American Basin Trailhead
Added by BillMiddlebrook

Location:  San Juan Mountains
14ers Served:  Handies Peak
Road Type:  Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
Rough 2WD dirt to 10,400’ at the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch TH. Easy 4WD to 11,300’ at the turn-off for American Basin. 4WD to 11,600’ at the TH.
Directions:  From Lake City, drive 2 miles south on Colorado 149 and turn right on the Lake San Cristibol road (County Road 30). This is the southern entrance to the "Alpine Loop" scenic byway. Follow the signs to Cinnamon Pass. Drive about 20 miles to a signed fork in the road. Left is to American Basin and right is to Cinnamon Pass. Turn left. If you do not have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance, park in the pull-offs near the start of this road. It’s 0.9 mile to the trailhead from the start of the American Basin road. After 0.2 mile, cross a stream which can be fairly deep in spring. If you don’t feel comfortable driving through the water, there are some parking spots in the area. Continue to the end of the road where you’ll find a large parking area and marked trail.
Winter Access:  Closed far below the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch TH.
14er Trailheads on Google Maps
Date Status Information Posted By  Photos  Comments Likes Dislikes    
2013-07-19 Drove a Ford Focus Wagon to the American Basin/Cinnamon Pass junction and probably could have further, but it was late and dark and we wanted to get to sleep. The stream crossing is pretty shallow. The road from the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch TH gets slightly worse, but taking it slow and a little confidence will get you far. jefwerner         
2013-07-11 Road is in good shape as far as a 4wd road goes. We saw a variety of vehicles at the trail head, but all were 4wd. The wildflowers are looking great! My-Therapy         
2013-05-23 The road is blocked by a snow drift about a quarter mile from the trailhead. There is plenty of parking where the road is blocked. gregpeak         
2013-05-02 Open to AB as of 5 PM today. SJ Ron San Juan Ron         
2012-10-30 Bone dry all the way to AB TH. Road is in good condition. SJ Ron San Juan Ron    1      
2012-09-16 My 8.7 inch clearance AWD Subaru Outback made it completely up the road to the TH with careful and slow driving. After leaving the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch trailhead, the road is pretty rough in some spots. The road description states that it is an easy 4WD to 11,300‘ at the turn off for American Basin, but I would disagree. There are some spots where low-clearance vehicles may have difficulty getting over rocks. I would not suggest any low clearance (2WD or 4WD) should attempt this road unless you are a very careful and smart driver who is aware of the possible difficulties. Once past the American Basin turnoff at 11,300‘ it is definitely still difficult (photos #1 & #2). The creek crossing (photo #3) isn‘t very deep so it‘s not bad at all. Best bet if you want to approach this TH is to find a good clearance 4WD car if possible. See attached photos and video (video is from the "easy 4WD" section): aliciaf  3       
2012-09-03 Road is pretty tame except for last .9 miles. Last bit is pretty rocky and slow going however I didn‘t scrape anywhere on my 2008 Stock Jeep Commander. Creek crossing was much easier than Castle Creek. For a time reference in case you are planning your early morning starts: From Silver Creek up to American Basin took me 40 mins. I don‘t drive super fast and not super slow. For reference the smallest rig I saw all the way at the TH was a Toyota Rav 4 late model. Titan         
2012-09-03 We came over from Ouray, turned onto CR18 from Hwy 550. This route starts out with 7 miles of very rough 4WD. We have a stock Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited-4D. Do Not attempt this route if you do not have 4WD experience. The road is very narrow and exposed to sheer cliffs. I would recommend taking an ATV instead. We left early in the morning and did not encounter anyone on the road, but we would have had to back up as there is no way to pass on long sections of this route. There are many tight switchbacks and big rocks to drive over, and a few blind corners. After 7 miles we turned south on CR2 to the turn off for Cinnamon Pass. This section was rough 4WD with a few points where you must go over large rocks, but its much easier than the first 7 miles on CR18. It took 2 hours to reach American Basin from Ouray. The final 0.9 mile to the trail head is easy with a 4WD vehicle. roaringriz         
2012-09-03 I got bumped to a Chev 4x4 due to the busy weekend so I decided to make the drive up. The road to Grizzly gulch/Silver Creek really isn‘t too bad. There were a couple of little washouts but the heavy equipment was out working on it. At the Cinnimon pass/American Basin split I made the left. There is a busted tin horn that starts the "bad" section. That horn looks like its itching to bust a tire with its jagged edge. Somehow on labor day I was the only vehicle, but the lot is really nice and could fit probably 15 cars. The road isn‘t really any worse than the road before it, maybe a few steeper drops but not much. Word to the wise for campers at the trail head, the shrews and chipmunks in the camping area adjacent to the lot are HORRIBLE. They kept me up at night scratching at my tent even though I didn‘t have food. A shrew made it into my tent somehow and after escorting him out I noticed he had crapped all over the inside of my tent and my drinking cup which was outside. It‘s pretty obvious the day trippers in the atv‘s and buggies feed them, they know humans equal food. I got little sleep that night, however the basin is beautiful. Marty369         
