N. Cottonwood Creek Trailhead


Road Difficulty

2WD, rough dirt road 2   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
Rough 2WD dirt to the TH. It may require 4WD in early summer.

Driving Directions

Turn west on County Road (CR) 350 (Crossman Ave.) near the center of Buena Vista. This road is less than 1/2 mile north of the stoplight in the center of town. Continue on CR 350 for 2 miles and turn right onto CR 361. After almost 1 mile, turn left onto CR 365 (dirt). Continue on this road for over 5 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. Turn right into the wooded parking area which loops around counter-clockwise. The trail starts on the west side of the parking area.

Winter Access

Closed near 9,200 feet - over 3 miles below the TH.
Status Updates 
Posted By: salmanalsaif
Info: Trusted the last TH report and they were right. Easily made it to the TH in my Mazda 3 today 10/18/20. The road isn’t bad at all, took me about 17 minutes to get to the TH.
The restroom is 1.5 miles before the TH to your left, no restrooms at the TH (there’s a sign that says so).
Posted By: mtgoatmike
Info: The beginning of the dirt road has been regraded, completely flat and passable in most vehicles. There were a few bumps and rocks higher up, but they are avoidable. There were all sorts of vehicles parked at the trailhead, including an older model Prius!
Posted By: ncxhjhgvbi
Info: Lots of recent grading work has made this drive a lot easier. I was there on 9/22 and couldnt believe the difference between then and today. My friend made it up to the TH in a cruze about a month ago when it was still rutted out...so should be passable for most if not all 2wds now.
Posted By: tipiman
Info: I would NOT try to drive a car like say...a Pontiac Fiero up to this trail head right now. Rocks and ruts would not allow that! Here is my vid... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ-ylNjXiNU
Posted By: coffbrauhaus
Info: Someone took a grader over the rough gully others mentioned in earlier reports and now it’s completely passable. Still some big rocks, but nothing that was unavoidable.
Posted By: Mzapo
Info: Made it in a dodge charger without bottoming out. Just be careful over the large rut at the beginning, and utilize the large rocks others have put in to make it over. Other than that there’s a few large pot holes that are easy to avoid if vigilant.
Posted By: adventurerunner
Info: Drove in Friday night in my little Prius C. There is one bad spot at the beginning, but with enough rocks stacked in the gap and a good entry line, I made it with little problem. The rest of the road is bad, but nothing a sedan can’t handle with an attentive driver. I didn’t bottom out driving in or out, but I suspect I was close at times.
Posted By: lukeneedsnewsocks
Info: Wading into the debate here on the roughness of the road. First, the "canyon" that is developing near the start of the road continues to worsen and I would argue is nearly impassable by a 2wd sedan with lower clearance. Not impossible, but getting close as it keeps getting cut deeper by vehicles spinning tires to get over it. Same with a few of the other rough spots. Most are up hills and are getting worse due to tires spinning out as they drive up up them. I observed several vehicles do this, but certainly not blaming anyone as I was doing it myself earlier that morning in the dark! I last drove this road 2 years ago and its definitely getting worse. Once you get past Silver Creek trailhead, the road is very smooth. My take is that while I would not risk taking my stock Ford Focus up there, others may feel OK with it if they’re comfortable with rough road driving in a few spots. I think the key is having solid tires. A good amount of sharp rocks up there. Clearance isn’t too big of an issues aside from the "canyon".
Posted By: Brake414er
Info: The road to the North Cottonwood Trailhead is doable for almost any car. The worst section of the road is close to the start, while still in private lands. Beyond that the challenge is the potholes. Take your time, pick your line, and any car can make it. A fair amount of traffic. Very little parking left at the trailhead.
Posted By: Bccrhp
Info: As others have mentioned, there’s one nasty deep cut early on and a few other rugged spots on this road. Anything high-clearance should be fine, and although I wouldn’t risk mine, a Prius made it through seemingly OK.
Posted By: miniarmstrong
Info: Three years ago I made it to the trailhead no trouble in a 2WD sedan. Today though, there was a washed out rut about a mile up the road that I bottomed out on. Thankfully no bad damage but at one point my wheels were spinning helplessly trying to get out of it. My sedan did make it again to the TH but I had I known in advance (should have done my research!) I would have arranged to take a different vehicle.
Posted By: Z slice
Info: Road is definitely getting beat up with all the summer traffic. The one big rut about a mile up the road is not too bad as long as you choose a good line. I aired down my stock Tacoma to make it ride a little better. I was also in 4-Lo for most of it. I saw a Toyota Camry at the top, that person was brave! Several other Subarus and smaller vehicles at the parking lot. AWD highly recommended at a minimum...at the very least it will help preserve the road without having a 2wd sedan spinning their wheels to get up.

