Rockdale Trailhead


Range: Sawatch Range
Coordinates: 38.99016, -106.41195
14ers: Missouri Mountain, Huron Peak
Elevation: 9,950'
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Road Difficulty

Moderate 4WD, long wheel base vehicles not recommended. Good clearance required. 4   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt access to the Rockdale turn-off. Narrow, Rough 4WD to 11,040' below Cloyses Lake. In spring and early summer, the river crossings after Rockdale can be very difficult and dangerous. Short wheelbase and high clearance required.

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, drive about 9.6 miles and turn left onto Forest Road (FR) 381 just after some cabins. This is the Rockdale site. Drive 0.1 mile down past the cabins and left toward Clear Creek. There is a turn-around circle here and the road continues toward the creek after the circle. If you don't have a high-clearance, short, 4WD vehicle, park in this area. Even with the right 4WD vehicle, fording Clear Creek is not recommended until after July, when the water levels are lower. From here, it's a 3 mile walk to the end of the road, near Clohesy Lake.

Follow FR 381 through shallow water to reach Clear Creek. You must now cross two streams. First, cross Clear Creek to gain higher ground between the two streams. Then, cross the Lake Fork stream.

After the water, continue 2.6 miles to a large parking area at 10,880'. Most 4WDers park here, but it's possible to continue another 0.3 miles to a gate, near 11,040'.

Winter Access

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

More Info

Parking: Room for a couple of vehicles at the start of FR 381, and a couple by the creek crossing. If you can drive to the upper, 4WD area, you’ll find a spot to park.
Camping: Places to car camp along the 390 road but not much near rockdale or the river crossing. If you make it up the 4wd road, there are spots.
Restrooms? No
Fees? No
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: CraigE
Info: I hiked the 4WD road, and I checked out whether a Subaru Forester/Outback or similar crossover SUV could comfortably make it to the upper trailhead. Bottom line: Probably not.

But the worst obstacles are near the start of the road, so you could give it a try without too much commitment. Specifically, there are two river crossings shortly after you turn off from 390. They both have solid bottoms, and the deepest water came up just past my calf. You might crawl through it fine in a crossover. The worst obstacle is on the exit from the second crossing. It’s a steep climb out of the river, with large rocks and washed out holes. I think it would be a challenge to get a crossover past it.

If you could get past that point, the rest of the road isn’t as bad. There are two more stretches about a half mile past the second crossing that are pretty rocky and washed out. But after that the road is less rocky, and you mostly have to deal with ruts and mud puddles.
Posted By: desertdog
Info: The beaver dam as mentioned in the August report is no more. There are some small branchs left that you will drive over. Water level low on Creek the crossings. The worst part of the road is the first half mile. Made it in a 4Runner.
Posted By: Mtnman200
Info: An industrious beaver constructed a dam in the middle of the road at the first creek crossing. If you get past the beaver dam, the steep climb out of the creek after the second creek crossing is much improved as compared to August 2020.
Posted By: HikerGuy
Info: Water levels were low/normal at both crossings, no issues there. The exit after the second crossing is still the crux, but it did not seem worse than the last time I was there a few years ago, the year before the historic avalanche cycle. The rest of the road seemed a bit bouncier than before, but that’s probably just my hazy memory. I had not been up since an avalanche took out the trailhead, quite the sight. There is parking for about 6 vehicles amongst the debris, if everyone plays nice. I camped at the trailhead and was able to find a flat spot for a one-man tent, not much level ground in the area. I only saw one other vehicle at the gate, most everyone else was parked in the nice flat camping area prior to the last steep section up to the gate. I was driving a stock 1996 Ford Ranger with 31" tires.
Posted By: Trotter
Info: So water level is fairly high, about knee high on the two crossings. The first crossing looks ok, the second crossing still has the big rock ledge as soon as you exit the water. It looks like people have stacked rocks in front of it, so it might be slightly more doable than in years past. After that point, the road gets easier as you gain altitude. Saw a stock looking 4 runner at the top.

Water is also extremely cold. I waded all the crossings, and the water feels like 33 degrees.
Posted By: mightycuine
Info: Gate was closed this afternoon when driving out from Winfield. Not sure if it’s for the season or not.
Posted By: HikerBox
Info: Had some kind error posting this earlier

Water is low - maybe 12-inches but slightly higher at the first crossing due to a small beaver dam you have to drive over.

