Rock Creek Trailhead


Range: Sangre de Cristo
Coordinates: 38.38179, -105.98358
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Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)

Driving Directions

- From the Salida/Poncha Springs area, drive south on U.S. 285 to the top of Poncha Pass.
- From the pass, continue 4.5 miles and turn left onto an unmarked, dirt road.
- Drive 0.6 mile and stay right (FS Road 980) at a 3-way junction
- Continue 1.0 mile to a junction for FS 980 & FS 982
- Stay left on FS 980
- Drive 0.9 mile to reach a gate. Pass through the gate and close it behind you
- Continue 1.0 mile (still on FS 980) to reach a junction at 9,700', 3.5 miles from highway
- Turn right on FS 982 and drive a short distance to reach an excellent camp spot. Setting up a camp here and hiking the remaining 0.7 mile to the "trailhead" isn't a big deal and will save you having to make the 4WD stream crossing (below)
- Continue 0.7 mile on FS 982 to reach the Rock Creek trailhead (not an official USFS trailhead), just after a stream crossing
- The trail starts behind a gate.

Winter Access

Status Updates 
Posted By: angry
Info: Mostly dry to th. No issue with stream crossing or mud in 4WD.
Posted By: ScottLovesRMNP
Info: Only in the very best of circumstances (i.e. dry) would I recommend trying the road in 2WD. My tires got absolutely caked in mud about 1.5 miles up the road, and I was probably just one bad steering move away from being checkmated by the mud. Clearly, there had been recent rain in the area. Very difficult to back down the narrow road and turn around once you get into the muddier area. Luckily I managed to do it, but I parked my Toyota Corlla along the side of the road at about 8600 feet and just walked it from there. The hike is still do-able from this distance out. Better than taking chances on the road with 2WD in my opinion.
Posted By: WildWanderer
Info: All gates are now open. The road is clear of snow all the way to the trailhead. Creek Crossings manageable and there was just one muddy area on the road. I didn’t need to put my truck into 4WD, but appreciated the higher clearance.
Posted By: mrbabunny
Info: Very recently fallen aspen tree is blocking the entire road approx. 3 tenths of a mile before the TH. Best to pull off just after the sign pointing right 1 mile to Rock Creek.
Posted By: mikemalick
Info: Think almost any vehicle with moderate clearance can make it to the TH. Rutted in spots and the usual spike rocks along the road, but I found pretty much everything can be avoided. I was in a Chevy Colorado and was fine staying in 2WD. Noted some CUV/SUV types up high as well. Not having been there before, I didn’t know what to expect past the right on FS 982 camp spot so I stopped right around there and walked the .7 miles to the gate. Having walked it now, it would have been no problem at all. There is a pull-off just before you drop to the stream crossing. Can probably fit 2-3 vehicles there if everyone plays nice. The stream was only a few inches at its deepest spot.

Pics show a little after the right onto FS 982. First two shots are the same spot. Just a little muddy. Last pic is on the return. Just left the gate and getting ready to start across the stream crossing. Not that wide or deep. Again, you don’t need to cross the stream. You can park at the pull-off top-left in this shot.
Posted By: Tornadoman
Info: There is a large area of running water about 1/2 mile from the turnoff with 285. It is eroding the road and quite deep and rutted, we had no problems in a Tacoma with large/off-road tires, but someone got stuck trying to off road it to get around the worst of the water. Bad idea! This road definitely requires 4wd for this area. Beyond it is more the typical rough road with minor rock obstacles and a good driver with clearance would be fine.
Posted By: tomcat32
Info: Yes you can get here with an Outback if you take it slow at least to the last junction of 980/982. I didn’t bottom out at all. I walked the last .7 from the camping spot at the junction to the actual TH. There is a pretty mucky puddle just after the camping spot that I would not have attempted in my outback. There is another good camping spot maybe .25 before the 2nd 980/982 junction.
Posted By: Jay521
Info: Clear to the TH. No problems getting there at all.
Posted By: 14ersKen
Info: If you take the 982 FS road from the south, there is a large tree laying over the road about 2/3 of the way to the trail head. It is not resting but suspended by other trees. The problem is that you must drive under it. If you drive a tall vehicle such as a Toyota Land Cruiser or similar, it may not fit under the tree.
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: Added the trailhead to the site. It’s an easy 4WD road, albiet narrow and a bit rocky. Some trip reports suggest turning right on the FS 982 road after driving 1.6 miles from the highway but it’s best to stay on the FS 980 road all the way to 9,700’ because it’s shorter and in much better shape. Once at the upper junction (9,700’) for FS 980 and FS 982, turn right and continue 0.7 miles to the trailhead, just after a stream crossing which requires good clearance.

It’s currently all dry and we never needed 4WD but good clearance was a must.

Pic #1: The gate on FS 980, 2.5 miles up from highway
Pic #2: The junction at 9,700’, 3.5 miles up from highway
Pic #3: Great camping spot just after turning right onto FS 982, at 9,700’
Pic #4: The stream crossing on FS 982, just before reaching the trailhead by taking the directions on the trailhead page. In the photo, the trailhead fence can be seen on the other side of the creek.

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