Lead King Basin Trailhead
Info

Location

Range: Elk Mountains
Coordinates: 39.077907, -107.086451
14ers: Snowmass Mountain
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Road Difficulty

Rough 4WD, high-clearance vehicles with short wheel-base 5   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
4WD dirt road. Good clearance is also recommended.

Driving Directions

2020 4WD WARNING:At 10.0 miles there are remains of avalanche and tree debris that had blocked the road in 2019. A narrow path has been cut through the debris but only short-wheelbase, high-clearance, 4WD vehicles can make it through.

From Carbondale, drive 21.5 miles south on CO 133. Turn left on Gunnison County Road 3 toward the town of Marble (this road may be labeled as FR 314 on some maps). Measure the mileage from here:
  • Drive 5.5 miles to the center of Marble and continue through the town.
  • Pass a church at 5.8 mi. and Beaver Lake at 6.2 mi.
  • At 7.0 miles, the road becomes rough.
  • At 7.7 miles, there is a junction. Turn left on FR 315 for Lead King Basin.
  • The remaining 6+ miles is rough and narrow. 4wd vehicles only.
  • At 9.7 miles, there is another junction. Stay left on FR 315.
  • After a long drive with many switchbacks, cross a small stream to reach a corner at 13.8 miles.
  • Continue a bit farther south down the road and cross the creek again to reach the actual trailhead, shortly after. The trail start on the east side of the road, in the parking area.

Winter Access

Closed near the town of Marble.

More Info

Important Notes: At 10.0 miles there are remains of avalanche and tree debris that had blocked the road in 2019. A vehicle path (Aug 2020) has been cut through the debris but a challenging section requiring high clearance and 4x4 low gear is needed to pass this section.
Status Updates 
  
Posted By: Ssgustafson
Info: The northern part of the loop to LBK TH is IMO a 4 /6 on the road difficulty scale. The avalanche site was easily passable.
 
Posted By: oorg
Info: The road to the trailhead was much less rough that I expected. We made it without any issues in our stock Tacoma. The switchbacks are tight and narrow and passing opportunities are limited. Large 4WD vehicles will probably have issues with the switchbacks and passing other vehicles. Heading to the trailhead, we looped clockwise (stayed left). We returned the same path since it sounded like the road past the Crystal Mill was more rough.
 
Posted By: soundchaser2112
Info: The upper road is a semi-aggressive trailhead all around that could be completed by most 4x4 SUVs. If it rains at all you will have a much much harder time. Trucks and long wheel base vehicles need some extra height to clear the bumps. There is also a shallow stream crossing
 
Posted By: Skimo95
Info: Hagerman is in great shape. Permits proposed for next season
3 
Posted By: Dan_Suitor
Info: The avalanche area is a non-issue. If you can make it to where the avalanche is, you can easily make it through the path cut through the debris. I returned via the Crystal River portion of the loop. Between the trailhead and the mill is much rougher that the Lead King portion of the loop. I made it in my 3/4 ton extended cab pickup with off-road package. Banged the frame a few times and had to back out when came head-to-head with another vehicle. It is very narrow with few areas to pass.
 
Posted By: Barnold41
Info: Road was clear driving in Friday night (11/6), but snow covered for much of the way driving out around 3PM on Saturday (11/7). Careful maneuvers with high clearance is key to get all the way to the TH, and we were the only ones up there. Not sure how much longer this will be open.
 
Posted By: tdawg012
Info: 2002 stock tacoma trd had no issue navigating the avy section nor the tight switchbacks on the high road (fs315). Road was maybe too dry. Took~45min to 1hr to get from Marble to Geneva Lake TH. As others have theorized, doing this road in a hard downpour or soon after several monsoon storms would make some of the excessively shaley switchbacks spooky at best and no-go at worst. Didn’t encounter any traffic either direction thankfully. There are scattered pull-offs throughout but they aren’t entirely predictable...make a mental note of where they are when you go in case you need to pass or be passed. Low road was tempting but previous descriptions were enough to keep me from investigating..that said, several vehicles (I recall a newer Tundra) descended lower road while I was there.
 
