Lead King Basin Trailhead


Range: Elk Mountains
Coordinates: 39.077264, -107.086425
14ers: Snowmass Mountain
Elevation: 9,700'
Photo Photo Add

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

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

Parking: Parking for ~10 vehicles.
Camping: There are a places to pitch a tent in the nearby clearings.
Restrooms? No
Fees? No
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: drchele
Info: Lost Trail Road (FR 315) is open all the way to the upper parking lot adjacent to the Lead King Basin TH. This route ("Very Spicy" according to the signage) is the clockwise version of the loop that starts just east of Beaver Lake. 6-9" of snow on the upper road makes it even more challenging. The Crystal TH (the "Spicy" or counterclockwise) route is also fully open. There are quite a few patches along the Crystal Route (FR 314) in the morning; they turn to slush in the afternoon. Assuming you have adequate clearance, skills, turn radius, and traction, you can currently still do the full loop. Both routes are narrow with limited turnouts. I’m fairly certain I added a few racing stripes to my paint job. This route collects treasures from your undercarriage - it was littered with vehicular carnage.
Posted By: markf
Info: The road is signposted as "4WD" where it leaves the town of Marble. It is in fact quite steep, loose and rocky.loose. A well driven Subaru could probably do it without oncoming traffic, but maneuvering around oncoming vehicles would be problematic.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: The entire town of Marble must vote with fiendish devotion en masse for ever increasing berm budgets. The road isn’t particularly difficult, a few rocky parts down low that require clearance and 4WD, but nothing out of the ordinary for a 4WD road. What is out of the ordinary, and why this road is stupid, is the 233 berms that have been built all over it. Yes, two hundred thirty three. I counted them. Some are so close you aren’t even off the one you just drove over before you’re on the next one. What the hell, guys. Anyway, we drove up in a Tacoma and had to take the hitch off because it was scraping all the berms. Long/extended wheelbase vehicles will probably bash your running boards and rocker panels a lot, or high center. Switchbacks are tight and we had to do Y-turns at a few. Not a road for longer wheelbase vehicles. Overall I’d give this road a 4 out of 6 difficulty rating, not a 5 out of 6 like it currently has.

Also kudos to the absolute psychopath who drove a Crosstrek to the trailhead. Perhaps you took the lower road, perhaps you just have gigantic balls and no brains, kudos nonetheless. I wouldn’t recommend this to other drivers and those who like to have vehicles with in tact undercarriages.
Posted By: swesleyc7
Info: Attached photos representative of the trailhead road.
Posted By: 5ClimbingCooneys
Info: Drove to about 10,800’ on the Lost Trail Creek road in a stock Nissan Xterra to attempt Roach’s 20.A1V route for Hagerman Peak. Road is in "good" condition and the avalanche area is no longer of any concern. (NOTE: the road Roach mentions to start that hike is marked as private).

Overall, for folks looking for information about the character of the road, the lower portion of the road is fairly rocky with plenty of loose rocks that you have to drive over--anything from baseball to cantaloupe size rocks rolling around, but no big ledges. I lightly scraped bottom once due to bad wheel placement, but in most places clearance isn’t a problem for off-road capable trucks and SUVs like 4Runners, Jeeps, Tacomas, etc. Lower clearance crossover SUVs will struggle with this road. The biggest clearance issues come from the large erosion control berms that have been plowed into the road. Even in a short wheelbase SUV with 10" of clearance, I was dragging my empty tow hitch down the back side of some of those. Luckily they’re just dirt.

The farther up you go, the smoother the road gets until it’s mostly smooth and covered in 1-2" of moon dust like powder. This makes the upper switchbacks rather loose. Hopefully the coming rains will help pack that down, but it’ll be loose and sloppy if you’re up there when those hit. It’s definitely a slow affair. It look me about an hour to get from Marble to the high point of the road at around 10,800’, but I don’t like to bounce around a lot and damage my vehicle unnecessarily, so I took it slow and steady, mostly in 4-low. People in more dedicated off-road vehicles could easily go faster.

There was lots of fall hunting traffic up there, so more trucks than normal. Luckily most of the hunters are nice and courteous. It’s the occasional self-entitled off-roader you have to watch out for.

