N. Cottonwood Creek Trailhead


Range: Sawatch Range
Coordinates: 38.87057, -106.2658
14ers: Mt. Harvard, Mt. Columbia
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Road Difficulty

2WD, rough dirt road 2   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
Rough 2WD dirt to the TH. It may require 4WD in early summer.

Driving Directions

Turn west on County Road (CR) 350 (Crossman Ave.) near the center of Buena Vista. This road is less than 1/2 mile north of the stoplight in the center of town. Continue on CR 350 for 2 miles and turn right onto CR 361. After almost 1 mile, turn left onto CR 365 (dirt). Continue on this road for over 5 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. Turn right into the wooded parking area which loops around counter-clockwise. The trail starts on the west side of the parking area.

Winter Access

Closed near 9,200 feet - over 3 miles below the TH.
Status Updates 
Posted By: Wentzl
Info: The holes in the road about 2.5 miles before the trailhead are getting worse. Would like to hear from someone with a subaru who has been up there lately to know if still passable by a sedan.
Posted By: bangerth
Info: Easily drivable all the way to the top with the exception of the big holes about 2.5 miles from the top that were mentioned in previous reports. But no problem at all with a Subi Outback if you took it slow -- just take your time finding a way through and around.
Posted By: RWSchaffer
Info: The road was dry to trailhead. 4WD and at least eight inches clearance would be desirable for the still unrepaired obstacle (pictured) about 2.5 miles below trailhead.
Posted By: scottda
Info: The rough patch in the road, 3 miles before the North Cottonwood TH, is surprisingly bad. The attached photo (shot from above on the way out) does not do it justice. We made it through with our 4Runner, but the depressions are really deep.
Posted By: TZDWyo
Info: Can confirm that 4-5’ stretch is worse now. Couldn’t figure out a good way to get my Liberty past it. Watched several SUVs and a pickup think better of it.
Posted By: JasonCrane
Info: Road is okay until one 4-5’ section that has deep, massive potholes located on an upward sloping ramp portion. There’s no way around it. I watched an ATV pass through okay, then 2 other vehicles (Subaru Outback & an SUV) bottom-out & with tires contorting in all different directions. It was violent. I tried to pass through with a Ford Escape & temporarily got the front tires stuck in the abyss before deciding to back down the slope. My SUV is a rental & just decided to turn around & preserve the vehicle w/out making it to the TH.
Posted By: jyoumans
Info: There’s roughly a 4’-5’ section of road that was washed out, it’s been "patched" with rocks but the dips are still large & very difficult to traverse. If you’re unable to proceed, you’ll need to budget an additional 3-4mi (one-way) just to get to the TH.
Posted By: telecast09
Info: Beware, the road is rough 2WD except for one 4WD section 2.4-2.6 miles from TH which is deteriorating quickly. The short 4WD section has a handful of wide and 1 ft deep potholes spanning the road. We had 8-9 inches of clearance (without skid plates) and needed to add more rocks to the potholes to avoid scraping. Even with the rock "patches", the section worsened over the course of the day.
Posted By: ae_gentry
Info: I drove to the trailhead on 10 September, and agree that the one section is very sketchy. Some kind folks put some rocks in some of the deepest potholes, but there are a bunch of really deep ones, and it’s not easy to thread your way through them. Although I did get my Subaru to the trailhead, I don’t recommend it.
Posted By: psa954hiker
Info: Agree with the previous status report. On Aug 20 I took a 2WD Camry to the trailhead, but at the aforementioned potholes (in the dark) it was rough. When I go back again this weekend I’m going to borrow someone’s truck.
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: I live along this road. The CR365/FS365 had major work done on it last fall with all ruts and washboarding repaired. However, with the heavy rains and heavy traffic this summer the road has gradually deteriorated. About 1/10 of a mile into the Natl Forest there are at least three potholes about a foot deep. Without careful tire placement cars will get themselves in trouble. Beware.
Posted By: V1per41
Info: Most of the road was in decent enough shape, but there was one spot about 1.5 miles from the TH that I had doubts I would make it through in a high clearance SUV.

That being said, there was a BMW sedan at the trailhead so it must be possible.
Posted By: bking14ers
Info: The road all the way in was far better than last year at this time. Any car can go in. A couple chuck holes along the way, but can be avoided with careful driving.
Posted By: jasowel
Info: For the most part any 2WD vehicle is fine, but there were two or three small sections I’m really glad I had high clearance. Some of those ruts seemed pretty unavoidable and quite deep.
Posted By: sehessler92
Info: The rut is non existent. I was waiting to drive through it this morning and its been completely flattened. Saw sedans at the trailhead. I assume any sedan would have to take things extra slow on some parts of the road but would be ok
Posted By: Cide
Info: Dry, rut is nothing like it was before, way smaller.
Posted By: adventurerunner
Info: The one bad rut from previous years wasn’t an issue and I made it in my Prius. And a change from last year, there’s no camping at the trailhead, but there are a few spots off the road up to the trailhead.
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: Dry to TH.
Posted By: aksean22
Info: Dry to the Silver Creek trailhead, mostly continuous snow the rest of the way to the summer TH. Tire tracks go another quarter mile or so past SIlver Creek before deep snow drifts will stop everything.
Posted By: Eagle Eye
Info: 4/11 I drove 3.5 miles of CR365 & parked 1.5 miles from N. Cottonwood TH. This is where there is a small parking area and bathrooms. which are open. The road up until that point was very good but it became instantly worse further. Someone drove beyond there during the day, maybe 3/4 of a mile but probably had to back out that whole way. Not driven on beyond that, but well-tracked & foot travelled on to the TH.
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: Anyone hoping to access the Harvard Lakes, Silver Creek, or North Cottonwood Trailheads should plan to have 4wd and good ground clearance to reach the National Forest boundary and park there. There is a solid boot pack for .7 mile and then a good trench requiring flotation after that all the way to the North Cottonwood TH.
Posted By: dennywitte
Info: I just hiked and snowshoed back to the North Cottonwood TH from the National Forest boundary, three miles from the TH. The road is pretty much impassible now. Figure on parking at the NF boundary. There is a trench in place beginning at Silver Creek. Flotation is required to avoid postholing. There is at least 24" of powder at the TH itself.
Posted By: jscully205
Info: Unchanged from previous reports. Perhaps a little icier, used 4wd to TH.
Posted By: angry
Info: No problem making it all the way to th today (12/23/20). New snowfall was not significant enough to cause any access issues.
Posted By: Eagle Eye
Info: CR365 is still open to the TH. Like the most recent December 13th info, I would say the road and especially the trailhead area are in a good tires, high clearance and 4wd required condition. It snowed enough yesterday (12/22) afternoon and night to cover my tracks from driving in earlier that morning.

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