American Basin Trailhead
Info

Location

San Juan Mountains
37.92028° N, -107.51639° W
14ers: Handies Peak
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Road Difficulty

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.

Driving 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.

More Info

Important Notes: Due to inaccuracies, do not use Google/Apple Maps directions to get to the American Basin trailhead. Please use the instructions on the trailhead page.
Status Updates 
  
Posted By: HikesInGeologicTime
Info: Summer conditions. Made it to the American Basin turnoff in a 2015 Subaru Outback with M/S tires that are 57,000 miles into their estimated 60,000-mile lifespan, then proceeded up and over Cinnamon Pass. Having a spotter was very helpful for the last half mile to Animas Forks, if anyone wants to take a shortcut to or from 550.
 
Posted By: Jnaffy
Info: Easy road. Only one spot that takes any knowledge of lines. Never needed 4wd. Stock wrangler
 
Posted By: kspitzer1987
Info: Took a stock F-150 with crew cab and long bed up this with no issues. As long as you have a decent idea what you’re doing off road, you’ll have no issues in something with good ground clearance. Shorter wheelbase will be of benefit on this trail, but even with my long wheelbase, I didn’t scrape, though I did have to carefully choose my line a few times. Stream crossing is very minor and any vehicle can make it across. Fun drive up from Lake City, but definitely DON’T try this road in a car. Unless you’re coming from west of Handies, ignore google maps if it tries to take you any way other than the directions on 14ers.com from Lake City. Follow the 14ers.com directions and you’ll be golden.
 
Posted By: barryfagin
Info: The instructions to the trailhead are exactly right, trust them and you’ll be fine. Ignore Google Maps if it tells you something different. Pavement ends on County Road 30 after five miles or so, turns to gravel, then pretty dramatically turns to 4WD as you pass through some sort of abandoned quarry or construction site. The last seven miles are pretty rough. Took me about an hour and a half from Lake City.

I made it to the trailhead in my 4WD Subaru Impreza, but I wish I hadn’t attempted it as I bottomed out a few times, desipte being as slow and careful over the tricky spots as I could. I saw cars parked at the American Basin turnoff that were even less suited to the road than mine, but I still regret the decision. Maybe I’m just more hung up about the condition of my car than they were. Remember that 4WD for a trailhead designation also implies the need for high clearance. Another inch or two on my car and I would have felt a lot better. Next time I’ll rent a jeep in town or something more off-roadish from a rental car agency.

Conditions at the trailhead were excellent, given the concerns above about getting there. I arrived at 0730 to find plenty of parking, dry conditions.
 
Posted By: jordanthebuff
Info: Definitely need highish 4WD, but this road is no worse than other 4WD roads to 14er trailheads. Its about 4 miles from the Grizzly Gulch/Silver Creek trailhead to American Basin and the cutoff is very obvious. We ended up parking just after turning onto the American Basin road. We could have driven all the way up, but we were looping the Handies southwest slopes and the east slopes, so we’d need to get back to the car eventually anyways. If your car can make it up to the American Basin road, you can make it too the trailhead. Neither creek crossing (first on the CR30 and second on the American Basin road) was deep and could be passed in any vehicle at this point in the summer. I though the toughest sections of road were about 1/2 - 3/4 mile past Grizzly gulch and then again about 1/2 mile before the American basin road. I was driving a stock 2016 Nissan Rogue and I would say any Subaru or crossover/mini SUV could make it to the trailhead. I would say this road is comparable to the Mt Huron road above Winfield.

There is some great camping in and around the Grizzly Gulch TH. We found a spot 0.4 miles past there. If you are only doing Handies, then you could camp closer to the American Basin TH as there were plenty of spots the entire length between Grizzly Gulch and American Basin THs.
 
Posted By: Schuck
Info: Question - can I make the drive on CO 30 from Lake San Cristobal to the lower trailhead in a Honda Odyssey? Don’t have our Suburban on this trip and not sure how far I could get in the van. Plan to drive to the lower trailhead and hike the extra ~1 mile to the upper trailhead, if possible.
 
