Through Line Trail

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Through Line Trail #860

The Throughline Trail #860 traverses the western lobe of the West Elk Wilderness. It climbs gradually from Smith Fork Creek, passing through Gambel oak thickets, meadows, aspen forests and drainages studded with beaver ponds. After topping out on the southern flanks of Mt. Gunnison there are spectacular views of the heart of the West Elk Mountains. From here the trail descends into the vast aspen forests of Coal Basin and continues down into Coal Creek Canyon. Along this trail you may encounter deer, elk, bear and cattle. The trail is well-used and easy to follow, though there are rocky sections, creek crossings and bogs. Occasionally, avalanche debris can block the trail to horse traffic until mid-June.

Open Season: June – October
Usage: Medium
Restrictions: Open to Hiking and Horseback
Closest Towns: Paonia, CO and Crawford, CO


Coal Creek Area Trailhead:

From Paonia, CO travel northeast for approximately 14 miles on State Highway 133, to County Road 12 (Kebler Pass Road). Turn east and travel approximately 1.5 miles to Forest Road #709 (Coal Creek Road). Travel south to the Through Line Trailhead.

South Smith Fork Area Trailhead:

From the town of Crawford, turn left onto Dogwood Ave. and continue straight to Needle Rock Road. At the intersection with Needle Rock Road and 4200 Road, turn right and stay on Needle Rock Road.  After passing the Needle Rock and the Smith Fork Ranch the road will cross Smith Fork Creek and a cattle guard over Cow Creek which enters National Forest.   Virginia Creek Road, FSR #712, veers to the right at the National Forest Access sign.  There is a sign on Virginia Creek Road for the Throughline and Sink Creek trails, stay to the left. There is an orange gate and parking for truck and trailers, pass through the gate and the trailhead is about four tenth of a mile further.

Trail Ethics: The Throughline Trail is maintained for foot & horseback travel only. Please don’t cut across switchbacks or create new trails.

Motors & Machines: Motorized vehicles or bicycles are not allowed on the Throughline Trail or in the Wilderness Area.

Drinking Water: DO NOT drink water directly from a river or stream. Water needs to be treated first by either filtering, boiling for at least 10 minutes or treated with iodine tablets.


  • Trail Measurement: 13.3 Miles
  • Compass Latitude: 384525N
  • Compass Longitude: 1072517W
  • Numeric Latitude: 38.7569363
  • Numeric Longitude: -107.4214446
  • Elevation in Meters: 2,195 to 2,743
  • Elevation in Feet: 7,200 to 9,000

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