Posted By: daway8
Info: Lots of different opinions on the road to this trailhead. As someone who made it to 10,200ft on the Lake Como road in his Jeep Renegade (8.7"clearance) I can say even the upper, "easy" route (FR315 i.e. Lost Trail Road - as opposed to looping down to Crystal) is a a fairly serious 4WD road. No major obstacles like on the Lake Como road and nothing that my Renegade couldn’t handle but several sections that made me uncomfortable including several hairpin switchbacks where the dirt was scooped out at an odd angle such that you could potentially end up significantly off camber depending on your line (these were more of an issue on the return to Marble when I had to go down them - going up on the way to Lead King Basin wasn’t bad but I think 4LO probably helped with that). The avy debris was almost a total non-issue except for one chunk of roots stuck right in the middle of the uphill section - had some real brief tire spin in 4LO before I popped up over those. Lots of very, very narrow sections including on rough uphill segments where meeting someone going the other way would be problematic. I imagine this road would be much worse when wet (and might have seemed a little less dramatic had I not done it in the dark both ways). The route through Crystal is reportedly much worse.
 
Posted By: Kitten
Info: Agree with the last report, the avalanche debris has been cleaned up a lot. We were able to make it on a Toyota Tacoma. A bit muddy, but passable. I added two pictures. On the way down we took the Crystal approach and found it much more difficult than the upper road, I would choose the upper one to get to the TH.
2 
Posted By: adventurousflinky
Info: Was able to access TH through the Avy debris in a 4Runner TRD Off Road. Other 4Runners were also at the trail head. It might have been cleared more than it was in the past, but not a huge obstacle if you have the clearance and 4WD experience. Happy exploring!
 
Posted By: MC.Ikema
Info: Drove the low road through Crystal and up to Lead King Basin in a stock 2-door Wrangler with BFGoodrich KO2s and would label the section beyond Crystal as white knuckle, challenging driving. Expect body damage if you proceed beyond Crystal. Even our 2-door Wrangler touched bottom going over one of 6-8 large obstacles. The Crystal to Lead King Basin section deserves a 5 out of 6 rating. Driver stated Crystal to Lead King is "way worse than 2020 version of South Colony Lakes road." Exited via the high road to Marble. Be prepared for traffic as the high road is the only functional road into Lead King Basin.
 
Posted By: wineguy
Info: Drove up to Lead King Basin via Crystal in a rented Jeep on 8/13/20 and back to Marble via the upper road on 8/14/20. Talked with a guy in an ATV about whether I could safely descend the upper road. He said the avalanche zone is still a challenge, but probably OK going downhill with a short wheel base. Still lots of debris, but an S-curve route carves through the debris with a deep mud puddle at the bottom. Logs provide some support through the mud and I had no problem descending. Think I could have climbed up through the debris with a Jeep, but can’t say for sure. Route above Crystal very rocky with some low cliff bands, a few white-knuckle moments even with a Jeep.
 
Posted By: dksmith
Info: Here is a update on the Lead King Basin road status and my edits to the normal driving directions. Also a description on the Crystal to Lead King trailhead section.

From Carbondale, drive 21.5 miles south on CO 133. Turn left on Gunnison County Road 3 toward the town of Marble (this road may be labeled as FR 314 on some maps). Measure the mileage from here:

Drive 5.5 miles to the center of Marble and continue through the town.
Pass a church at 5.8 mi. and Beaver Lake at 6.2 mi.
At 7.0 miles, the road becomes rough.
At 7.7 miles, there is a junction. Turn left on FR 315 for Lead King Basin.
The remaining 6.3 miles is rough and narrow. 4wd vehicles only.
At 10.0 miles there are remains of avalanche and tree debris that had blocked the road in 2019. A vehicle path (Aug 2020) has been cut through the debris but a challenging section requiring high clearance and 4x4 low gear is needed to pass this section. Razor or ATV vehicles were able to pass through the section without getting stuck.
At 9.7 miles, there is another junction. Stay left on FR 315.
After a long drive with many switchbacks, cross a small stream to reach a corner at 13.8 miles.
Continue a bit farther south down the road and cross the creek again to reach the actual trailhead, shortly after. The trail start on the east side of the road, in the parking area.

