South Colony Lakes Trailhead


Road Difficulty

Moderate 4WD, long wheel base vehicles not recommended. Good clearance required. 4   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
Easy 2WD dirt to the lowest trailhead. 4WD (high-clearance required) dirt to the upper trailhead.

Driving Directions

Take Colorado 69 south from Westcliffe. Drive 4.5 miles and turn right on Colfax Lane. Drive 5.5 miles to the end of Colfax. Turn right and drive 1 mile on a dirt road to a junction. Continue straight up the 120 Road for 0.3 mile to the Lower 2WD Trailhead at 8,800'. To reach the Upper 4WD Trailhead, continue 2.7 miles to parking/camp spots before the first river crossing, near 9,950'. In 2009, the South Colony Lakes road was permanently closed here (gate) and this is the current trailhead. The trail starts next to the trailhead kiosk, in the parking area.

Winter Access

Usually closed near the lower TH at the bottom of the road.
Status Updates 
Posted By: WildWanderer
Info: Lower trailhead free of snow and easily accessible with a 2WD vehicle. Snow starts at lower trailhead however, and is impassable from there to 4WD vehicles. Bring your snowmobile to go further.
Posted By: angry
Info: Dry, no problem getting to upper 4wd th.
Posted By: Moogie737
Info: Drove the 4WD road up on September 29th. From the 2WD TH it took us 53 minutes. My 2003 Mitsubishi Montero made it scraping only one time. I was grateful for my partner’s driving skills. On October 1st we made the tortuous descent and I took my turn. With careful and slow driving we made it without any undercarriage noises whatsoever. It took us one hour 5 minutes to drive down. My owner’s manual lists clearance on the Montero at 8.6 inches. Used low 4WD all the way both up and down.
Posted By: hipscaper
Info: rough road, made it up in a 96 4runner with AT tires. a few nervous spots but did not bottom out at all. 4 - Low pretty much the whole time.
Posted By: arthurspiderman
Info: Made it up in an AWD Honda CR-V without much difficulty. The only challenge was 0.8 miles past the 2WD TH where it low traction + steep + big rocks. Once I found that clearance wasn’t an issue it was easy to floor it and make it past the obstacle. I’m a fairly inexperienced driver and I never was too scared about damaging my vehicle. Anything with 8+ inches of clearance should be able to easily make it.

Tons of Suburus/similar cars parked at the 2WD TH (none at the upper) when they could absolutely make it up to the upper TH without any chance of scrapping.
Posted By: HPIvelocity97
Info: As in previous post, road is snow free all the way to the 4WD trailhead.

For general awareness, I had no issues driving a 2020 Silverado Trail Boss (Z71). Definitely appreciated the 10.8" of ground clearance as I didn’t have to be too careful choosing a line. For those wondering "how bad is it", here’s my general take:

1. You’ll know in the first .25 miles after the 2WD trail head if you really want to take your vehicle further. There are really only two other "tricky" sections after this, but there are somewhat limited "bailout areas" due to private property restrictions and crowds on weekends.

2. Clearance and/or skidplates are a must...if you want to avoid vehicle damage. At 10.8" of clearance I never touched my skid plates, but I would say easily doable in a vehicle with 8" clearance too. I did see a Ford Escape at the 4WD trailhead after all.

3. 4WD--I did the first mile or so in 4High, but switched to 4Low after that and mostly in 2nd gear (on the uphill) just to make it easy.

4. Bailout areas--make a mental note of bailout areas or alternate lines as there’s a decent chance you’ll hit two way traffic on the weekend. On the way down, we ran into 2 vehicles in one of the tricky spots, but common courtesy and good spotters amongst all parties made this a non-issue.

5. ATV? Normally, I take an ATV on a road like this mainly because it’s significantly faster and, I would argue, more fun. So if you have one, I’d say use it and you’ll be happier for it. But is an ATV required, definitely not.

