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Nellie Creek Trailhead
Added by BillMiddlebrook

Location:  San Juan Mountains
14ers Served:  Uncompahgre Peak, Wetterhorn Peak
Road Type:  Moderate 4WD, long wheel base vehicles not recommended. Good clearance required. 4   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt to 9,300’ at the lower TH. 4WD to 11,400’ at the upper TH.
Directions:  From Lake City, turn west onto Second street. Drive 0.1 miles and turn left onto the Henson Creek road. This is the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. Drive 5 miles to the sign for the Nellie Creek trail (#877). The sign is on the right. There are a few pull-offs along the road in this area. If you do not have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, park on the Henson Creek road and hike up from here. Continue 4 miles up the Nellie Creek road to reach the trailhead. The road crosses a stream twice. 2.3 miles up this road there is a junction. Turn left and stay on the main road to reach the trailhead. The composting restroom which was provided by the US Forest Service has been CLOSED and is no longer functional. Please pack out human waste or bury it at least 200 feet away from any water source.
Winter Access:  Usually closed a short distance up the Henson Creek road - many miles from the TH.
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Date Status Information Posted By  Photos  Comments Likes Dislikes    
2012-08-31 Got my ‘94 Subaru Legacy to the trailhead. The first stream crossing was the most difficult, definitely scraped on the large rock in the middle. We stopped and got out of the car once or twice to choose the best route on the more difficult sections. The mud was slick, but didn‘t create major problems. Descent was about the same. We just took it slowly and carefully. Overall a fun road! hvbrogan         
2012-08-25 We made it to the trail head without any problems in a stock 1998 Toyota 4runner. All of the vehicles that were parked at the trail head were true 4wds except for one older Subaru Forester. Many sections of the road were wet and somewhat slick, however none of the road is what I would consider treacherous. The very beginning of the Fall color change can start to be seen along the road up to the trail head. There was no toilet paper in the outhouse at the trail head, so you will need to bring your own. My-Therapy         
2012-07-14 After reading a lot of the other reports regarding driving up Nellie Creek Road, I was really nervous and worried about making it up the 4WD road to the trailhead with my 2WD 2004 Toyota Tacoma (rear wheel drive). However, I successfully drove up Nellie Creek Rd with no problems. I definitely agree with the other reports that you NEED high clearance, but I do not think you absolutely need a 4WD vehicle, as I made it up with my 2WD. I just drove really slow and stayed in LOW GEAR. Also, I have All-Terrain tires, which I think helps. I had read an old trip report that another person made it up with a Chevy S10 that was also 2WD. I will say that I probably only made it up the road because it was completely dry and the 2 creek crossings had very low water levels, as this past winter had very little snowfall. If you do attempt this road with 2WD, just make sure its dry, go slow in low gear, and try not to make any stops along the way. I was lucky that I didnt have to back up or stop for other vehicles, which allowed me to keep my momentum the entire time. Nellie Creek road is not as steep or bumpy compared to the 4WD road to the Mt. Massive N. Halfmoon Creek trailhead, which is much more steeper. I did not make it up to the Halfmoon Creek TH. mkim822         
2012-06-21 My manual tranny, AWD 07 Forester XT Limited with 7.9" clearance and 99.4" wheelbase made it fine all the way to the trailhead. Fun road! The only hairy part was exiting the first stream crossing. I blame it on being lazy and not spending the time to switch out my extreme performance summer tires with something a little more substantial (all-seasons wouldve been fine). The wheels spun a couple times just before we hit the dry dirt again, so I had to reverse it a couple inches before we were able to get it moving again. Also, I had to ensure plenty of room between my car and the vehicle in front. As they were true 4WD with lo and hi options, they were able to ascend much more slowly, whereas my car needed to maintain speed to get up some of those switchbacks. So the one time they stopped just above us, I had to back down to a flat area a couple yards before I could regain acceleration again. I wouldnt recommend a Mazda 3Speed, WRX, or an Impreza up there. Keep in mind this has been a low precipitation year so far, so the streams may have been lower than in past years at this time. AeroFaze  2  2      
2012-06-16 Took a new model Subaru Outback (2" more clearance than the old model) all the way to the upper trailhead. Saw another new model Outback up there as we got back to the car after the hike. Creek crossings are a breeze with good entry and exit points going in both directions. Jyak    7      
2012-05-30 Road to TH in decent condition. Water crossings were easy with 4 wheel drive, high clearance vehicle. No problems. hiker55    1      
2012-05-21 The trees the previous report mentioned have all been removed. You can make it all the way to the 4wd trailhead if you can cross the creek. There is no snow at all on the entire 4wd trail. I was in a new outback and the 4wd trail was really easy but when I got to the first creek which is about 2 miles up the 4wd trail I decided not to risk it because I was alone. Probably could have made it but I‘m not real experienced with that stuff. There‘s room for one car to park right in front of that creek crossing. mikefromcraig    1      
2012-05-12 Nellie Creek Road has 4 downed trees stretched over a 1/4 mile span about 3 miles up from the 2WD parking, you will need a chainsaw to take them out. There is only room for 1 or 2 vehicles at this point, so some backing may be required if you don‘t secure one of those spots. Below that, there are some patchy snowbanks along the road after the second set of switchbacks above the lower creek crossing, they have tire ruts through them and should not pose a problem for anyone who was able to drive that far. There is also one really rocky sections that appears to be from a rock slide around the 2.5 mile mark, lower clearance SUVs may hit some of them. I drove my 2012 Outback to the lower creek crossing (about halfway up the road) before deciding I didn‘t want to push it, I had to back down the road a short bit to get a parking space. The road walk for the last 2 miles is pleasant enough and goes quick. Chicago Transplant         