Road Access Option 2 (more difficult driving than the above description)
Crystal to Lead King Trailhead
At the junction at 7.7 miles the road is signed to the town of Crystal heading to the right. This section of road to Crystal is rocky and rough but should be negotiable by standard SUV vehicles. Beginning at Crystal and continuing up to the Lead King Trailhead is a very rough, rocky and with rock ledges section to the road. It is 2.2 miles from Crystal to the Lead King Basin trailhead. A short wheel base 4x4 with good driving skills is required to negotiate this section.
Directly beyond Crystal are two switch backs that lead to the junction with FS 317. Directly below the junction with FS 317 is one large rocky boulder ledge in the road that is difficult to negotiate. Driving this section will give you a good feel for what the rest of the road is like. The road junction would be a good place to turn around if you are uncomfortable with the driving conditions. The road beyond the junction is actually a bit rougher with approximately half a dozen other rocky ledge sections to negotiate. The Nissan Xterra with side step rails did not fair to well and bent the rails up a bit while driving down this 2 mile section.


I drove in the Lead King Basin road (FR 315 - Lost Trail Creek Road) on Wed Aug 11 and exited out the Lead King trailhead to Crystal road on Aug 13. I climbed Snowmass and Hagerman while in the area. I was in a stock Nissan Xterra with side step rails and basic (new) mud and snow ties. I was able to make in up through the avalanche debris but did have to take a couple of tries to get up the steep section exiting the mud puddle at the base of the debris. The mud puddle was about one foot deep and did not present any problems driving through it. The debris above the mud puddle was the challenging part. The traction on the loose ground up wood debris was not very good and there is a large lump of a root mass that also did not provide very good traction. A number of other people I talked to while hiking indicated they stopped at the debris area and hiked in from there. As I recall there was only room for about 3 vehicles to park at the debris area. Likely a little easier to drive back down through the debris rather than up it. Not many passing spots on the switchback section of this road. Pretty dusty and possible slicker muddy areas if this road gets wet.
As noted above I drove out from the trailhead via the road to Crystal. Yep, it’s rough, rocky and sections with rocky steps or ledges. Short wheel base 4x4 with good clearance is recommended and good off road driving skills. Approximately the first mile or so down from the trailhead has a number of pullout passing sections but the number of pullouts decreases as you proceed to Crystal. There are probably 6-8 major rough ledge sections to negotiate along this section otherwise very rough and rocky. The other road section (Lost Trail Creek Road) is the better way to access this area.
1 
Posted By: angry
Info: There is parking past the town of Crystal below the sign that says Lead King Basin 1 mile. My tracker measured ~1.7 miles from the trailhead. Doable in a Subaru.
 
Posted By: CoHi591
Info: We were in a CRV and went up just past Crystal. It was slow going, took about an hour from Marble to the town of Crystal. Just posting some updates regarding parking...

There is no parking at the mill. There is no parking in the "town". There is no parking allowed along the road. There’s a legal parking spot for 2ish cars about .2 mile past the sign warning you that high clearance is needed. Not much use if you can’t get to it.

Unless you have a vehicle that you’re certain can get you all the way to the TH (so like, damn good clearance) you should plan to park at the bottom of the road and hike up OR check out the other side - I can’t speak to whether or not you’re allowed to park by the avy debris.

I wanted to share this info because it’s actually really unclear that you’re not allowed to park up there and we had a few very angry gentlemen tell us we "just about got our car towed". There are a handful of small signs on trees that say "private property, stay on road" which I took to mean private property behind said sign. It was unclear to us whether or not pullouts along the side of the road counted. We found a pullout on the road right before the sign warning you that it gets really gnarly. There was a small driveway nearby which we were IN NO WAY blocking that had a private property sign on the fence but as we were on *this* side of the sign, essentially still on the road, we thought it’d be ok to leave the car. There are literally no signs ANYWHERE on the upper road prohibiting parking.
I’m not sure how folks up there can justify threatening to tow your car and leave you in a real bad spot after climbing the peak when there aren’t any signs telling you not to and you haven’t crossed marked property boundaries or blocked any operations but, it’s not my job to understand them.