Posted By: mwhat
Info: Directions on the trailhead page are from Lake City. Are Google Maps directions accurate, if coming from Silverton?
 
Posted By: Tim Fab
Info: Does anyone know what to expect from the road condition this Tuesday afternoon 7/28? Given all the rain and the flash flood warning issued for Monday I am wondering if the road is at risk of wash-outs or if the creek crossing will be too high for a Subaru.
 
Posted By: aseamans
Info: Just a question: how does the route look going up 30 from Lake City to the TH? Is the creek at Cleveland Gulch pretty nasty or doable? We have a stock 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and are looking to drive up there to do Handies. Any info or advice would be much appreciated.
 
Posted By: E_A_Marcus_949
Info: I didn’t drive this but walked it back from Handies TH to Grizzly Gulch. There are a few tough spots but saw one Subaru Crosstrek that made it to about 11,400’; the rest of the cars at the upper trailhead were trucks, 4runners, ATVs, razers, lifted SUVs, etc. Too many vehicles were parked on the tundra, grass, and flowers. Honestly most of the road was well maintained - if you know how to pick your lines you’d be able to make it somewhat far. The roughest part seemed to be near the upper trailhead. Attached are photos of the two creek crossing (horizontal is first; vertical is second, closest to upper TH - Subaru I mentioned before made it right past this second creek crossing).
 
Posted By: Ugaboo4
Info: The trailhead is only 20 miles south of lake city but takes about 1.5 hours to get to the trailhead. Highly recommend 4 wheel drive. The first 10 miles are not bad but the last 10 are definitely off-road conditions. Once you take a left to approach the American Basin TH, there are plenty of spots to pull off and park. We had no problem crossing the stream yesterday. We have a Jeep Rubicon and has no problem getting to the end of the trailhead. Beautiful spot to camp. The views are breathtaking! Summer conditions!
 
Posted By: hogantheepic
Info: Drove up this road after dark on the 19th, couldn’t tell where the actual trailhead was. Camped out, and in the morning, ended up hiking about a half mile to the trailhead. Everyone else besides 2 cars ended up parking where we were parked and hiked the extra half mile to the trailhead as well. Oops!

Road should probably have 4WD only (they always say 4WD recommended for some reason) because there are some spots where you might have trouble otherwise. Also, high clearance would make it a lot safer for your car.
 
Posted By: CougarOwl+53
Info: Just a question about road size in the final stretch to American Basin. Is that road wide enough for a full sized pickup, or would I be better off bringing my family up in a smaller, more maneuverable Ford Explorer? I would prefer the full sized as I would be bringing my daughters and the extra room would be useful. Thanks. New to this site. It is amazing and is answering most of my questions.
 
Posted By: Rcole
Info: The upper parking lot in American Basin is clear and open. The route from Ouray (Corkscrew, California Pass, Animas Forks, Cinnamon Pass) is clear and in good shape.
 
Posted By: mtnmaneric
Info: The road to Cinnamon Pass is open, including the turnoff to American Basin, however there are a number of large snowbanks covering the road up to the upper TH.
1 
Posted By: Squirrellysquirrel
Info: A rogue individual cut the bolt to the American Basin TH earlier last week allowing a moderate amount of traffic into the area. Hayduke does indeed live in the hearts of others, you could say. I’ve been informed that opening this area is an orchestrated event with the S San Juans to ensure that all roads are contiguous from one side to the other so that if someone is in an OHV, they won’t get stuck without gas or encounter a post-winter, gnarly road experience. American Basin closure has since been rebolted and will be closed until probably June 1 (it’s usu opening date). Double check status today: it’s indeed closed and the campgrounds that surround are packed to the gills.
 
