South La Plata Trailhead


Range: Sawatch Range
Coordinates: 38.994401, -106.471466
14ers: La Plata Peak
Elevation: 10,900'
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Add

Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt to Winfield. 4WD to the trailhead.

Driving Directions

From Leadville: Drive 20 miles south on U.S. 24 and turn right on the Chaffee County 390 road. From Buena Vista: Drive 14.5 miles north on U.S. 24 and turn left on the Chaffee County 390 road.On the 390 road (dirt), drive 11.3 miles to the old town of Winfield. Reach a junction where the main road goes left. Turn right onto the 4WD road signed for the CDT and La Plata Peak trails. Measure from here.

Parallel a fence for a bit before turning left. At 0.4 mile, pass the Winfield Cemetery, which is marked by an explanatory sign. Shortly thereafter, pass a loop to your right, that provides some parking. Continue a bit farther and you'll find a turn-off on the left, with more parking. At 1.8 miles, reach a signed junction. Turn right and park 50 yards up from the turn. This is the parking area for the trailhead. The road above is closed to vehicles and the actual trailhead and start of the trail is 0.1 mile up this narrow road.

Winter Access

Closed near 9,200 feet - many miles below the TH.

More Info

Parking: Room for ~10 vehicles in the trailhead parking area with plenty of other options downhill a bit.
Camping: Plenty of spots to pitch a tent near the trailhead parking or along the road.
Restrooms? No
Fees? No
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: After recently hiking La Plata’s SW Ridge, I just updated this trailhead to all of the latest information and photos. AND all 14er trailheads now include elevations!
Posted By: davebelin
Info: Made it to the junction for the South La Plata TH in a stock Subaru Outback, no problem with either of the water crossings. You can no longer drive the "last few hundred yards" to the actual signed trailhead because it is closed for "Administrative Access Only." There is also an updated sign from what is shown on Photo01 in the route description for La Plata Southwest Ridge.
Posted By: mountain_guy
Info: I have limited 4wd experience and this road was not difficult at all in a stock Jeep Wrangler. A Subaru Forester and Crosstrek both made it as well. The lower creek crossing was running up to 1ft deep due to recent rains, upper crossing was much more shallow. Road is blocked less than a hundred yards after the right turn towards La Plata. There are a dozen or more dispersed campsites between the cemetery and the trailhead, and more further past the trailhead.
Posted By: srtaylor1317
Info: Agree with previous updates that a 2WD vehicle can carefully make it to the lower trailhead, but not further. We took a Ford Expedition with regular all season tires all the way to the 1.7 mile mark referenced in the directions. We parked here, as there is a sign saying the last bit of trail is for administrative use only, and a large branch was placed across the final bit of road. The creek crossings were fine. The proximity sensor for the front bumper did beep at me coming out of the second creek crossing, but we made it through without so much as a bump or a scratch.
Posted By: GuiGirard
Info: Driving up to Winfield past the first few miles of smooth dirt is slow and unpleasant with many rocks and potholes, but it can be cleared if going slow and carefully with any vehicle (plenty of 2WD sedans at Winfield and dispersed campsites around the area). For the West Winfield road proper, I made it very slow and without a scratch with a standard 2016 Outback with regular M+S tires. Road was dry so this helped a lot. It’s rough right out of Winfield past the first cabin at the intersection and this spot sets the tone for what’s coming ahead. It you can make it through this early spot, you are likely to make it up to an intimidating and deeply carved creek crossing which might have been, after further analysis, drivable just fine with the Outback. An earlier creek crossing right before this spot is mostly stagnant water with a shallow stony bottom and is not a matter of concern. This spot is roughly 1/3 mile before the junction of the La Plata trailhead road, and has parking for a few vehicles and a dispersed campsite. Overall that is about 2/3 mile of hiking on dirt road before the real trailhead. By hiking up the 1/4 mile road to the trailhead after the split, I confirm it is rough, steep with what appears to be poor traction in loose and sharp stones. True 4WD needed to make it there but that 2/3 mile "warmup" before the beautiful ascent to La Plata is a fine warmup. Note that it is a true one-lane road all the way from Winfield and crossing a vehicle might get tricky without true 4WD high clearance (or involve precise backing maneuvers to the nearest safe crossing spot). Luckily I was alone going up and down!
Posted By: mtgoatmike
Info: Drove my stock 2012 Tacoma to the upper trailhead, no issues. There were multiple Crosstreks and Outbacks at the upper trailhead as well. As far as 2wd, the road to the lower trailhead is accessible to all vehicles, with slow driving, you’ll be fine. Just pay close attention to the large potholes and washboards, your 2wd will make it to the lower trailhead.
Posted By: desert_diver
Info: Chaffee County CR390 is in good shape all the way to the junction with short road up to the La Plata SW Ridge route. The most challenging driving was from the Winfield townsite to the Winfield Cemetery. Someone with more 4WD driving experience may not consider that section especially challenging either. The creek crossings further west were fairly shallow - I estimate the water not more than 8" deep. The entry and exit for the 2nd creek crossing are steep, but short.

There are many dispersed camping options between the Winfield townsite and the junction with the road to the La Plata SW Ridge TH.

