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    
2014-07-02 I drive a Jeep G.C.L. with pretty beefy Tires, clearance is good as it gets for Stock. Made it up just fine, but I would caution any lower clearance vehicles that the 2 river crossings are not for the faint of heart. If you get them at the higher times (5-10 pm.) You‘ll have to negotiate a rock in the middle that is tricky. After that you are good. Please remember the person going Uphill has the right of way. Please pass this knowledge on for other Jeep Trails as the increase in people renting and riding is getting dangerous at times. I was up here on a Tuesday/Wednesday and saw a ton of vehicles. So summer is on, and that‘s fine, just keep safe. Nellie Creek T.H.‘s Bathroom is NOT open though, lot‘s of bugs up there too as it‘s right on the Creek. Take your Bug repellent or you‘ll be sorry. Love Uncompahgre Peak!! Dunston540  2       
2014-06-27 Nellie Creek is clear all the way to the TH. Rough ride, but easy in high-clearance 4WD vehicles. BTW the toilets up there are closed an apparently about to get torn down per the notice on the door. Bring your shovel and TP if you camp! samburg         
2014-06-12 Road is rough and not passable beyond 2 miles. Nellie Creek is very, very high. SJ Ron  San Juan Ron    4      
2014-04-20 Winter closure still in effect (minus the first 20‘ of dry road). First 0.5 mile patchy deep snow with many dry spots. Mostly dry for next mile. Then after 1.5 miles continuous snow. Stream crossing are... sporting! bergsteigen         
2013-12-24 Snowplows have put a huge snowbank blocking the start of the Nellie Creek Road. There is a plowed & safe pull-off area just feet away (on the Henson Creek Road) where a couple of cars can park. Eagle Eye         
2013-10-19 Car camped at the start of the Nellie Creek Road start of Henson Rd out of Lake City. No snow at the start. Headed up Nellie Creek Rd 6:30 am. Road was dry past the first creek crossing then had maybe 1 inch to 2 inches of snow on the north facing switchbacks of the road. The 2nd creek crossing was flowing but had lots of ice/snow on the road and around the edges of the water seeing it was easily mid-teens in temp. this morning. My friend‘s Xterra crossed no problem. The last quarter mile had about 4 inches of snow max under tree coverage. We crept slowly slipping in the snowy areas but luckily the road is not steep at all so it was easy to get to the TH. As of yesterday, the road is still very passable all the way to the TH. Get up there soon if you want to still make the TH! The road is not bad at all but would agree a long wheel base vehicle may bottom out on 2 spots where there are small washout ridges in the road. Snow hiked Uncompahgre with success! rambis_21  3       
2013-09-21 DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TAKE ANYTHING OTHER THAN A 4WD HIGH CLEARANCE VEHICLE UP THIS ROAD. Took my friend‘s 2008 Toyota Tundra, V8 Engine, 10" clearance and a 10 1/2 ft wheelbase. As others have reported, big rocks aren‘t the issue, it‘s the perpendicular bumps in the road. So you want to be careful with a large wheelbase vehicle like this one. First stream crossing at 1.9 miles, second at 2.7. Neither were a problem, estimate 4-6" of water maximum. Ironically, the only problem I had was at the trailhead, the last tenth of a mile, because of the long wheelbase there were a couple of bumps where I scraped the runnerboards. If you have a long wheelbase vehicle, park at the first set of spaces at the trailhead (near the toilet), not the last ones, those last few feet aren‘t worth it. Toilet is still closed, presumably for the season. See my Uncompaghre trip report of 9-21-13 for more pictures. barryfagin  3       
2013-09-09 The toilet is permanently closed. Apparently due to "extreme" conditions. maxpika         
2013-09-04 With the heavy rain, the road is getting very difficult. The creek crossings are shallow, but 30ft wide. Lots of large puddles. Overall, I would not attempt the road without a truck-based, high clearance, short wheelbase vehicle. The road is roughly as bad as the Wetterhorn road (hence the cut-and-paste). Much to our amazement, someone did make it up with a Sante Fe but I strongly discourage it. I carted out a mangled 6ft piece of someone‘s bumper when I left. zsmith         
2013-09-01 Drove Nellie Creek in my Explorer with no issues. There has been a lot of rain recently and this has caused large humps in the road that I scraped on behind my back wheels. A shorter vehicle wouldn‘t scrape. I didn‘t bottom out on any rocks. The least 4WD worthy vehicle at the TH was a Honda CRV. Trip up was ~30 min or less. jimmtman         