Posted By: Tim A
Info: Gate just above Grizzly Gulch still locked for snow clearing. Walked the road to the American Basin/Cinammon split and its 100% free of snow so the county may open it any day. Creek crossing manageable on foot. This does add 4 miles each way and about 1000 of extra gain to any climbs of Handies or American peak.

Did not go further into American basin than the 2wd th where continuous snow starts. The north face couloirs on American are in. Did not climb today so cant comment on snow quality.
1 
Posted By: sunny1
Info: Dry. No show or ice to contend with on the roads or on Handies & 13,795.
4WD & clearance are necessary to get to the upper TH.
There is parking 0.2 mi below, saw a Subaru and a few trucks parked there.
 
Posted By: wolfgangstiller
Info: Cinnamon Pass Road is clear from Lake City to American Basin TH. Parts require high clearance. Last .9 mile to TH is 4WD but a high clearance 2wd could make it to the turn off.
 
Posted By: Dayute
Info: Made it to TH in stock 4wd Tacoma. Big shelf near top of the hill looks like a low-clearance killer. I’d park at the creek crossing if you don’t have the clearance. Attaching a pic.
1 
Posted By: DixieFlyer
Info: Per Hinsdale County Office of Emergency Mgt:

CINNAMON PASS/CR 20 UPDATE
Road closures have been moved from the summit of Cinnamon Pass to below American Basin. American Basin is accessible by driving over Engineer Pass (CR 20 from Lake City).
 
Posted By: kevidently
Info: This info affects multiple peaks/trailheads, so sorry if you see this posted multiple times, just wanted to share some info about County Road 30. We hiked Redcloud & Sunshine on Sat 8/3. Some rain had started just before we got back to the car around 130p. As we drove down CR 30 the weather got worse. Nothing like being on a narrow exposed mountain road that is covered in running water, with lightning and hail all around, and baseball sized rocks rolling onto the road. We got through it but just barely, apparently about 15 minutes after we got through several rockslides came down and people were trapped between the slides and also trapped up above closer to Silver Creek TH. I know they sent up excavation crews and were able to clear out some of the road, and some people were able to get down the road that night, but I still don’t know what happened to the people further up (anyone have info?). Anyways, as of Sat afternoon there were emergency crew and sheriff blocking traffic from going up CR 30, but not sure about current conditions. You may want to call ahead before you head out that way to make sure trailhead access is OK.
 
Posted By: davidboron
Info: Be prepared to tromp thru some slushy snow fields. Some areas are hard packed and you can walk atop the snow, most are slushy. Clamp-ons not necessary unless you’re more comfortable with the sure footedness. Route clear above 13000.
 
Posted By: HikerGuy
Info: Hiked American, Jones and Niagara from 2wd TH. Drove road with Hyundai Santa Fe. The worst part of drive in is the pot-holed pavement section around Lake San Cristobal. The shelf road portion of the road is in great shape, in fact the road is good shape all the way to the 2wd trailhead which is just past the Cinnamon Pass turnoff. Road is clear and dry with evidence of avalanches everywhere. It looks like every slope slide this past spring, just amazing. Two large slides have covered the road to the 4wd TH. You can cross the creek and park (I did not), but can’t go much further than that. Snow bridge was still in place below the creek crossing. If that one melts out, you can hike up further to another snow bridge in order to avoid wading the creek.

Photo 1 - View from creek crossing, space for parking on other side, road blocked couple of hundred yards beyond.
Photo 2 - Snow bridge between 2wd parking and creek crossing. Still solid. Another bridge is further up.
Photo 3 - First snow slide remnant covering 4wd road.
Photo 4 - Second snow slide remnant covering 4wd road.
Photo 5 - View of American Basin from atop American Peak.
5 
Posted By: Boomer68
Info: Did Handies via Grizzly Gulch yesterday. Afterwards drove up to American Basin. Made it about 50 feet past first creek crossing and hit a large snow field. Not possible to go any farther. Note, it looks there is still way to much snow to do this route without spikes/snow shoes.
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