On two occasions, I was put into a dangerous situation by oncoming drivers who were completely lacking in courtesy. The first incident was while I was driving uphill at night. The oncoming truck was traveling downhill and did not stop. There was a private drive a short distance behind me they must have assumed I could pull into, but in the dark with their headlights shining in my face, I couldn’t see it very well and nearly tipped my vehicle trying to hurriedly back into it at an awkward angle. Lesson in that case: if the other vehicle starts backing up, please WAIT, dim your lights so the reversing party can see better, and give them time to safely pull aside before passing.

The second incident came when I had just descended one of the steeper, rockier sections surrounded by willows on each side and no pullouts. The oncoming vehicle (traveling uphill) had just passed a pullout about 30’ back on relatively flat ground, but kept trying to force me backwards uphill. I stopped and got out and pointed out there was nowhere for me go and I might not be able to successfully reverse up what I’d just come down. He said it didn’t matter and that I HAD to yield. I asked him if there was anywhere he could go and he didn’t even look; he just told me I HAD to back up and let him by. My only option was to pull off on the side of one of the erosion berms about 200 yards back with one wheel hanging over the air above the creek. So just a reminder to all who drive these roads: in Colorado, while uphill traffic generally has the right of way, there are exceptions and some measure of courtesy is even written into the law. Here’s the official text:

"On narrow mountain highways with turnouts having a grade of six percent or more, ascending vehicles shall have the right-of-way over descending vehicles, except where it is more practicable for the ascending vehicle to return to a turnout."

I’ve met far too many people up on these narrow roads lately that ignore the content after the last comma. If you’re the closer vehicle to a turnout and can safely get there, even if traveling uphill, please practice courtesy and back down. Also, don’t be a jerk and just keep driving right at people. Give them time to pull over!
Posted By: ochres
Info: Headed up to Lead King Basin TH from Marble to do the S-Ridge in a stock 4Runner with AT tires. Road from Marble to the TH wasn’t anything too harrowing, though there are sections where I would hate to meet a vehicle going in the opposite direction. There are quite a few very narrow shelf roads without any pullouts, one particular section has drop offs on both sides (marked by white posts on either side)...a little hairy and we were glad the 4Runner wasn’t any wider, but no serious rock obstacles to navigate. A few tight switchbacks that might be challenging in a longer wheelbase. A Jeep, Tacoma, 4Runner, and a Honda Pilot at the TH.

We took the road back to Crystal on the way down. VERY rough rocky road with one notable rock obstacle immediately after you pass the Crested Butte junction. Scraped a bit, but could probably be avoided with a good spotter. Wouldn’t hurt to have rock sliders and skid plates. Would NOT recommend this road with stock all-season tires, as there are some pretty sharp rocks that could pop your tire.

Road from Crystal Mill back to Marble could probably be done in a crossover with some clearance, AT tires, and a good driver. Had we not been trying to get to a climbing crag near Crystal, I’d probably opt to go back the way we came from to avoid the rough ride. Would not recommend doing this in wet conditions.
Posted By: downishardest
Info: 4wd road was easily passable in my UTV, although it came really close to tipping a couple times. Saw several trucks that made it up.
Posted By: zootloopz
Info: Ended up driving the upper road in my access cab 4x4 Tacoma long bed.

This was one of the narrowest roads Ive driven so far in my cent/bicent journey. There were a couple times I was concerned about making sure a wheel didnt slide off the side of the shelf road near creek erosion in shitty shale, as well as tight switchbacks and many logs trimmed with some excess left poking into the road. Some stretches of easy driving between some tougher obstacles. Very few pullouts or places to pass. Not a road Id like to repeat tbh. But I did end up making it without issue, and my buddy made it about halfway in his Subaru. The obstruction mentioned in the last comment is no longer present.
Posted By: butcher213
Info: Upper route to Lead King is impassable to my stock 4runner, due to logs blocking a quarter of the road, at about mile 2.7, measured from the reservoir/lake. Below this, the road is fairly muddy, but I was able to get through with some momentum. See photo.
Posted By: Skimo95
Info: Attempted the loop today, stopped shy due to uncertain snow conditions in the afternoon. Looks like youre able to get up the high path, just prior to the creek crossing (if theres parking). Someone stashed a sled just after, and looks like drove up to the switchbacks which cross the creek. Id give it until the end of the month unless youre skinning/experienced sled. Early morning would most likely be no issue on the approach avy wise, go at your own discretion. Next time Ill probably scope the Crystal road in a friends high clearance 4x4 first. Beautiful day, parking at LKB/Crystal split dry.
P.S Bill pictures have to be rotated if taken vertical, hire a high school IT kid to make your life easier ;)
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
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.
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.
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.
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