2011-09-03 Henson Creek road is easily 2WD with Nellie Creek defininitely 4WD - there was a lot of ATV traffic and only 4WD vehicles at the TH, creek crossings were easy but there is water. I would not take a 2WD or lower clearance vehicle to the TH. blondie1         
2011-08-13 Trailhead is easily accessed by small SUVs, and though I have AWD it wasnt needed (Ford Escape). As this vehicle has only decent clearance (8.5"), but I never scraped a rock, I would say all 2wds with some clearance would have no problem on this road - I saw several other vehicles this size at the TH including an Outback, a CRV and a RAV. The water crossings were uneventful at this time of year. Boomerang         
2011-07-05 Both creek crossings running very high, especially during hot afternoon. Couldn‘t do much more with a Dakota longbed. Lower crossing has a deep hole on upstream side that will swallow your right front wheel (going up) if you turn too high. Upper crossing was easier. Road is good to TH. YEONDERIN         
2011-07-01 Clear to the top. Gahugafuga         
2011-06-18 Took the Forester loaded with 4 adults, a kid, gear, and a dog up to the meadow just before the 4WD trailhead on the 18th and out on the 19th. Only hit bottom 3 times (lightly) and my fault. River crossings were OK. I did move a few big rocks out of the way and cut a small aspen out of the trail today. There is a big tree that blocks the upper trailhead (14 inches circ) and some snow drifts yet. colorado yooper         
2011-06-05 Took my Jeep Cherokee and was able to drive past the first creek crossing up some switchbacks and was stopped by a major drift a couple hundred yards before the second crossing, about 2 miles short of the summer trailhead. First creek crossing was wide but not deep at all, no problem. Watch for rocks. Large drift continues until the second crossing which was difficult in ski boots. There are a couple small drifts after that but nothing major (i.e. requiring snowshoes or skis) until about a mile later, at the end of a large meadow. Coverage from there on is fairly widespread. stevevets689    1      
2011-05-28 Was able to get about 2.1 miles up the road. Snow drifts are way too deep after this point (maybe 75% chance with a tractor). Rocks had fallen in road and we stopped and moved them in several spots. One big slide across road was barely passable to one side. Creek crossing expanded considerably in the one day we were up and itll probably get wider with runoff. Still lots of snow up high. JsinDeAZ  2  2      
2011-04-13 Just letting everyone know that the first 1/4 to 1/2 mile of the Nellie Creek Road is plowed and that much of it is passible for 4WD with good tires. Hey it cuts a mile off of the hike right now..... More to follow in the coming weeks. PKelley         
2011-04-02 Henson Creek Road is plowed and dry a short way past Nellie Creek. The 4wd Nellie Creek Road is still snowpacked. pioletski         
2010-12-12 For access to Uncompahgre Peak, County Rd 20 (Henson Creek Rd) is driveable to County Rd 23 (Nellie Creek/4WD road) as of Dec. 13, 2010. I was told this road is plowed throughout the winter (to the Nellie Creek turnoff) however, they don‘t plow it on weekends. globreal         
2010-10-15 Bone dry without a trace of snow as of 10/14 & 10/15. Zero snow at 12K‘ and light snow at 13K‘ on Uncompahgre. timf         
2010-09-17 After reading about the road up to the Uncompaghre TH, we were concerned that our RAV 4 wouldn‘t make it, but we had absolutely no trouble and made it all the way. Other vehicles at the top - 4Runner, Tacoma, Highlander, Tundra (it was a Toyota party), and 2 Jeep Cherokees. As we were driving down a Chevy Blazer was going up. I felt there were several places to pull over in case you meet someone going opposite way. Glad we didn‘t have to hike that extra 8 miles! tlee83         
2010-07-17 Road is easily passable to the upper trailhead with 4x4 and decent clearance. Any stock 4WD with clearance should have no trouble getting to the top. FCSquid         
2010-06-18 Clear to the top. Two stream crossings weren‘t too high. According to a local the level peaked about a week and a half ago and is declining now. Pretty rough for a CRV but it is possible. :-) unclegar         
2010-05-22 Same as 5/16 report. Able to drive to within 1.5 miles of summer TH. Beyond this the road is impassable due to snow, dirt slides and rockfall. highplaces  2       
2010-05-16 Nellie Creek is dry until ~1-1.5 miles from the summer TH. Approximately 1.7 miles up from Henson Road, there is a wide, but shallow, creek crossing. After the road forks at 2.3 miles, there are receding, passable snow drifts. After ~2.8 miles, snow drifts sporadically cover the road making it impassable both because of the drifts and rockfall. JosephG         
2010-04-16 Henson creek road is open to the Nellie Creek 2WD trailhead. Nellie Creek 4WD road is still snow-covered and vehicles must park at the bottom. There were some long, rough sections along the 4WD road, so snowmobiles will also have a tough time right now. We were able to carefully ride the sleds 2.5 miles up the road. BillMiddlebrook  1       

July 2008 – typical section of Nellie Creek Road (Added by: majordan on 2009-06-03)July 2008 – switchback are kind of tight (Added by: majordan on 2009-06-03)July 2008 – creek crossing (Added by: majordan on 2009-06-03)Trailhead parking.   The Subaru made it OK.   Don‘t know how though. (Added by: majordan on 2009-06-03)The 2WD Trailhead. There is a restroom 100 yards up the road. (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2010-04-16)The start of the Nellie Creek 4WD road. (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2010-04-16)Nellie Creek TH in spring (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2010-09-05)

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