Just wanted to warn everyone not to park there... And because you’ll have driven for a miserable bumpy hour to get up there, it would be pretty soul crushing to have to turn around and drive back just to park and then walk up.

I’m not going back any time soon, but if someone can shed light on the legality of parking on the road on the side with the avy debris, I’m sure all the non Jeep etc owners would love some clarity on how to get up to LKB without worrying about their car.
 
Posted By: 9patrickmurphy
Info: Road from Marble to Crystal was way rougher than expected. Took just about an hour point-to-point. I drive a stock 2004 4Runner and have quite a bit of offroading experience. No real obstacles on this road, it’s just long and very rocky. Some steep sections, but I did most things in 4Hi and only switched to 4Lo for the steep descents. A Subaru could totally do it. Be prepared to stumble around to let others pass, the road is popular and very narrow. Plenty of passing spots, but be very careful with passing on the shelf road segments.

The road from Crystal to the Lead King Basin trailhead is very rough. I was able to make it with a bounty of scraping and a messed-up running board (the car’s old so I’m not that torn up about it). Careful line selection is important for some of the larger obstacles, of which there are a few. Everything else is just very rocky, significantly worse than the road to Crystal. I personally would not even consider doing this road without 4Lo. We were chatting with a guy who got his Suburban up it without 4Lo, but honestly the dude was pretty zany and he said he was basically expecting to wreck the thing on the way down. I would recommend this road to anyone who a) has a lift and tires larger than 30" or b) someone who doesn’t care about their car. The whole road was driven slower than walking pace. In the end, I wish I had just walked it.

Worth noting that we ran in to a father and son on their way down from Snowmass who said they had parked at Silver Creek (the high point of the north LeadKing loop, and I believe right about where the avy debris is. From what they were telling us, it sounds like they took the akternative approach to Geneva Lake described in Roach’s Thirteeners book, route 20.A1V. They made it sound like it wasn’t difficult route finding, and that there were plenty of game trails. I’d really like to hear more info about this route, but it sounds like it might be doable. If there is a real trail and it isn’t just straight bush-wacking, this seems like the obvious best approach to Geneva Lake. The Crystal approach just isn’t super worth it in my opinion.
 
Posted By: kreiss322
Info: The road from Marble to the Lead King Basin TH is still closed about 4 miles out due to avalanche. We ended up going through Crystal and parked our stock 4runner 2 miles from the TH, the hike in from that direction is relatively flat. Some high clearance 4wd vehicles did make it to the trailhead from Crystal but the road is very rough.
 
Posted By: Ryan1979
Info: The road is closed by avalanche debris about 4 miles from Lead King Basin. You may be able to access the TH from the other side but I don’t have beta on that. We came in from the Marble CO side of the loop.
1 
Posted By: HikerBox
Info: Upper road was still blocked by avalanche debris from last year about 4 miles from the Geneva Lake TH. ATV/UTVs can make it through but not much else. There are loose logs on top of snow that will move around and trap your vehicle like the lifted T100 I saw get stuck.
 
Posted By: handonbroward
Info: Lost Trail Road is blocked by significant amounts of snow roughly 1.9 miles from where you split left off of CR3. Only walked a very little ways up the road, but it looks like the snow there will not be melted out for at least a month.

We were able to turn around and take the further Lead King Basin split where CR3 ends and turns into CR317 to Crested Butte. This road is BLOCKED 1 MILE BELOW LEAD KING BASIN TRAILHEAD (approximately). There is a very large, rotted out tree that barber chaired across the road. I do not think that any road vehicle that can make it that far will be able to make it underneath the tree. I run a stock 2nd Gen Tacoma with 30.5" tires, just FYI. 10 minutes with a chainsaw will clear the road, I suspect someone will take care of it very soon, given that the traffic in that area is going to pick up significantly.