Vehicle: Stock Toyota Tacoma long bed.
Posted By: LetsGoMets
Info: Road clear to roughly .5 miles below the 4WD turnoff where a large drift will stop progress. After that drift, minimal snow and all snow avoidable to TH.
Posted By: Lisbeth
Info: Huge holes in parking lot so we didnt take the SUV into the near lot. Others had braved it in similar vehicles but we didnt want to risk it. Sadly this added a lot of time and fatigue for middle aged hikers to an otherwise great trail.
Posted By: rcvance
Info: For those who are curious about driving to the 4wd turnoff(roughly 150 yards from the TH), I managed to get there in a 2wd Escalade (130" wheelbase), summer tires, and about 11.5" of clearance. I only dealt with minor scraping on the rear end housing. Just be conscious of the lines you take and most importantly have fun with it! Good luck out there.
Posted By: KMoore32
Info: Really not so bad for a 4 out of 6 on the road rating. We made it to the second creek crossing (about 0.6 mile from the upper trailhead) in a Jeep Compass, with just some minor scraping. The second creek crossing was super rutted and a bit deep so we decided to hike in the rest of the way from there for La Plata’s SW ridge route.
Posted By: CraigE
Info: I drove a stock Subaru Forester two miles past Winfield to just below the South La Plata trailhead without too much difficulty on 6/12/2020. The rocks and ruts definitely required high clearance and probably AWD. There were two significant water crossings: About halfway up the road there was a stream about 20 feet wide and 8 - 10 inches deep with a firm mud bottom. A little ways past that there was another stream about 15 feet wide and just a few inches deep with a rock bottom and a steep West bank. Both streams were passable with a bit of care, but be aware that the water was a little deeper on the return drive when things had thawed.

I parked where the road turns North towards the trailhead sign. But when I hiked up the road, I saw that I could have comfortably driven a couple hundred yards further up the hill to a larger parking area. The final stretch from there to the trailhead sign was pretty rough.
Posted By: CaptCO
Info: Made it to the junction, 2wd mid clearance until the ice pit which is no bueno for long wheel base regular clearance trucks. Scraped 1-2 times with Stock F150 RWD V8. Worth it for me, probably not for most people. There was a Lexus SUV and leveled 4Runner up there as well. Icy in the morning which turned into small creeks and 1 shallow pond stream. Id say go at your own risk if you dont have a lift. 4wd doesnt matter with the right vehicle and driver.
Posted By: cfb
Info: Started up the rough, 4WD read for about 1/2 mile. It was crazy rough and slow. Definitely high clearance, probably 4WD. I decided it wasn’t worth it. Turned around and went to Missouri Gulch, climbing Belford/Oxford (again)
Posted By: Been_Jammin
Info: Parked my Tahoe Z71 about 200 yards shy of the TH. It could of made it all the way to the top. I think any stock 4*4 with decent clearance would do just fine with the current conditions.
Posted By: hsiegel3
Info: Road clear and well maintained to Winfield and clear to trailhead. High clearance needed for about 10% of 4WD road.
Posted By: johnt
Info: According to the Leadville Ranger District, West Winfield is open to the La Plata TH.
Posted By: KirkDCO
Info: Made the drive from Winfield to the meadow in a 2010 Outback (8.7" clearance) with standard AT tires. The drive is really not a problem, and I saw lower clearance vehicles also making the trek. As everyone else has said, don’t bother with the last 200 yards to the official trailhead. Very steep, only doable with a true high-clearance 4WD, and even then not worth it. 5 minutes of walking and you’re there.
Posted By: Barb1957
Posted By: pbarn
Posted By: schumi248
Info: Made it up most of the road, not the rough last 200-400 yards though, in a 2009 Subaru Outback. Breezed through the creek crossings, just take it easy.
Posted By: drgdclark
Info: Trailhead was in pretty good shape if you have a jeep / other high clearance 4wd. I would not recommend going all the way up if you have a 4wd passenger car. Near top, I was balancing on 2 wheels. Fun, but not too much fun. A couple creek crossings would also wreck havoc on my wife’s subie.
Posted By: Navigaiter
Info: The Blackbear creek washout is completely passable for AWD and 4WD. We did it in a Toyota Rav4 and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. The right turn for the road to the trailhead is obvious, even in the dark. After a stretch of road that goes through an open meadow, you’ll come to a large stand of pines, and the road will start to swing left just after the trees. The road to the trailhead is right after that stand, and you can’t miss it. Go slowly, and most AWD with decent clearance will make it to the lower portion of the trailhead road.
Posted By: Alan Ellis
Info: Definitely 4WD needed to get to the high TH. We did it in the dark and had no idea where we were going. As a result, we parked lower than we should have. When on the road, just keep going and you’ll reach the end and the parking meadow. You’ll pass about three meadows on the way up the road and you’ll want to stop and park in one of them. Ignore these, keep going, and you’ll get to the correct parking meadow. In the daylight, it’s much easier to see, but if you’re doing an alpine start in the dark, it’s kinda hard to find the right meadow to park. Keep going and you’ll come to the end of the road and the parking.
Posted By: ezabielski
Info: The last few hundred feet to the gate are the hardest for 4WD, but there is not really a place to park there so don’t even do it. Park in an open area just below the gate. At the trailhead I saw a Wrangler, a Jeep Compass, a Ford Expedition, Nissan Frontier, 4Runner, and a Mazda SUV of some sort. The Mazda made quite a thunk slamming the underside on a rock.
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