I could not make it up the rocks at the far side of the second crossing in my SR5 Tacoma with 32" A/T tires. My front tire on the big rock lined up with my back tire on a small ledge. A locking diff would have saved the day since I had plenty of clearance and approach/depature but no dice for me. Ended up adding ~5 miles and 800 vert to my day so not a big deal.
Posted By: Gene913
Info: Had to deconstruct a beaver dam in order to get through the first creek crossing. Otherwise things are normal for this 4WD only road to Clohesy Lake.
Posted By: Oliver99
Info: Went this afternoon 7/10 in stock full size Silverado to scope out creek crossings. I did not attempt to cross after talked to 2 persons camped out before 1st stream. They said 1st stream is fine and I looked and agreed. They said their is a rock coming out of 2nd stream crossing that is not advisable in my truck without lift and skid plates. 1 guy had a stock Tacoma and he said he didnt want to risk damage on that rock. The other guy had hiked up to the lake and said there were other trucks up there and an Izuzu today.
Posted By: Green_river
Info: Attaching current picture of the deepest part of the creek crossing
Posted By: mikeso
Info: Snow down to the creek crossing. Both creeks are low-medium levels moving slowly.
Posted By: Dan_Suitor
Info: Clear the whole way. Water is not too high. No problems for my 2500 GMC with off road package and oversized tires. I did need to be mindful of the line I took in the rougher areas. I doubt parking at the gate will ever be available. Best to park at the clearing .3 miles before the gate.
Posted By: WildWanderer
Info: I drive a stock Tundra. The creek crossings were minimal for this time of year (6-8 inches of water maximum), but I did bottom out a few times on the drive in and out on the 4WD drive to the trailhead, despite careful driving. There are a lot of ups and downs that need to be negotiated carefully in a larger vehicle. No damage, but if you have the option to take a short wheel based vehicle I’d recommend doing so.
Also, there’s been an avalanche at the gate, so you need to park before the sign that says not to continue further (because.... you can’t). This only adds about .25 mile to your hike.
Posted By: LivingOnTheEdge
Info: Sometime between 8:15am and 1pm today, someone filled in the giant rut on the second crossing with a ton of rock. Before, the rut and erosion made the line really tricky and easy to slide off of, but now it’s just about clearance and grip. You still likely need a high clearance vehicle with 4x4 and potentially a rear locking differential, but it is MUCH easier. I saw a few Tacomas, Wranglers, and a couple other trucks at the upper trailhead. For reference, I drive a stock 2010 4Runner and didn’t go for it before the rut was filled in because I didn’t have anyone to help guide me up it and I didn’t want to get stuck. I would have zero concerns about doing it by myself now.
Posted By: JasonG144
Info: Exit from second stream crossing was a little burly as soil erosion has made the exit more challenging. All that is left is a big steep rock to climb over . Locking in the rear differential on stock Tacoma TRD- Off Road, made for an controlled crawl up and out of the second stream crossing. On the way back out I piled up some rocks to make it easier to climb down into the stream. If a few more people periodically pile up rocks on their way out, it should keep it more manageable for others and reduce the erosion. Clearly a high clearance 4WD would still remain a requirement for those that want to keep the bottom of their vehicle.
Posted By: arianna2
Info: Water is low but the exit from the second stream looks pretty daunting, you’d have to have a lift for that first section, maybe 1/4 mile after the stream. When you turn off 390 into that Rockdale area, the streams and parking are to the left. We did cross the first stream and parked since we didn’t want to get high centered on that second stream exit. Probably would have been fine but it is not a hard walk to the lake anyway.
Posted By: Amanda Horner
Info: Creeks are low. Crv parked after first stream, second stream is also low but large rocks at the exit may cause lower vehicles trouble. Also there are quite a few berms that a stock 4runner was putting divots in....we would not have taken our 4runner without a its lift.
Posted By: cbaldwin
Info: I have a Tacoma TRD Off Road with a 3" lift and was able to cross the first creek yesterday. Didn’t want to attempt the 2nd...much faster and deeper water and has some bigger rocks. The first creek covered most of my wheels (probably 26"-30" deep) at the deep spots - so fun. For sure wait until peak run-off is finished in a few weeks but I don’t think it will be as bad as past years.
Posted By: sfreytag
Info: Clear Creek is currently passable for a bit before peak runoff hits. Crossed in my Ram 2500 around 12:30 PM just for fun after summitting Huron. The truck has 35" tires and the water never got above the center cap on the rim so I’d guess it was around 16" deep in the big channel.
Posted By: swesleyc7
Info: This is for Missouri’s West Route. The 2 rivers you need to cross from Rockdale are very low levels - probably just a few inches. Crossing in a regular SUV is OK. However, the trail after the rivers is VERY, VERY rough. No, normal SUV, even ones with 8+ in. of ground clearance, are able to drive up this road to the lake. Only true, off-road, lifted vehicles can drive up this trailhead. It’s full of large stones and berms. Only proper off-road tires and a lifted suspension will be able to clear the obstructs. Be advised.
Posted By: jenramirez1
Info: The directions above are out of date - The entrance to Rockdale is now at sign 381 off of Chaffee Rd #390 @ mile 9.6. Evidently, someone has privatized the first 4 cabins and there is a gate with a lock preventing entry. Instead, go a few more hundred feet on #390 to the entrance on the left marked 381. With this new entrance, you only pass 1 cabin before finding the first water crossing pictured in the video above. Pics attached show sign for 381 and the avalanche that destroyed the parking spot near the gate.

One more note, this road is worse than in years past. We scraped the bottom of our truck multiple times due to the extreme rockiness and aggressiveness of the trail.
Posted By: Strider29
Info: The road has been cleared out to within 1/4 mile of the gate. Like someone else said, you should park at the last open, flat camping area as there are only 2-3 spots to park beyond there before reaching the debris field at the gate. Dozens of "berms" have been added to the road to prevent washouts. Since these are relatively new, they are still fairly pronounced. We scrapped the skid plate on our stock Jeep Sahara Unlimited (8.2" GC) on almost every one of these. There’s one tricky spot just before the last cleared area where half the road has been filled in with large rocks. I was able to go around it on the high side. Wasn’t willing to try going straight over it. No issues at all with the stream crossings right now.
Posted By: LUmarnth
Info: Just wanted to give a heads up. There’s a landslide before and at the gate. So you wont be driving to the gate any longer. You’ll want to just park/camp at the last open area before the last .3 mile stretch to where the gate is covered in downed trees.
Posted By: boonecounty
Info: The stream crossing past Rockdale seems very high and it is unlikely you will be able to drive across it to do Missouri until later this year.
Posted By: WildWanderer
Info: Open and clear 2WD access. Summer conditions.
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