29 Was able to drive my Wrangler Sport Jeep all the way to the flat, open area below the Montezuma mine (12,400 feet) with no problems. The road to the upper 4WD TH blocked by snow about 1/4 mile past the mine. AlabamaTLC         
2013-08-27 road is passable with 2WD up to campsite 2. Just beyond that is a hill with some rocks and ruts that is troublesome with 2WD and very hard to turn around there. 4WD stock vehicles (pickups/SUVs) with some clearance should be able to drive all the way to the end of the road, it‘s pretty decent with no big obstacles. Stream crossing was about 8 inches deep or so. cougar  2       
2013-07-19 The road past the 2WD trail head is not that bad as long as you have an SUV/truck with decent clearance. There are some rocky sections, but did not prove too difficult. Crossing castle creek was a cake walk, even in the afternoon with higher levels due to snow melt. It was maybe 6 inches deep. There was a Toyota Highlander we saw further up the trail, so any vehicle with comparable clearance can make it. We ended up staying the night at the Pearl Pass junction, at 11,200, allowing us to get a great head start on the trail up to Castle. emiller6  3       
2013-07-05 Road is driveable all the way to the upper parking lot. I‘m not sure anything much wider than a stock Jeep can maneuver around some of the rocks on the upper route (last 1000‘ vertical) without moving them or sustaining some damage but the route is dry. halestorm         
2013-06-25 The road is clear up to the Montezuma Mine. There is still some snow between the mine and the parking lot. John Young         
2013-06-24 The road is clear up until 12,100, where a large, impassable patch of snow is present. A pickup truck and a Rubicon passed the creek crossing at 10,200‘ with no problems. To play it safe, I parked my Forester in the last pulloff before the crossing. The avalanche runoff that was present about .5-1 mile after the crossing has been shoveled out and that portion of the road is now completely dry. As always, please PM if I can be of further assistance. Pics to come. zdero1         
2013-06-15 Very similar to the previous reports. Road is clear all the way to some Avy Runout in between the cabin and the second bridge at the waterfall. Not getting past it for sometime. Jeeps, Trucks and 4WD SUVs should be fine up until that. River crossing does get high late in the day. Just depends on the vehicle and the driver. RAV4 and CRV crowd might want to park low. All the campsites are clear as well. Park Ranger also said some pesky bears have been seen in the area. Don‘t leave any Cheetos in your Ride. Taillon75         
2013-06-08 High Clearance vehicles can get by the creek crossing in the morning - but the question remains can you get out in the afternoon. I didn‘t push my luck with my stock Jeep 4d Wrangler, but one raised Tacoma made it across. The road, as noted previously, has much more damage than last year. If you get past the creek crossing, the meadow about 1/4 mile past is as far as you‘ll get - avalance run-outs and other persistent snow blocks the road past that. No access to Pearl Pass Road now. wildlobo71    3 1    
2013-06-04 Road is pretty much dry to the stream crossing but seems very beat up compared to the last few years. A lot of erosion and early season mud driving has made some of the obstacles a bit bigger. I did see a newer model Subaru Outback near the stream crossing so it is possible to get similar clearance cars there but you better be good at driving if you are going to try to take anything lower to the ground. Passenger cars could probably still access the first few campsites (but once again probably not quite as easily as previous years). Water is raging in the stream so most vehicles (even pretty big SUVs and trucks) were parked there. halestorm         
2013-05-19 In a high clearance 4WD I was able to drive to the creek crossing where the bridge is now. The road is very muddy and has some sections of snow. A large fallen Aspen tree that blocked the road in the morning was cut in sections and removed sometime during the day. Eagle Eye         
2013-05-13 The Pitkin County gate closure on the paved road is open. In high clearance 4WD I was only able to go about .5 mile up FR102 , this is about .7 mile short of the wooden bridge & first creek crossing. 2 uphill sections with ruts in deep snow in that first 1/2 mile have presented problems. Fairly recent wide tractor/paddle-looking (or chained?) type tracks continue on, going maybe 2/10th mile past the first creek crossing, turned around. Eagle Eye         
2012-11-24 Paved road is closed below the lower trailhead near Ashcroft Ski Touring. 14erAddict         
2012-08-12 Stock 2008 Jeep Commander Drove up through the creek and past the wooden bridge. Had to drop into 4L to get out of the creek on the going-up creek exit. Stopped at the 1st switchback after looking at the big boulder in the middle of the road. Drove back down 50 feet past the wooden bridge and camped with a great view of the waterfall. Great spot to camp! I was pretty curious how this road would be in a stock Jeep and overall stopping below that big boulder was all in my comfort level and I only scraped one rock. From a comparison standpoint I put this road as easier than the Antero road up to Baldwin Gulch. Titan         
