Cottonwood Creek Trailhead

Posted By: sfreytag
Info: BRING BUG SPRAY! Even bug spray didn’t fully work. I think the mosquito netting hats and sleeves are what you really need, saw a few hikers sporting these nets.

No joke, this was the worst I have ever seen mosquitos in my life. Got to the TH the night before to sleep in the truck. Opened the truck door and got out to see how far I needed to back up. In that time a few hundred mosquitos entered the truck. It was like a swarm. Ended up having to drive away and get back on paved roads with the windows down to get them out of the truck. Had to park down the road a bit for a few hours of sleep.

Pretty cool trail and route up to Cottonwood Lake. Lots of fun scrambling and route finding. Glad I did it. But that being said when I go back for CP I will be using South Colony Lakes TH again.
Posted By: Kiefer
Info: Trailhead is accessable for 2wd vehicles. Little icy in the morning.
Posted By: GregMiller
Info: Found the trail easy to follow, LOTS of cairns. Also, a LOT of bees or wasps along/on the trail, watch your step.
Posted By: JohnKLovesMtnGoats
Info: I just accessed Crestone Peak from this trailhead on Wednesday, September 14, 2022.

On the good side: first 2.5 miles were VERY well cleared of fallen trees- thank you to whomever cut the fallen trees in two with a chainsaw! Very easy trail up to that point.

Beyond that, when you get to the famous gnarled tree trunk at the waterfall and have to climb up a steep area, let’s just say it’s an awful place to be at night with a bulky backpack.
At least it was for me.

In the daytime (as on my way out), it was easier to avoid the bushwhacking, though there still was some that was unavoidable.

At night, even with my Garmin Device, I kept ending up in Kafka-esque situations of having my backpack stuck in jungle Cottonwood branches and being hopelessly mired in tangles.

Sadly, the hours of delay brought on by this coupled with high winds and fog the following morning, prevented my doing the Traverse ( all the while Google weather claiming "Sunny" at the Crestone Needle and Peak- they were invisible through the clouds from a thousand feel below!)

Going to try again next week if weather permits, but will likely start from South Colony Lakes 4wd parking lot.
Posted By: KyaCav
Info: 4/08/22
Dry from trailhead until about 2 miles in. Patchy snow from about 2-2.5 miles. Started skinning at 10,200 and skinned all the way to bottom of Crestone Peaks south couloir (a few short booting sections mixed in depending on route finding). Very challenging approach in complex terrain with variable snow depths the entire route.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: Dry to the trailhead. There’s a little bit of snow in the trailhead’s small parking area but otherwise no problem for any vehicle.
Posted By: brauda02
Info: My Veloster easily made it to the trailhead. I pitched my tent next to my car around 7:30 and took it down at 3 when I started. Had no problems and no dreaded ’no camping’ signs though it’s probably not allowed.

Mosquitos are HORRENDOUS! Bug spray totally worthless.

Turned around at 13k in the Red Gully due to wet rock and questionable weather.
Posted By: paigie_42
Info: Dirt road to trail head is open. There are a few spots of ice and snow, but it is passable. In the afternoon, the road is more slushy and muddy.
Posted By: Cameronnix
Info: left out from cottonwood canyon trailhead at 3 am. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow for the first 2.5-3.5 miles. Lots of trees fallen down on trail though. you will be doing ALOT of ducking and hoping over trees. Once you get around tree line and at the second water fall trail becomes much more difficult as far as route finding. There are Karens but are not always easy to find. Take your time and make sure you’re on the right trail. Once you make it through the shrub bushes and into the meadow the trail continues up the valley walk through meadow and find train to the left. Don’t go right!
Posted By: Alpinefroggy
Info: Chose Cottonwood for two reasons:
1) Ability to get onto the backside of the Crestones without the need to go up and over BHP
2) Low Clearance 2wd drive accessibility. Yes It is on a dirt road but Steve the Prius had no trouble getting there and there was also a Yaris there this weekend.

First 3-3.5 miles easy trail through pretty aspen and pine groves. Once you pass by a knotty root that goes up the left side of the creek by a waterfull things get tough.Trail steepens and is harder to find. Involves the slick ’boilerplate’ rocks followed by difficult class 2 boulder hopping then willow bushwhacking mixed with class 3 scrambling and loose ledges that take you from the main cottonwood creek gorge up on the climbers left to the cottonwood lake basin with both the crestones. This last 1.25 miles or so easily account for 50% of the diffculty and time on this route and are only complicated by most people having heavy backpacks filled with camping/climbing gear. Makes an otherwise very scenic trail and approach rather unpleasant, overly strenuous and difficult.

