Huerfano/Lily Lake Trailhead


Range: Sangre de Cristo
Coordinates: 37.62361, -105.47278
14ers: Mt. Lindsey
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Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
Usually rough 2WD to the west side of the landslide area, 20 miles in and 2 miles from the Lily Lake trailhead. Easy 4WD/AWD/Good-Clearance to reach the upper trailhead at 10,700'. 4WD may be required in spring when large puddles and mud are present.

Driving Directions

  • Drive to the town of Gardner, northwest of Walsenburg on Colorado 69.
  • From Gardner, head west for about 1/2 mile on CO 69 and turn west on the road to Mosca Pass.
  • Just after the start of this road, a Forest Service sign states "Upper Huerfano - 22" and "Lily Lake Trhd - 23". But really it's about 22.2 miles total to reach the Lily Lake TH.
  • At 7.0 miles, the road turns to dirt.
  • At 11.8 miles, stay left on Forest Road 580.
  • At 15.7 miles, stay left at the entrance to the Singing River ranch. The road becomes narrow, but usually still 2WD.
  • At 16.7 miles, pass the entrance to the Aspen River ranch.
  • WARNING: In 2021, there's a rough section near 17.7 miles in that may require 4WD/AWD and good clearance. If you don't have 4WD, drive with someone who does because there's no 2WD parking in this area.
  • At approx. 20 miles, reach the the west side of large, landslide area where the road was re-routed in 2016. After this point, there's a steep section that requires 4WD.
  • Continue 2 miles on the rough, narrow road to reach the Lily Lake TH. There are many dispersed camping spots along the way.

Winter Access

Usually closed near the ranches, many miles below the TH.
Status Updates 
Posted By: Flyingfish
Info: Got a small layer of snow that made 4x4 almost mandatory to make the upper trailhead. Was mostly gone by the evening. I expect the road will be dry just in time for e the next front to move in.
Posted By: angry
Info: Dry to TH with the exception of one large puddle.
Posted By: jackjk1011
Info: Didn’t see the road damage on the 2WD part which was mentioned a few months ago. However, once past the ranches it’s pretty rough 2WD in places and sedans may have trouble. The 4WD part is crossover-able although it was slow and rough going in my AWD Kia Sorento. Outback or similar should be fine. Honestly the 4WD part isn’t much worse than the worst parts of the 2WD part, it just becomes more narrow and there are several humps you have to drive over.

This area is fairly remote and you should definitely write down the directions and not rely on GPS to get you through the maze of ranches and county roads in western Huerfano County. Google Maps got me *to* the TH just fine, but became confused when I attempted to drive out the same way and I had to figure it out myself. The directions start in Gardner which makes sense if you’re coming from Denver, etc. but if you’re coming from the south (US-160) you can take CR 572 (Pass Creek Road; intersects with US-160 between mile markers 276 and 277) north to CR 570, then take that north to CR 580 instead of first going out of your way to Gardner.
Posted By: Joelorado
Info: The road is fine except for the last few miles. 4WD not really necessary but good clearance is. Made it up fine in a Crosstrek with all terrain tires. Plenty of other Subarus up there as well. Don’t take your Prius or Accord up here.
Posted By: mmurphy8
Info: Ditto not seeing or at least noticing the damage mentioned at 17.7 miles. Rough, but made it fine in a Crosstrek. There are two larger puddle crossings and a metal culvert pipe that was a bit exposed. Saw several other Subarus parked for camping spots along the 4WD section near the TH.
Posted By: Phill the Thrill
Info: I did not see the road damage at 17.7 miles mentioned in the previous report. Road is clear all the way to the upper TH, but the last mile is quite rough and requires a vehicle with high clearance. I was surprised to see a couple of Outbacks at the upper trailhead. I’d recommend walking the last mile rather than risking damage to your nice new Suby.
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: As mentioned in the last update, there’s some road damage which likely blocks most 2WD vehicles at ~17.7 miles in. It’s a few deep holes made by vehicles spinning tires. I was there today and while it wasn’t a problem with my 4WD pickup, it’s obvious that 2WD vehicles have been trying to get through this area and it’s just getting worse. If you don’t have 4WD/AWD, travel with someone who does because there’s no place to park this low on the road.
Posted By: cisnerosab
Info: Some major divots in the 2WD dirt road to the trailhead as mentioned in previous posts. Also large rocks. Wouldn’t recommend for low clearance or 2WD vehicles. No appreciable difference between the 2WD section after Aspen River Ranch and the 4WD section beyond.