2012-08-04 ‘98 stock Jeep Cherokee - The road is plenty wide so passing oncoming traffic or turning around is never an issue. There are 7 designated Forest Service campsites within the first mile past the paved road before you have to cross the stream. A passenger car should be able to make it to sites #1 and #2 but higher clearance is needed to make it to sites #3-7 (all within the first mile before the stream crossing). The stream crossing has a solid / flat bottom but the banks are a little steep getting in and out. There is a pedestrian bridge right next to the stream crossing, so get out and scout it before attempting. At low water (August in a bad snow year) it was not difficult, but could be challenging with higher stream flows. Past the stream, the road continues gradually up the mountain. Just past a house on private property on your right, there are a few nice (non-designated) camping spots before the wooden bridge. The road becomes more rough as you cross a wooden bridge with a waterfall just before the Pearl Pass junction. There are 4 or 5 trouble spots that are rocky and this where the trail earns it‘s 4 (out of 6) rating. I recommend getting out and scouting the difficult areas. The trouble spots are fairly short and are spaced out, so you have room to plan your line (or turn around if needed). I was able to make it through without hitting bottom on any of the trouble spots but if you‘re not careful, you could do some damage. After the Pearl Pass junction, around 11,250‘ the road improves and becomes more gradual. There are two nice (non-designated) camping spots and a few "do for tonight" spots just below treeline. The road above the Pearl Pass junction (~11,250‘) to the upper trailhead (12,800‘) is not rough and if you‘ve made it this far, you‘ll have no problem making it to the top. Be careful of a few large boulders in the road which are avoidable but may be difficult to see in the dark. There is plenty of room to park along the road and if you‘re sleeping in your car or parking to hike, there are tons of places to pull off. Have fun storming the Castle! MonGoose         
2012-06-10 Made it to just below the last set of switch backs before the upper parking area (about 12,400‘) in a 1996 Jeep Cherokee (just larger tires). Creek crossing was no problem at any point in the day. There was a Subaru Forrester on the opposite side of the creek. Two main rough spots are same as described before, right around Pearl Pass Road junction. Two switchbacks in a row are rough but other than those nothing too terrible up to above treeline. There are a handful of large boulders in the road above treeline, one of which caused us to stop on the way up in the dark. Clearly in daylight it could have been done but I was okay with the extra 1/2 mile or so of hiking. Slightly modified 4Runner made it to the top of the road. Above that last set of switch backs there are a couple of spots where the hillside is sliding onto the road meaning you would get a bit tippy and one pretty large boulder directly in the middle of the road. If you‘re going in the next couple of days there is some snow directly at the trailhead but if you got this far, you can skirt by it with a bit of rough road. Otherwise, that should be gone shortly. E-dorvs         
2012-05-27 It‘s clear all the way if you‘ve got the vehicle to make it. I made it to the first 4wd th at 11,160. I was in a new outback. The creek crossing at 10,180 was pretty intimidating. I definitely wouldn‘t try it in anything less than an outback (which I think has 9" clearance). Also, awd/4wd is a must. Other than the creek crossing I think it‘s more like 3.5 than a 4 rating. If you stop where I did that is. mikefromcraig         
2012-04-28 Open to the first creek crossing with the pedestrian bridge. Road seems rougher than in years past and I wouldn‘t want to take a 2wd or low clearance vehicle to the first creek crossing! Still lots of snow past the first creek crossing, took skis off twice and walked across dirt/rocks twice. But I think some other sections will melt out soon. cheeseburglar         
2011-12-03 Road is closed at Ashcroft Ghost town AspenEx         
2011-10-14 The road is still clear of any snow and ice up to the creek crossing with the foot bridge. This is just past campsite #7, so all the official campsites are still easily accessed with a somewhat high clearance 2wd (ie my 2wd Ford Escape and I got to site 7). Past the creek with the foot bridge is another issue. Compacted ice covers about 65% of the road up to the Pearl Pass turnoff. I saw a jeep with hefty chains parked up at about 11,200 and the highest I saw any vehicle tracks was 12,100. Up and down past the footbridge would be a bobsled run for most vehicles. Barrett Cooper  1       
2011-09-03 From paved road to the first creek crossing, about a mile in: The guides say this is doable in a 2wd car, but a 2wd truck would be better. I drug my Enclave over a rock on the way in and out. It is pretty flat, and 4wd is not needed. We stopped at the first creek crossing. From there, the hike was about 13 miles round trip. From the creek crossing to just past Pearl Pass Bridge: If your vehicle can make it across the creek, the next really challenging section is about another mile away. The least capable vehicles I saw go through the creek were a Mercury Mariner (Ford Escape) and the latest model Honda Pilot. The creek was maybe 9" deep in the morning and afternoon. The Hard Part: About 200 yards past Pearl Pass Bridge, the road turns hard left and goes sharply uphill. There are some big rocks and ruts in the way. A recent trip report has a picture of them. Once you get past this section, getting to end of the road is easier. I saw a stock Jeep, stock Forerunner (3rd newest generation), and stock old Chevy Blazer past this point. Low range for this section would be helpful. I was shocked to see that the newest model Honda Pilot made it past this point. I wouldn‘t recommend that. There is parking for about 3 cars just before this section. Cars that didn‘t attempt it included a Murano and an Xterra. I think the Xterra could have done it. At one point, the stream runs down the trail/road. Go straight up this section a few hundred yards and veer to the right. Once you get to the end of the road, there is plenty of parking. Also, the last good bathroom is about two miles before the trailhead on the east side of the road. It‘s a vault toilet that is part of a park. It‘s easily visible if you look for it. DaVikes         

The 2WD trailhead. (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2007-06-12)A closer look at the start of the Castle Creek Road (FR 102) (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2007-06-12)The stream crossing at 10,200‘ – 1.3 miles up the road (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2007-06-12)stream crossing on 6/6/10.  For reference Bronco has 6" lift and 35s on it. (Added by: summitbound on 2010-06-08)

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