I will need to come back to do CP but after my experience with this, I’ll just use SCL and hope I can hitch a ride from some people with a 4wd from the 2wd trailhead.
Posted By: ellenmseb
Info: Not a report but a question. Can a 2wd low-clearance sedan make it to the Cottonwood Creek trailhead?
Posted By: Hershel
Info: Intel is somewhat limited on this TH, but everything I found indicated that there are only 4 - 5 parking spots. We felt you could fit more like 10 cars if spaced properly.
Posted By: Unknown
Info: Road easily accessible by 2wd, dirt last few miles with visible TH post and parking for 5+ vehicles. Sign in sheet still valid. No issues with leaving vehicle for 1.5 days
Posted By: strayster2
Info: Summer conditions. Trailhead was further down the road than Google Maps lead me to believe, but don’t get discouraged. It’s maybe 100-200 yards past a large white water tank on the right. Made it with no problem in a Hyundai Elantra

Do not underestimate the amount of time you will spend bushwhacking/route finding for the second 2 miles of this 4 mile approach. The trail is great for while, then some cairns are mildly helpful for a while, then suddenly it gets really tedious. From all the vegetation and deadfall encroaching on the route you can tell this isn’t the standard route, and you can tell WHY this isn’t the standard route.
Posted By: dr_j
Info: Clear trail for just over 3 miles. The remainder up to the junction can be unclear and heavily overgrown. The willows are 6 feet high, and there are a few scrambly portions on rock slabs, all which make backpacking a difficult task. Its rather over-cairned, which leads to some confusion. The junction to the trail leading to the Peak is marked by a big bloom of yellow wildflowers.

So give extra time to negotiate the obstacles, its well worth the trouble. This is a beautiful, lush, and quiet place. We spent just under 14 hours for the trip, which included the Peak, traverse, Needle, and the circuitous descent back via Broken Hand Pass and Cottonwood Lake.
Posted By: Sgranteed
Info: Trailhead is open to public via the Sangre Forest Service Station. A nice parking lot for about 5-6 vehicles. BE PREPARED with Bug Spray (Bens amazing 100% DEET worked just fine..) , this trailhead and trail is the absolute WORST Ive ever seen in terms of mosquitoes and I lived in Pennsylvania for 26 years and Colorado for 3 now and live in the San Juan mountains, BRING BUG SPRAY! KEEP VEHICLE DOORS CLOSED WHILE LOADING UP, otherwise it will be an infestation in your car when you return.

Trail is in good condition for first 2-2.5 miles, then it is overgrown with brush and a few fallen down trees to step over, route finding is NOT difficult in the daylight with all the cairns going up the rock slabs along the creek, but if youre looking to navigate at night, be careful and take into account extra time because it will be troublesome finding the route and getting off track.
Posted By: Hjelmstadlt
Info: Trail is muddy but clear of snow below the waterfall. From the waterfall to the trail junction expect interspersed drifts of snow and a few patches of ice. South cottonwood to Milwaukee Pass has continuous snow with a few bare sections of rock near the top.
Posted By: Hjelmstadlt
Info: Trail is clear of all snow until just below the first waterfall. After that there are some patches of soft snow on the trail that are melting out fast. Continuous snow begins just after crossing the talus field upon entering the first alpine meadow and continues up to the lake. Spring wind had knocked down a large amount of trees onto the trail but most of them we moved off the trail on our way down except for a large juniper about a mile or so up the trail and some very large pine trees a short ways after that. Mosquitoes were fortunately not out yet while we were up there, but they will be coming very soon!
Posted By: jscully
Info: Trail is trenched all the way in and easy to navigate. There was some snow the day of our climb and the tracks are less visible above 11k. At that point though you are getting close to the lake and make the call on the needle or the peak. Road to trailhead is clear. Obviously this all changes with any new snowfall.
Posted By: yingyangsoup89
Info: Consistent snow level starts about 9600 ft. Great trail the first 3 or so miles then you’re on your own.

The snow was very supportive and solid in the early morning hours which made this miserable approach manageable. We stuck to the standard approach and had no issues. GPS definitely recommended.

There is a good trench in place now all the way to the red gulley on crestone peak until the next snow system moves in.
Posted By: Hjelmstadlt
Info: Road up to the trailhead is fine just beware the many Crestonians that like to meander the road. Parking lot is small so make sure you get there early for a spot. The bad news is the misquotes, which are the worst I‘ve seen and my friend (previously a guide in Denali) says they‘re worse then Alaska so don‘t forget the bug repellent or you‘ll be eaten alive. The trail is also conveniently Cairned all the way to cottonwood lake which wasn‘t always the case.
Posted By: swbackcountry
Info: The trail is clear to about 10k. after which there is considerable postholing through bushwhack/talus and very deep mushy snow. Hard freeze line is at about 11.2k, which should be supportable snow before the sun hits it in the mornings. Many cairns are poking through the snow and my ski track/ postholing should generally take you in the right direction. Trail winds quite a bit so keep a lookout for sudden bends and weird directions of travel. Above the slab/talus area the trail disappears in the snow.
Posted By: Kiefer
Info: Road is muddy, wet and lightly snow-packed in spots. Road is open to TH at the water tank.
Trench exists (now) up to and up the slab area.
Posted By: Eagle Eye
Info: an easily driveable, muddy road. there is a TH register & maps and warning signs about bears at the small trailhead area.
Posted By: jmanner
Info: Road dry all the way to the trailhead. Civic wouldn‘t have a problem getting there.

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