Closest 2WD parking seems to be at Huerfano State Wildlife Area, which would entail maybe 5 miles of hiking in on dirt roads to reach the TH.

TH itself is well signed and the drive/hike in is beautiful.
Posted By: cdgibbons
Info: Clear and dry to the trailhead. I found the large holes mentioned in the last post (about mile 17) challenging in an AWD with six inches of clearance. This location is still on private land.
Posted By: seayachter
Info: Road is in decent shape. Made it to 4wd trailhead in stock 4x4 truck staying in 2wd most of the way. There’s some large holes in the 2wd section of the road that can be avoided with careful driving. Saw a Honda CR-V at the 4wd TH.
Posted By: rosey33
Info: Upper trailhead accessible with 4wd. No snow to deal with. There was 3 or 4 large puddles but they are not deep. Seems like it got a little more rough compared to last year at this time.
Posted By: joflyer22
Info: Made it to within 1/3 of a mile of the 4WD trailhead in a 4WD, but low clearance, Ford Expedition. A Tacoma had made it to about 1/4 of a mile with better clearance to deal with some snow. There are some larger snowbanks at the point I stopped but after that the road is dry and clear to the TH. There were 2 puddle crossings on the way up... the first one was shallow and had a rock bottom, the second was just mud that had warmed up and was very soft in the evening. I made it across with momentum but probably would have had more trouble if I was going slow.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: Still blocked at the landslide by stubborn drifts. Once they’re melted there’s also one downed tree sticking halfway out onto the road en route to the lower trail head, which is one mile from the landslide. I did not investigate beyond the lower trailhead. There are no bathrooms at the landslide, but as you drive in there’s a picnic area in Huerfano State Wildlife Area with multiple bathrooms. Note that these are miles from the landslide, so do your business before or after.
Posted By: jmanner
Info: Yesterday we parked 3.5 miles from the upper trailhead or 1.08 miles from the landslide. In a week or two youll be able to get the landslide, but itll probably by late May before it melts out enough to get to the upper trailhead.
Posted By: RWSchaffer
Info: Road free of snow to trailhead.

As observed in recent reports, the 2WD section of the road contains an obstacle that is not friendly to 2WD vehicles. Here is a picture. This is about 0.9 miles above the Aspen Ranch entrance.

My 2WD hatchback, which has a lift for just over 7 inches of clearance, made it through without scraping. But it also pitched and rolled, spinning wheels on the way up and chattering anti-lock brakes on the way down.
Posted By: kiwiliam
Info: Currently, if you can get a 2WD as far as the slip, meaning you got past the large potholes a couple of miles after Singing River Ranch, you can drive to within about 3/4 miles of the upper trailhead. About a 1/4 mile after the Huerfano and Zapata Pass trails cross the road, it turns right and starts up hill at a steeper grade. This is where the first bad spot is visible, and you’ll probably want to start hiking. People parked on the corner and plenty of spots a little back down the road.

