South Colony Lakes Trailhead


Range: Sangre de Cristo
Coordinates: 37.97611, -105.50651
14ers: Humboldt Peak, Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak
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Road Difficulty

Moderate 4WD, long wheel base vehicles not recommended. Good clearance required. 4   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
Easy 2WD dirt to the lowest trailhead. 4WD (high-clearance required) dirt to the upper trailhead.

Driving Directions

Take Colorado 69 south from Westcliffe. Drive 4.5 miles and turn right on Colfax Lane. Drive 5.5 miles to the end of Colfax. Turn right and drive 1 mile on a dirt road to a junction. Continue straight up the 120 Road for 0.3 mile to the Lower 2WD Trailhead at 8,800'. To reach the Upper 4WD Trailhead, continue 2.7 miles to parking/camp spots before the first river crossing, near 9,950'. In 2009, the South Colony Lakes road was permanently closed here (gate) and this is the current trailhead. The trail starts next to the trailhead kiosk, in the parking area.

Winter Access

Usually closed near the lower TH at the bottom of the road.
Status Updates 
Posted By: DorothyK
Info: Road got a frosting of snow last night, expect it will melt out just fine. Still easily driveable in a decent 4wd vehicle.
For the trail itself, microspikes were definitely needed; poles were helpful.
Posted By: drchele
Info: Stock Wrangler in 4LO made it to upper 4WD Trailhead just before the first river crossing near 9,950’ (road beyond is gated here). Minimal frost and snow this morning after the area received ~4" on 10/12. Snow really doesn’t start till 10,500’ hiking up the closed section of road. Road difficulty was not as bad as the upper 4WD Yankee Boy Basin which is ranked 3/6 (and probably should be a 4/6). I’d say 4/6 feels about right, except a few things that make it easier than the typical 4/6:
(1) the overall length of the drive is pretty short
(2) there are several pullouts to allow passing
(3) some sections are wide enough for two vehicles to pass.
(4) there is no ’life-or-death’ drop-off to one side.
There is an easy flat spot at the cattle guard where you can stop and put it in 4WD. There is also parking here if you want to rendezvous with your hiking bud.
I’d say all-in-all, it was a fun little off-road adventure that flanked my Humboldt summit that allowed me to practice my lines without getting too spicy.
Posted By: jess10611
Info: Made it to upper TH in stock Subaru Crosstrek. Definitely recommend car with AWD/4WD. The road is pretty rough and there are a few spots, as mentioned below, that are quite deep. Coming down felt more difficult than going up due to lack of visibility where the drop offs are.
Posted By: JasonCrane
Info: Hiked the road from the parking area at 8.8k. Road ascents a total of ~1k vert gain from the lower 2WD TH to the upper AWD TH at 9.9k feet. High clearance vehicles are a must as there are a few deep craters & protruding rocks. A handful of really rough patches on upward sloping ramps with holes large enough to swallow a tire. Some sections are surprising smooth dirt w/out any rocks. Saw a number of vehicles parked at or near the upper TH, all SUVs & pick-up trucks. The distance from lower TH to upper TH is 2.7 miles each way. Plenty of camping spots available in vicinity of TH.
Posted By: stephakett
Info: drove up in a stock 2019 4Runner TRD. no obstacles, no difficulties, no clearance issues, no traction problems, no worries. run of the mill rough 4WD road.
Posted By: Bccrhp
Info: As advertised. 4WD section isnt fun (lots of rocks) and youll have to choose your lines carefully, but a Subaru made it to the 4WD trailhead. SUVs/trucks/Jeeps shouldnt have much of a problem.
Posted By: E_A_Marcus_949
Info: Drove up 9/10 and down 9/12 in a stock 2018 Subaru Forester. Made it all the way to the upper trailhead. Definitely a few dicey spots to pick your line carefully, but I didn’t scrape at all. Mostly jeeps, trucks, 4runners, etc. Saw one highlander, an older outback, and another Forester up there. I last took this road in 2018 (I think), and it’s since deteriorated significantly. I’m not sure if I’ll take my car back up next year or not. The half mile gives you an idea of the rest of the road, but don’t be fooled as there are still plenty of other tough spots farther up.
Posted By: swesleyc7
Info: The trail work the county (?) performed several weeks ago has paid off. The 4WD road is still rough and demands a competent driver who can pick good "lines", but is more accessible to 4WD vehicles that aren’t modified jeeps or trucks. I was able to drive to the 4WD trailhead in a stock Volvo XC40, which has 8.3-in ground clearance and 106-in wheelbase and was able to do so without scraping underbody once. 4WD is a must as are good tire. The road has plenty of large rocks, divots, and canted angles that will be rough on any shorter vehicle with poor tires.
Posted By: bananabobby
Info: Anything w high clearance and 4L can crush this road. I saw a minivan parked about a quarter mile from the trailhead. Texas plates. I want driving lessons from this person. Please show yourself you god.
Posted By: The_Ramp
Info: Road to upper TH is as advertised: absolutely requires a high clearance vehicle and careful planning picking your lines. Made it with my 2009 XTerra no problem; definitely used 4L on the way up and dropped it into 2nd going down. Mostly trucks and all terrain SUVs at the TH though there was one or two Subarus that made it.