Happy trails!
Posted By: k_fergie
Info: Road is snow free all the way. Additionally, I didn’t know this in advance, but I assume its common knowledge by now, the infamous drain pipe has been removed
Posted By: Herbert
Info: Made it to the 4WD trailhead today in an unlifted 2015 Jeep Wrangler, 32 AT tires, manual transmission. There was much more snow than I expected. I had to drop into 1st gear 4-lo twice to clear steep gnarly humps. 2d gear 4-lo is normally where I hang out. No dragging. Honestly I dont know if all the slipping and sliding made it worse or cushioned the ride.
Posted By: SanJuanShaun
Info: Just made it up the road in a stock Subaru Forester. Like, literally just now. It can be done. But I wouldnt recommend it.
Also, for the record the South Colony Lakes trailhead has solid cell/LTE coverage (AT&T).
Posted By: irolhiking
Info: I drove up to the last parking lot at the TH. 8/25 in a Rubicon with a 3 inch lift & it was not a problem at all. But can’t imagine doing it in anything less than a jeep or truck. First time on this road so I can’t say if its worse than prior years.
Posted By: irolhiking
Info: I drove up to the last parking lot at the TH. 8/25 in a Rubicon with a 3 inch lift & it was not a problem at all. But can’t imagine doing it in anything less than a jeep or truck. First time on this road so I can’t say if its worse than prior years.
Posted By: LetsGoMets
Info: Nothing to add on conditions, but noting that we saw a bear on the road between the lower and upper TH (closet to the lower) in the early morning.
Posted By: zsmith
Info: The road has become extremely rough. Truck-based vehicles and pickups will have a challenging drive, but most will make it with a lot of jostling. A 4-Runner next to us ’hit lots’ according to a passenger and suffered a fuel leak. Depending on how much damage you’re willing to cause your vehicle, a Subaru *might* be able to make it with very careful spotting, but it’s hard for me to imagine. We were in a lifted XTerra with skid plates and made it fine with careful maneuvering. On the good side, the bottom of the road has become so bad that you’ll know within a few minutes whether it’s too much for your vehicle. It only gets worse, so don’t think you’re out of the woods if you barely make it the first 1/2 mile.
Posted By: BethL
Info: I made it up the road this Sunday in a stock 2000 Dodge Dakota. This was my 3rd (and plan for it to be my last!) trip up this road over the past 5 years, and this is definitely the worst shape it’s been. There are several obstacles about a 1/2 mile up from the 2WD trailhead. I waited while 3 4Runners came down this section as we were headed up. They were going slow with spotters and the drivers looked stressed when they passed. We went slow and got through without bottoming out, but this section will quickly tell you if you should keep going.

The rest of the road definitely requires attention and careful driving, but there was only one more obstacle 1.25 miles from the 4WD trailhead that required spotting. This is the crux of the road. There are some pictures from other posters (I failed to take one) but the ruts are deeper than what you see in posts from earlier this year. We went up driver’s right on the way up, and down driver’s right on the way down. In hindsight, probably should have stayed Left up/Right down going the same path both directions due to the ruts on the right. It took two tries to get over this section on the way up, with a spotter.

Never bottomed out on any spot, but thanks to the very bumpy ride one of my exhaust hangers broke. Thankfully not drive-ending damage, but worth the warning that you don’t always have to hit something to cause some damage. ;)

