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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.
14er Trailheads on Google Maps
Date Status Information Posted By  Photos  Comments Likes Dislikes    
2015-06-28 Made it to the end of the road in my 2010 Subaru Forester with oversized A/T tires yesterday afternoon and came down this afternoon. As previous reports have stated, both creek crossings are running strong, however when we walked the first crossing (the more difficult of the two), we found that no point exceeded more than maybe 8-12" of water (at ~3pm). The water is flowing fast and some of the rocks underneath are a bit unstable, but I had no problem with either crossing. I don‘t have any pictures, but the last update‘s pictures were consistent with our experience. Although I made it to the top in a Subaru, this is by no means an easy 4wd road. There are quite a few dirt humps that will test your wheelbase. There are many rocks that would love to end your oil pan. Be prepared and have good tires. On a lighter note, a friend met me yesterday evening and succeeded in getting to the top of the road with his ‘05 outback, all season tires. Just a testament to experience and good driving; don‘t let this road scare you away! gotpow         
2015-06-27 Made it to the first stream crossing fine in my Jeep Liberty. But the stream crossing is heavily flooded and over the road, so we opted not to attempt it. Including overflow, the crossing is probably 100 feet across. Just a few feet in, it was probably 8 inches deep. Couldn‘t get to a good vantage point to see the depth of the middle of the crossing where the fastest water was, but it was clearly more than a foot and could‘ve been as much as two feet deep, based on the very scientific method of gauging the splash of rocks that we threw. Couple pictures attached. CCU_Jim  2       
2015-06-21 Just FYI, below is a photo of the creek crossing, taken around 6:30 PM. We got to this point in a Subaru Forester with little trouble. After seeing THAT, we promptly turned around, camped in a different place, and went out for brunch in Lake City on Monday Maybe it‘s better in the early morning...but Uncompaghre can always wait... AlexeyD  1  1    
2015-06-17 Made it to the top. No snow drifts. hollamby    6 1    
2015-06-06 I made an attempt to go up the road and encountered a 2-3 foot snow bank blocking the road 3 miles up from the turnoff from the Alpine Loop. gdlyons    2      
2015-05-17 Drove up to 10,500 / 7.3 from the milage start. Cleared the road of boulders and slide debris up to 10,500. Above 10,000 feet you will find manageable snow drifts and very muddy sharp turns. Frequent snow drifts hiking above 10,500. Solid pack above 11,000. No visibility to see avy conditions above of 12,500. WillRobnett  4       
2015-04-19 Dry to 2WD TH, and melting fast to the 4WD. Was able to skin up the road in the morning on snow from the last storm, but was not able to ski it down in its entirety. North facing snowdrifts are still big, there‘s a big debris pile about 0.5 mile past the 2WD TH, and a decent size boulder maybe a mile below the 4WD mojah  2       
2014-11-09 In an Xterra 4wd I was not able to drive all the way to the TH. The second (big) creek crossing was flowing good and iced up on the banks. After the 2.3 mile junction there was a long section with deep snow on it -which had not been driven through. Several other areas past that were not draining and very muddy. I turned around in a small, open parking area roughly ~ 1 mile from the TH. Eagle Eye         
2014-10-11 Outback made it all the way up with no problems. A couple of places had some large puddles but otherwise the road was fairly dry. Guevargas         
2014-08-02 2012 stock Outback all the way to the top of the trailhead. Zero damage. - Just make sure to power thru that creek! Krullin_14ers         
2014-07-26 Drove a 10 year old Nissan Exterra up to the trail head. No issues, damage and never rubbed anything. As previously stated, the first hundred yards is about as bad as it gets. tylermacguire         
2014-07-14 A tough road but somewhat normal SUVs made it to the top. ezabielski         
2014-07-05 Road is open all the way to 11,400‘ at the now locked and soon to be destroyed restroom at the trailhead. Clearance is the key on this road. My jacked up Xterra never scraped bottom and the 4wdLO gear was very helpful. One Subaru Outback made it (with some damage). I would not take anything described as a "car" up that road! Or even an AWD vehicle. The stream crossings are easier than they look at first blush, but the water was flowing very swiftly. Decent camping spots are not too plentiful at the trailhead. The road is wider than the Princeton road and there are a number of spots to pull over when meeting a vehicle coming the other way. ZenZin         
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       

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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