I arrived at the upper TH around 4pm on Friday 8/27 and there was two less-than-ideal spots available. After a bit, a couple cars left and I grabbed a better spot. When I returned after climbing on Saturday around noon, every available spot or pull-off going about a quarter mile down the road was occupied.

PSA: please mindful of people trying to sleep when you pull into a TH late at night. There were quite a few folks in tents or sleeping in cars (like myself) when a party of climbers rolled in around 1130PM and were quite loud as they packed up their gear.
Posted By: ncxhjhgvbi
Info: Active grading on the lower section of the road this morning, and also looks like some waterbars or at least troughs for runoff were added all the way up. Higher up obstacles are the same but the section from the 2WD TH to the forest is much better now! They had two CATs working when I left. As always, a few Subies at the 4WD TH
Posted By: ClimberSkierDave64
Info: The road has two really nasty spots, both very low on the road. The first is right after the 2wd with potholes and fairly big rocks, and if your vehicle struggles here, it probably wont make it past the second obstacle. The second and worst obstacle right after the start of the forest is even tougher and requires 4LO and good clearance. After that, the road is fairly smooth to the trailhead.
Posted By: Tartay
Info: Attempted in a stock forester XT and the transmissions just wouldn’t allow us to get past that one spot every in other reports keep mentioning. With a spotter and really good line-selection you might be able to make it but without the low 4X4 the wheels just weren’t given enough power to get through the really loose sand and steep. The road is much worse than I remember it being two years ago.
Posted By: mijoflynn
Info: Made it to the upper TH in my Cherokee Trailhawk (same clearance as a Subaru, 8.7", but better angles) without scraping.

Pic is of the consensus worst spot this year, about a quarter-mile up from the 2WD TH (it’s steeper than it looks). Sounds like previous posters have generally been staying far right, and risking tipping over. I started lower left and angled to the upper right, in 4LO with rear diff lock, and made it no problem.
Posted By: mknjester
Info: Made it up and back with a 2010 Ford F150 XLT 4x4. I have about a 4 inch lift and about 8 inches of clearance. Did not scrape once and kept it in 4 low. The first section has a few tricky rocks but nothing too bad if you go slow and pick your line. Don’t attempt in low clearance Subaru’s or SUV’s.
Posted By: invisllama
Info: Made it to the 4WD in a 2016 Outback. Probably a bad idea though. Most difficult part took me several attempts to get past on the way up and I bottomed out on it on the way back down. Someone better at finding lines might make an easier time of it but I wouldn’t recommend trying it with an outback.
Posted By: Mitsugi
Info: Totally dry. Made it to the 4WD trailhead in a 2006 Toyota Highlander with new Falken Wildpeak tires. But, on the way down almost tipped it over on its side. There is a section about 10% up from the 2WD trailhead that is the worst spot. I watched a dodge truck absolutely choke on that section before I came down it and then almost tipped the SUV. People were on the back bumper preventing the car from rolling over.

Beware, if in doubt, pass.
Posted By: fsun71
Info: Made it in a stock 2015 Toyota Rav4 again - just need to be careful and maintain momentum at critical points
Posted By: thecow
Info: Made it up in F150 4x4 with no lift. Needed to choose line carefully on one part. Tried going low but ended up having to go high and place tires perfectly to clear it.
Posted By: LetsGoMets
Info: Clear to the upper TH. Having been on this road a number of times in the past, I can say that a couple of the recent obstacles from last year in particular are not as bad/gone. Still would not take a Subaru up. (1.5" lifted Land Cruiser).
Posted By: TJ Knecht
Info: About 1 foot of new snow on 5/3. 2-3’ snow drifts start around 9400’, below the forest boundary. Mostly continuous snow from forest boundary to 4wd trailhead but melting out fast in spots. Continuous snow above the 4wd trailhead to the lakes, other than a few spots where water crosses the road.
Posted By: HikerGuy
Info: Snow begins at 1.08 miles from 2wd parking area. Patchy from 1.08 miles to forest boundary at 1.50 miles. Snow mostly continuous from boundary to Rainbow Trail.
Posted By: kalestew
Info: If you take Schoolfield instead of Colfax, you can make it all the way to the 2WD lot. Otherwise, new 6in deep snow is covering 0.5mi of road to the winter lot from the Colfax side
Posted By: WildWanderer
Info: Lower trailhead free of snow and easily accessible with a 2WD vehicle. Snow starts at lower trailhead however, and is impassable from there to 4WD vehicles. Bring your snowmobile to go further.
Posted By: angry
Info: Dry, no problem getting to upper 4wd th.

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