2013-08-04 Newer 4WD F150. Took 45 minutes or so to cover the four miles of Nellie Creek Road, and bottomed out twice up and twice back. Do *not* take a 2WD or low clearance vehicle. Big rocks generally weren’t the problem. There seemed to be a lot of humps or ridges that ran perpendicular to the road. A jeep or a vehicle w/ shorter wheel base would have had no problem. Exposure was moderate – but really not a big deal – lots of trees on the side of road so it felt safer. Confronted vehicles coming the other way twice (once up, once down) involving some negotiation, but it all worked out without incident or unusual risk. There had been a fair amount of rain recently so some mud but not a big obstacle. The two streams weren’t bad. Maybe eight inches max or less? I’ve taken my truck up American Basin to Handies and now Nellie Creek. Both times I had the same thoughts: “I should have just rented a jeep (like I did for Yankee Boy basin). Yeah, but that’s a hassle/expense and that’s what I have a truck for, besides it’s kind of fun. Yeah, but what if I get a flat tire, do some damage to the truck, suspension, alignment, etc, it will cost more than the cost of a jeep”. Bottom line, if you don’t mind parting w/ $150-$200, get a jeep. But otherwise you’ll probably be fine. Lville  3       
2013-07-10 I drove my stock 1995 Suburban high clearance 4WD to the upper Nellie Creek trailhead on July 9th, 2013. For years I thought the Suburban\‘s long wheelbase will have problems on tight switchbacks. No, folks, you can drive just about anything to the trailhead, provided you have enough clearance. 2WD or 4WD does not make any difference. If you are not afraid to hit bottom you probably can get a Prius up there (if you\‘re tall enough to cross the two streams) On July 9 and 10 the stream crossing is no problem at all. The water was perhaps ankle deep. On July 9, there was a Isuzu Trooper, 2 Jeeps, 1 Ford F150 truck and my Suburban at the trailhead. On 10th there were 4 Suburbans! I am not kidding. I have enclosed a picture to show you. So, drive your big SUVs up there. The hiking was EXCELLENT! joetsou  1       
2013-06-29 The road to Nellie Creek is stable. Here‘s an indication of the types of vehicles that can traverse this road: Honda Pilot, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jeep, Tundra, high clearance pick-up trucks. Do not try this in a passenger vehicle. While earlier pictures show a Subaru Outback, my hiking partner did not want to try it in her 2012 Outback and I agree, it would have probably bottomed out a couple times on the way down. While the streams are running, both crossings are shallow and will not give you any problems. Watch the brake usage on the way down; I don‘t know how to avoid hot brakes. I stayed in first gear but had to ride them all the way and ended up stopping twice to let them cool down. trishkaken         
2013-06-17 The Rivers are still raging, but any AWD or 4WD will make it. The trail is 98% free of snow, it‘s ready for the summer. xavier3181         
2013-06-06 Road is clear of snow all the way to the trailhead. The stream crossing are no problem. gregpeak         
2013-05-24 Was able to drive all the way to the upper trailhead in a 4runner. Both creek crossings are raging with water but if you have the clearance they are totally manageable. The only sketchy part is immediately before the second creek crossing. There is some snow on the road that looks like it wants to keep lingering. If you are going toward the trailhead, the left two tires will hit this packed/icy stretch and your two right tires will be in messy mud. Even with some momentum, this slick area will force you downhill toward the creek drop off/off the road. I slipped and had to take a few runs at it both on the way up and down the trailhead. Just be careful and you should be fine. eskermo         
2013-05-04 The road is clear until mile 2.5 at which it is covered in snow until mile 3. The last half mile has regular snow drifts. The rest of the road is dry and easily walkable, however, a vehicle won‘t make it past mile 2.5. The picture is what is enountered at mile 2.5. It probably needs another 3-4 weeks of warm temps before the Nellie Creek TH is reachable by fully Stevo  1       
2012-10-18 made it all the way up in a stock suv in 2wd. no snow daver         
2012-10-02 Took me about 45 min to drive the 4 miles from the Alpine Loop (Henson Creek Road) to the upper trailhead in my 06 4Runner with mud tires. Road was dry with low water levels at stream crossings. This trail has a number of tight switchbacks and blind curves, with only a few pullouts for passing oncoming traffic. There are also alot of dirt benches and some fairly large rocks that require higher clearance. Doug62         
2012-09-05 Drove up to the TH in a Nissan Frontier 4WD. Except for a few spots and the creek crossings the road was dry. I would suggest that anyone who doesn‘t have a high clearance 4WD vehicle should expect some damage to the vehicle if they attempt to get up to the TH. I have a 2006 Toyota Highlander and I would not take it up this road. The other 2 vehicles at the trail head the night before and when we got back to the TH were all high clearance vehicles. Mountain Tim         
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 4wd‘s 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 it‘s dry, go slow in low gear, and try not to make any stops along the way. I was lucky that I didn‘t 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 would‘ve 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 wouldn‘t 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      

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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