Dare to drive the Yankee Boy Basin Road in Colorado

Yankee Boy Basin Road is a very scenic trail located in Ouray County, in the US state of Colorado. This drive through the majestic San Juan Mountains is one of the highest roads in Colorado.

Yankee Boy Basin Road

Where is Yankee Boy Basin Road?

The road is located to the north of Silverton, in the southwestern part of Ouray County, within the Uncompahgre National Forest in the western part of Colorado.

How long is Yankee Boy Basin Road?

The trail is totally unpaved. It's 7.56 km (4.7 miles) long and runs from Camp Bird Road to Yankee Boy Basin, an alpine basin nestled at an elevation of 3,818 m (12,526 ft) above sea level.

Is Yankee Boy Basin Road dangerous?

The road is really scary if you are afraid of heights. Traveling to Yankee Boy Basin should not be attempted by low-clearance passenger cars. The lower portion of the trail is easy and becomes progressively more difficult. In the middle, the trail gets rocky, narrow, and steep, but is suitable for aggressive, high-clearance stock SUVs. Medium-to-high-clearance vehicles are required to reach the Basin, and 4-wheel drive is recommended beyond the basin to Mt. Sneffels trailhead. This road becomes more "interesting" with each passing mile—turning from a graded dirt road into a slightly bumpy shelf road, finally ending up as a moderate 4WD road with some steep, rough, rutted sections that shouldn't be attempted by any low-clearance 2WD vehicles at all. High-clearance 4WDs are preferred, but any high-clearance vehicle is acceptable.

Is the Road to Yankee Boy Basin open?

Set high in the San Juan Mountains, the road is accessible when the snow melts, usually from June through October. The upper portion of the trail is closed with a gate in winter. Thunderstorms often develop in the afternoon in the Colorado high country. Note that heavy rains can wash out or clog this road at any time. Visiting early in the day and being back at your vehicle is advisable. Be aware of high altitude sickness, which can be life-threatening, and drink plenty of water. There are no services available. Be sure to take water and lunch on your visit.

How long does it take to drive Yankee Boy Basin?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 1 and 2 hours. The road is narrow at the higher sections, and passing other vehicles is nearly impossible, so be prepared that you can get stuck in traffic on summer weekends. It’s one of the most popular 4x4 roads in the area due to its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and colorful wildflowers. The wildflowers and waterfalls along this road attract photographers from all over the world, and the abandoned mines are great for history buffs. There are mines, abandoned cabins, waterfalls, wildflowers, and of course, the incredible Mount Sneffels.
Pic: Will Hampson