Lead King Basin

4.6/5 (33 reviews)
Marble, Colorado (Gunnison County)
Last Updated: 09/19/2022

Trail Information


Lead King Basin is another iconic four-wheel drive road in the Crested Butte, Colorado area. It provides spectacular views of several nearby 14,000-foot mountains, plus the rugged Snowmass and Maroon Bells Wilderness Area. The road closes seasonally in the winter, but the summer season presents remarkable wildflowers and panoramic views.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Lead King Basin is relatively smooth, with few rocky sections, occasional ruts, and intermittent water from snowmelt/runoff. From the trailhead, the road climbs gradually and evens out as it traverses the ridge approaching the basin. Toward the eastern end, numerous switchbacks descend into the basin and onward to the road’s end at an intersection with Schofield Pass Road. NOTES ON SEASONAL CLOSURE: FS Road 315, Lead King Basin, closes each year seasonally from November 22nd to May 21st. The closure is from Mile Post 1.1 (from the west end, near the intersection with FS Road 314 (Schofield Pass) to the intersection with FS Road 314 (Schofield Pass) on the east side of the village of Crystal. See the White River National Forest (Aspen/Sopris District) MVUM here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd506000.pdf
Proceed slowly over the water diversion "speed bumps" installed by the USFS; there are approximately 30 of them, each 24-30 inches tall. Longer wheelbase vehicles might scrape their chassis or drag a rear bumper due to breakover angle.

Trail Reviews

4.6/5 (34)
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/25/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Ran this trail on 9/25/2022 in a Colorado ZR2 and a stock Silverado, in the clockwise direction looping with crystal river trail. No real difficulty until after the switchbacks. Plenty of rollers on the western half of the trail up to the bottom of the switchbacks that gave this trail a "roller coaster" feel. The silverado did scrape it's belly on a few of these and a short wheelbase vehicle with better approach, breakover, and departure angles will find these very easy. After the switchbacks the trail gets much rockier and careful line choice becomes more important. Engine, transmission, and differential skid plates were all used. The silverado did need spotting throughout this rockier portion of the trail. Plenty of dispersed campsites (~10) were spotted throughout the trail. Saturday and Sunday on these trails are CROWDED with many people in rental jeeps practicing poor trail etiquette. Please remember that ascending drivers have the right of way and it is important to back up to a spot where it is safe to pass, not pull as far as you can to the side of the shelf road and throw your hands up as if to say "that's the best I can do".
This trail guide's difficulty was changed on 09/24/2022
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/24/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

We ran this loop counter clockwise on Saturday, September 24. This trail is now a diversion dam roller coaster. There must be a hundred of them. Some of them have a steep angle of approach and departure which caused my trailer hitch to drag several times. Very scenic at the top. Nice stream and waterfalls. Aspen starting to turn yellow and gold. As others have mentioned there are some rough rocky sections with no pullouts. We're glad we didn't meet any other vehicles. I see they changed the rating to a 4, which is accurate in my opinion.
Official Crew
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/18/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

I drove Lead King on Sunday, September 18, 2022. Drove clockwise direction. I found the avalanche debris field remarkably dry and relatively a clear path. On the eastern portion, the USFS has been using a dozer to modify the surface. Exposed rocks on three segments of the "switchbacks" exceed 12" (but less than 18") and justify a difficulty rating change to "4".
Rated 4/5
Visited: 09/08/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Agree with many reviews. This is much harder than a 3. My father has been wheeling for 50 years and he said this is one of the more difficult trails he has been on. He was in an FJ and I was in a stock Xterra Pro4X. I know that this area recently had a lot of rain and flooding, but even without that, many sections are very rocky. The end of the trail heading to Crystal mill has some very large drop boulders that hit the bottom of the FJ! Really wish this site would update the rating. As well as add concerns: None No Full Size Width Short Wheelbase Only Narrow Shelf Road Mild Off Camber Impassable When Wet (due to shale) Pinstriping

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