Also be prepared for a LOT of traffic. We were heading up around 3:30pm on Saturday, and stopped every .25-.5 miles due to other vehicles coming down (passed at least 10). On our way down Sunday evening (7pm) we still encountered 4 vehicles heading up. Keep an eye out for pullover spots as you’ll most likely need to use them. While everyone attempted to honor the right of way for the vehicle heading up, be kind and backup to the nearest passable spot regardless of which vehicle you are, especially if you’re in the easier terrain.
Posted By: Ev_p303
Info: Drove to the upper trailhead yesterday in a stock 4runner SR5 and honestly would not do it again. Some better tires would have probably helped but there were 3 spots going down that were very tricky and required spotting. I honestly don’t know how anyone could drive this in a Subaru it was very rough.
Posted By: abbie_sunshine
Info: We rented a Jeep Wrangler to get up this road and were so happy we did. It felt easier to go up the road than come down. There were a few pretty big holes that took some thought and negotiation, so I appreciated the clearance of the Jeep. I don’t know how anything with less clearance would be able to get up to the upper trailhead, but on the way down we saw a Subaru giving it a try.
Posted By: litote312
Info: Got a 2018 Subaru Outback to the 4wd trailhead. Having a spotter was very helpful. Fortunately a few of the hardest spots are early on so youll know if you can make it up before committing too much.
Posted By: LoveThisSite
Info: Road is in much worse shape than previous years. I managed to drive my Subaru Forester up all the way (with winter tires) but it was very sketchy. I had to use every bit of my driving skill (with a bit of help spotting) to get past 3 particularly tough spots. Pickup trucks, Wranglers, 4Runners should be fine.
Posted By: davedad
Info: Recent torrential rains have made the road tougher. Made the drive in a stock Tacoma but it required care and spotting in 1 place. Unless you really wanted to shorten the life of your car only drive this if you have good clearance.
Posted By: Clint the climber
Info: The road is rowdy. I managed to get my 2008 stock 4runner to the trailhead without bottoming out. I spun in multiple places even in 4low and just had to send it to get through a couple of spots. I had my partners get out and spot me in multiple places as well. You’ll need some courage to get up this road, don’t even think about driving it if you’re a hesitant driver. We saw a Subaru Outback up there and another car very similar to the outback, both had obvious damage.
Posted By: LetsGoMets
Info: Pretty rough, was in a buddies stock Grand Cherokee who made it without any bottoming out but needed a couple spotter moments. Saw a Subaru up there but personally would not do that.
Posted By: Pedro F
Info: Drove a stock 4D Wrangler with stock road tires (#rental). No problems at all with clearance, but there was a spot on the inbound right before public lands began where my wheels slipped, even though I was in 4L. Had to back down ~15’ then take a mild run at it with my buddy spotting me, then made it past there no prob. There were a couple of other places where a spotter is a plus, but not required. Not sure how / why anyone would want to drive a Subie up there, but I saw a couple along the way. Overall, was a fun drive. Most annoying part was that the hiking trail (old road) after the gate closure didn’t seem much worse to me than what the condition was to the TH; wish they’d never closed it at 9,950’...
Posted By: ellenmseb
Info: FYI, the *lower* trailhead is accessible to any car. no clearance needed for 2wd TH. I have access to an outback and civic, took the outback because there were no reports about lower TH, but could’ve taken the Civic.

Upper trailhead needs 4WD as others have said, not Outback-able.

Full at 4am, parked on road.

Got a hitch from the 3rd truck I tried.
Posted By: jslove1
Info: Its impressive to me that people rally Subarus up to the 4x4 TH. I drove up last night in a stock 4x4 old Tacoma. I didnt have any problems, but its rowdy. I gave up and parked at the Rainbow TH but the last bit of the road might be the easiest (I learned upon walking it this morning). Anyway, that road will definitely shorten the life of your car, unless you drive a proper offroad rig. I picked up a CV boot walking down the road..
Posted By: 7Below
Info: Took my stock 2013 Outback 3.6r all the way to 4wd trailhead without much difficulty. Had to take it slow and really assess which line to take. Would not recommend it if you are not an experienced driver. Definitely a few spots where you could easily scrape or get stuck.

Otherwise, was a fun drive and only one area that was dicey. About 3/4 of the way up the road, large holes. I attached a photo coming down this spot (doesn’t do it justice). Looking up, I took the right side on my way down. When I was driving up, I took it to the left.

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