***
We were able to manage a parking spot right at the tree by backing way up the hill, but if you do this YOU NEED TO LEAVE ENOUGH ROOM FOR ANOTHER FULL SIZE VEHICLE TO TURN AROUND. If you do not, whoever were to come upon the blocked road would be super, incredibly screwed. There is nowhere to turn around for significant amount of time before that, maybe even all the way back to the CR3 / CR317 split, and that is not territory that I would expect anyone could reverse safely without 2-3 spotters and many, many hours of driving very slowly in reverse. Even more so if you are running anything less than a lifted Jeep running 33’s or larger. Additionally, literally right at the road blockage / potential parking spot, there is a spot where you could very easily high center a longer vehicle like a Tacoma or pickup truck without even thinking about it while trying to turn around or park. I came very close to having this happen, but fortunately was able to realize what was happening and gas it quickly enough before my back wheels came off the ground. This would be a very, very bad place to get stuck.
***

Just an FYI, and I have not been up Lost Trail Road so I do not know how challenging it is to get over to Lead King Basin Trailhead, but I would not recommend driving a stock (or stock-ish) pickup truck like a Tacoma (I know, I know) up to Lead King Basin via the lower road from the CR3 / CR317 split unless you have SIGNIFICANT experience with crawling. There are many, many rocks that you could very easily get stuck on if you do not know how to aim your vehicle travel properly, both going up the road and coming down. The road is incredibly narrow at points, and for some obstacles you must place your wheel directly on the edge, as trying to run inside would run a risk of rolling you off the edge or getting stuck. The first place that we really saw as a feasible turn around was where we ran into the tree and ended up parking.

That being said, we did all of it in my 2006 Tacoma with relative easy and only a few knocks on the skid plate. I have run Imogene Pass in the truck, just as a benchmark.
 
Posted By: wintersage
Info: Friend’s stock Jeep Compass Trailhawk could not make it past the snow field 2.25 miles below the TH. It got stuck and luckily a bunch of friendly hunters driving a Polaris were able to pull us out using their front winch. We parked just before the muddy road transitions to snow, about 2.5 miles from the TH and .25 miles from the spot we were stuck at. The road in general all the way to the TH is a mix of ice, snow, and mud. Another group of locals who were just drinking beer and enjoying the weekend drive were able to drive on this section of the road with lifted Jeeps that had very good snow tires. We did not see them drive to the TH, but they probably could have made it easily.
 
Posted By: Wentzl
Info: As previously said, upper road is passable. But there is a sign saying it is closed. Photos taken 10/3/2019. Considering all the other obstacles on this road, the avalanche was pretty tame to get through. Still snow underneath, so I suppose that can change.
5 
Posted By: kreykedj
Info: High road is open. I wasn’t aware that the road had been closed earlier in the season and drove it without issue in an older stock Nissan Frontier on the night of 9/22. The path through the slide is narrow, but similarly so are portions of the road above the path where it switchbacks and climbs.
 
Posted By: glad2be
Info: Did the low road this weekend; the upper road is still blocked. I would probably rate the section between Crystal and LKB as a "5" rather than a "4". Very narrow, exposed, rocky, maybe 2-3 spots to pass another vehicle the whole way. Luckily it’s not very long. I received a new dent on my rear fender.

Also, the nearest gasoline/cell service is in Carbondale. If something goes wrong, be prepared to fix it.

1979 F150 short bed, 5" lift, 33", front locker
 
Posted By: rchacon
Info: Took the lower road from Marble to Crystal and then up from Crystal to Lead King Basin. Road from Crystal was bumpy and filled with small rocks, but passable without much effort in a Subaru or similar SUV/CUV type vehicle. The road is narrow at times, but there were a number of pull-outs between Marble and Crystal to allow passing.

Had no issue going from Crystal to Lead King Basin in a bone stock current-gen 4Runner SR5 (no locker) with OEM tires. Scraped the skid plates 3 times going up and 3 times going down, but nothing too serious. A spotter was very helpful for some of the rockier sections, and I probably would have scraped more often and more severely without some help. Kept it in 4wd low going up and down. Any Jeep Wrangler, 4Runner, Tacoma, or similar real 4wd vehicle with low range should be fine, provided your driving skills are up to par and are willing to take your time. Would not recommend a Subaru or similar SUV/CUV unless your driving skills are well beyond extraordinary.
 



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