Throughline #860


The Throughline Trail #860 begins at the Throughline Trailhead on Forest Service Road #814 and ends at the Throughline Trailhead on Forest Service Road #709. It traverses the western lobe of the West Elk Wilderness and 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. 

Geo-Ref. Trail Map    Geo-Reference Instructions      

At a Glance

Open Season: June - October
Usage: Medium
Best Season: Summer
Busiest Season: Fall Hunting
Restrictions: Open to Hiking and Horseback.
Closest Towns: Paonia, CO and Crawford, CO

General Information


Coal Creek Area Trailhead:

From Paonia: Travel northeast on Highway 133 for approximately 15 miles to County Road 12, Kebler Pass Road. Turn onto CR 12 and travel east for approximately 1 mile to Forest Service Road #709, Coal Creek Road. Travel south on FSR #709 for approximately 8.5 miles. Turn right and cross Coal Creek into the Throughline Trailhead. There is room at the Trailhead for horse trailer camping.

South Smith Fork Area Trailhead:

From Crawford: Turn east onto Dogwood Ave. and continue straight. After approximately 0.9 miles, Dogwood Ave. turns into Needle Rock Road. At approximately 2.3 miles, Needle Rock Road intersects 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 where Needle Rock Rd. becomes Forest Service Road #712.  Continue to approximately 8.3 miles and the intersection with Forest Service Road #714, Virginia Creek Road. FSR #714 veers to the right at the National Forest Access sign. Continue for another 0.9 miles where there is a sign on Virginia Creek Road for the Through Line 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.


Coal Creek Area Trailhead:

T. 14 S.; R. 89 W.; Section 26. U.S.G.S. Map: West Beckwith Mountain. Elevation: 7,304 feet. Latitude: N38.812, Longitude: W-107.314.

South Smith Fork Area Trailhead:

T. 15 S.; R. 90 W.; Section: 28. U.S.G.S. Map: Mount Guero. Elevation: 7,656 feet. Latitude: N38.719, Longitude: W-107.454.



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  Area/Length : 
13.3 miles

  Elevation : 
7,200 - 9,000 ft