I arrived in Creede mid morning and visited all the galleries and small shops with Sprocket. I also asked anyone I thought might be able give me trail conditions on the Phoenix Park road. At the Forest Service office, the ranger wasn’t particularly helpful but I did pickup a handout that described it as “more difficult.” More difficult isn’t necessarily what one wants to see when you’re driving a vintage Jeep alone but I wasn’t exactly detered. I asked a man who was working at the Historical Society about it and he said he drove it several years ago and it was really rough. Trying to obtain a better read on what it is actually like in comparison to other Colorado trails, I explained that I’m from Ridgway and regularly drive my Cherokee on Engineer Pass.
This, of course, is all a half truth. I did regularly drive my TJ on Engineer but I’m sure when I said “Cherokee” he pictured an XJ (which is exactly what I wanted him to do) and I’ve never driven my FSJ on Engineer.
However, I did get the information I needed: “It’s steep in some places and rocky in others but never at the same time. I did it in a Jeep Cherokee and had no problems. I sent a man from Texas up there in a Wrangler and he said it was the worst road ever.” This sounded absolutely do-able so Sprocket and I headed up that way.
The lower part of East Willow Creek Road was easy to drive and was really pretty—the road was narrow but not steep or rocky. I almost missed the entrance to Phoenix Park Road because it was tiny, looked like a quad trail, and was unsigned. I checked the map twice and realized that, yup, I was going that way. In low range, I crawled up just fine and then the road turned steeply downhill. I hate hate hate going downhill on the way to somewhere. I always like knowing that the route down gets me out not further in but it really didn’t look that bad. We made it all the way out to within about 1/10th of a mile of the road’s end. There, the road crosses the creek but the creek seems to have taken over the road for quite awhile and it is muddy and just pretty much unnecessary to drive.
In the morning, the sky looked fairly threatening and I didn’t feel like hiking in a torrential rain or, worse, getting caught in a thunderstorm. I hemmed and hawed about it for almost a half hour before driving back down to Creede. The drive out was mostly uneventful and I’ll definitely hike from the end of the road when I make it back down to try Phoenix again!
Phoenix Park Road: ~2 miles of rough road where high-clearance is helpful and at least one steep grade where low range is really helpful. I was able to make it in and out in the FSJ without an issues at full highway tire pressure.