2012-08-29 Not sure I would attempt this in a 2wd. The road is actively being worked on, but there are some really rough spots, even with my Tacoma. There was 1 2wd vehicle at the Grizzly Gulch Trailhead, and to be honest, I don‘t know how they made it. It gets a little rougher in spots past Grizzly Gulch, then mellows out a little bit. I heard from someone in another Tacoma that the road over Cinnamon pass from Silverton is in good condition, but can‘t vouch for that myself. julharris3         
2012-07-27 Drove into American Basin from Silverton on July 27. The Cinnamon Pass road is in good shape from Silverton to American Basin, with the normal small rock outcroppings being easily navigated through once you see the tracks. The creek crossing on the road to the TH is easily crossed - the north bank isn‘t as steep as it looks. All handled very well in my Patriot. There was a Ford Focus parked along the TH access road before the creek crossing that came up the road from Lake City. Assuming one drives the road with care, a car with at least the clearance and capability of a Focus should be able to get up from Lake City. Tony1         
2012-07-16 Road to American Basin should not be attempted with a passenger car despite all published documents indicating it is safe. The road is becoming severely washed out with large boulders and occasional drop offs now being exposed. It was rough in my 4x4 truck. Just last week, the largest rock slide since ‘38 totally wiped out several sections. These are now open. The increase in traffic has made navigating the most narrow parts of the shelf hazardous. When I return to climb sunshine and redcloud, I will rent an ATV. colifestyle         
2012-07-07 See my comment on the SC/GG TH. Same applies to AB if you are coming up from Lake City via CR 30. San Juan Ron         
2012-06-01 Clear all the way to TH with 4 wheel drive vehicle. hiker55         
2012-05-26 Not much of the snow left. I think a jeep could squeeze by. I almost got back into my Expedition to give it a try. You can see the what remains of the last snow on the road in this photo. mzamp  1       
2012-05-20 AB TH is good to go just past the creek. Still blocked by snow about .5 out from the TH proper... Geof3         
2012-05-19 The Road leading up to the Upper TH is still blocked by snow right after crossing the river. xavier3181         
2012-05-12 Road is still blocked by snow just past the creek crossing. carson_h         
2012-05-01 Cinnamon Pass is open from Lake City to Silverton. A bit muddy and potholed in a few places, but the road is in generally good condition considering it was just opened. Opened 3-4 weeks earlier than usual. Increased runoff over the next couple weeks could increase the mud especially around the AB turnoff and Cinnamon Pass from the AB turnoff to Animas Forks. American Basin is still holding a fair bit of snow although only a fraction of last year. SJ Ron San Juan Ron         
2012-04-29 I‘ll just add that the road is clear to just past the creek crossing if you want to go that far. There is space for 4-6 vehicles if needed. bhaydin         
2012-04-26 Clear all the way to the Lake Fork which is in American Basin and around 1/3 mile from the Cinnamon Pass Road. Only muddy and a bit of snow once you hit the trees which are roughly 1 mile from the American Basin turnoff. San Juan Ron    1      
2011-09-25 Drove up from Lake City 9/24. No snow or ice yet. Stream crossing ~3-4 inches. Above the stream its 4WD for sure. Below the stream I had my stock 4Runner in 4WD the last 1/2 -1 mile. Agree with other posts that suggest its atleast high clearance 2WD below the stream, but that being said, driving out today there was a Saturn wagon that had made it to the stream... coloradomojo         
2011-09-06 Attempted American Basin from Ouray, via US 550 (Million Dollar Road) to Silverton, then Rt 2 to Cinnamon Pass. Total transit to final west side ascent of Cinnamon Pass was 36 miles/75 minutes. Pass though the center of Silverton to the end of town, then branch right on Rt 2. The first 2 miles are paved, then 6 miles of excellent graded road, then 3.4 miles of rough 4WD road (11.4 miles total from Silverton) to the Cinnamon Pass marked turn-off. This where it gets interesting. Complete a short ascent to the level rest area. After this, the road is narrow, single track with a nasty, deeply rutted area about 100 yards above the level area below. Given the rental GMC Canyon 4WD (Chevy Colorado) I was driving, an all-day rain event, and the consequences of failure, I elected to retreat and try again another day from Lake City. The running ground clearance, approach, departure, and break-over angles; and the wide turning radius of this type of vehicle are not adequate for this route. Safe passage will require a true off-road, high ground clearance vehicle. BTW, off-road Jeeps are readily available in Ouray for $150, plus tax and gas. Bullwinkle         
2011-07-02 Road open all the way to the TH (Summer). Need 4WD. Stream cross OK. When leaving the stream cross exit on the left side is a little more challenging - steeper due to a large rock hidden under water. Irish14er         
2011-06-26 The road to American Basin is open and in good shape all the way to the stream crossing 0.2 miles after the American Basin/Cinnamon Pass fork. Beyond the stream snow banks block the road to the 4WD trail head, but shouldn‘t be long before it‘s accessible. ColoradoSherpa         

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