BTW. If you are coming south from WESTCLIFFE on CO69 just after mile post 31 turn on right CR555. At the end of this road, turn right onto CR550 which is the road to Mosca Pass that turns to dirt in the description. You will cut off about 6 miles. From Westcliffe its 50 miles to 4WD trailhead: 30min on 69, 30mins on dirt roads to Singing River Ranch and 30mins of rough road to the trailhead.
Posted By: areedhay
Info: CR580 is dry to the Zapata trail (for California Peak’s North Ridge route) 20.8 miles from Gardner turnoff on HWY 69. The various obstacles seem to have deepened since last I was one the road (in August) but still passable for most vehicles. 2020 Tacoma breezed.
Posted By: Elitch21
Info: A very seasoned stock 2009 Ford Escape named Jeff made it to the upper 4WD trailhead. The road is in pretty good shape all around and as stated in other reports, there are basically 2 rough spots that require a bit of clearance and some maneuvering to avoid. Never spun out. Never seemed close to damaging the car. Google maps will take you only so far and then you will continue for roughly 50 mins to the upper trailhead, enjoy!
Posted By: skidrye
Info: Road completely snow free to the trailhead. There are a couple places where a good amount of clearance is required. My stock jeep Cherokee XJ made it up no problem without scrapes.
Posted By: vandy
Info: Reports of two rough spots are accurate - one fairly early on that is hard to avoid and one later on that is easier. I got up with only minor scrapes in my Subaru Crosstrek (that I probably could have avoided completely with a little more skill), but any vehicle with less ground clearance would have trouble I think.
Posted By: nilaoire
Info: Two sections of the road really chewed up prior to the trailhead. Did see a Subaru at the trailhead, good luck getting down.
Posted By: ellenmseb
Info: 1. The last 4ish miles of the road are all equally bad. In fact, the hardest difficulties are during the supposedly 2wd section. For the last 4 miles, an Outback-type vehicle is necessary and sufficient. Maybe a rental sedan.

2. There was plenty of parking at 8am on a Sunday. And the road is much easier to drive during the daylight. So no need to rush up the night before to get a spot.

3. In an Outback, I didn’t make past the big rut at the very top, mentioned by the 8/8 report. Spent 15mins backing up instead. But this only caused me to hike ~200 yards extra. In hindsight I probably could have made it with the right line.

4. If you’re coming from alamosa, google maps directions are bad. CR572 requires 4wd. Even if you have 4wd, it’s so rough that it would probably be slower than going around. Take the highway via Walsenburg or CR520 (easy 2wd dirt) via Badito instead.

5. I saw a bear running along the road 5 miles below the trailhead.
Posted By: MountainBuhn
Info: Took a 2017 Crosstrek up to the main TH with minimal issues, but definitely tedious and white-knuckling.

I would say a 2wd can make it up to the 2wd TH in the main description, but definitely with high potential for scraping.

Heading up: about 1 mile past the main Singing River Ranch sign is a large rut in some steep terrain. I spun out once, but made it through accelerating into it a bit. If you do this in a 2wd, you need to make sure your line is perfect or youll bottom out really bad.

Honestly past that first rut; theres only 1 or 2 smaller challenge areas to get to the FS boundary. 2 creek crossings, which were rocky, but not too deep. Then one steeper section just past the final Singing River Ranch sign "No Camping. No Parking". Which has small potholes, but nothing too crazy.

If you have a 2wd, stop soon after, you will not make it that far past the FS boundary. If you attempt to go all the way you will damage your car if you have less than 7 inches.

As for cars with more than 7 inches, there are 2 spots in particular, the last mile up, that present some challenge. One deep rut, which requires good maneuvering and some acceleration put into it. We spun out twice before making it past. Finally, the hole right before the top (I attached a picture, but not sure if itll help). Stay to the left and ride that side close to the trees and you’ll be good. Your right tire will be lower, but you wont bottom out.

Way down was much easier.

All in all, Id say this is easier than Princeton, but still very sketch for those less experienced or in cars with less than 9 inches or so. Not to mention plenty of tire popping rocks from start to finish. Worth it in the end.
Posted By: eyoder3
Info: Made it up to the upper TH with my ’03 Subaru Forester. A low clearance 2wd wouldn’t make it to the 2wd TH (2mi from TH) in my opinion. Theres 1 or 2 rough spots on the road to the lower 2wd. Low clearance 2wd would probably make it 6 miles from trailhead, just past the ranches (road gets worse after ranches). Last 2 miles to upper TH aren’t that much worse from the first part after the ranches. 1 or 2 rough steep sections, but doable with good clearance 4wd/AWD.
Posted By: xcrunner365
Info: Was able to get my 2018 Subaru Outback to the TH with minimal issues. The worst of the road is definitely the pothole section from the FS boundary to the TH. Picking a good line is key.

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