Vehicle clearance is only an issue when finding a parking spot in the very busy trailhead. I had to get creative to squeeze between a tree and a Land Rover.
Posted By: Thevirtualsherpa
Info: Just adding a picture of the tough spot per previous reports. Its not a deal breaker (my legacy got up and down with minor scraping) but can see this becoming a problem in future seasons if not filled in.
Posted By: demmons1
Info: TH access for all vehicles - 2WD and 4WD. Saw a Prius parked at the TH.
Posted By: Cide
Info: Just like the last report, one area of concern is cut way below the THs in the area that a standard sedan could scrape on. Washboard and tire popping rocks are not of any real concern here which is different for a Sawatch dirt-road TH approach although, they are not totally absent. When getting to the TH proper, the site lists a counterclockwise direction of travel but I would say that if you were white knuckling a Ford Taurus up to the TH...do not go counter-clockwise as it is super rough for a vehicle of that sort...stay left and park where you can.
Posted By: CaptCO
Info: Dry and crowded. People love burning fires and camping at the TH just to hike a few miles lol. At the end of the private road into National Forest boundary there is a rut that will scrape any sedan or low clearance vehicle. Other than that its easy driving
Posted By: Mikesmith986
Info: Open and clear the whole way to the trailhead besides a few easy patches of snow
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: The North Cottonwood Road (FS365) is now open. I drove to just before the Harvard Lakes TH where it looked like people were getting stuck. North Cottonwood TH is another 1.75 miles ahead.
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: FS365 is closed 3 miles from the North Cottonwood TH. The road is patchy dirt/snow/ice until Silver Creek TH (first 1.5 miles) where is becomes all snow for the rest of the way. Snow on the road at Silver Creek is at least 2 feet deep. Boot pack is there but gets very soft in the afternoon with 50+ degrees. I would take snow shoes above Silver Creek in afternoon.
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: The North Cottonwood Road (CR365/FS365) is closed by a barricade 1/10 mile east of the national forest boundary. The last mile before the closure on CR365 has lots of ice/snow and is suitable only for 4wd vehicles with good ground clearance. From this closure you have 1.25 miles to the CT junction going north to Harvard Lakes, 1.5 miles to the Silver Creek TH and 3 miles to the North Cottonwood TH.
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: The CR365 road is plowed up to the 5th private road intersection (Princeton Hills) in the Game Trail development. There is no parking there. Vehicles with high clearance and 4wd can continue until the National Forest Boundary. There are a few parking spots there. A few people have tried to go further on the road with bad results. From the National Forest Boundary you can access the Harvard Lakes TH (1.3 miles) and Silver Creek TH (1.4 miles) on the boot packed road. Above the Silver Creek TH you should have snowshoes or XC/AT skis for the next 1.4 miles to the North Cottonwood TH.
Photo #1: FS365 above NF boundary
Photo #2: FS365 abpve Silver Creek TH
Photo #3: North Cottonwood TH
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: Road is passable to the trail head. Above Silver Creek TH the road is mostly icy tracks in the snow. Not much ground clearance is needed, but traction certainly is. 4WD or AWD recommended.
Photo #1: trailhead info area
#2: parking area
#3: entry to parking area
#4: typical road condition for last mile to TH
Posted By: bosnian2014
Info: there were (newer) Prius, Accord, older BMW sedan and a Chevy Cobalt at TH. Doable in a sedan but you have to pick your lines carefully.
Also, I had a good cell signal~ 2 miles from TH which was helpful to coordinate.
Posted By: erincopp
Info: Just to add to the rest of the reports because I was a little nervous for my Kia Sportage to get up this road after reading some reports - it is not difficult to navigate through/around the big dip reported in other reports and any rocks that are in the road. My car doesn’t have the greatest clearance, but if you are careful, you shouldn’t have an issue in most vehicles.
Posted By: HikerBox
Info: Got the adventure civic up no problemo. The road is 90% smoothish with a handful of rough spots including the drainage looking feature described in other reports. If you take a hard left on the way up near the bottom of the feature and then straighten out it’s not a problem. There was one other rocky spot that gave me pause but apparently all of the rocks poke up less than the 6.00 inches of my ground clearance.

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