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Hiking & Walking: Colorado > Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests > Taylor River Ranger District

Quick Facts

Coal Mesa Trail

Beginning Elevation: 7,740 Feet (2412.7 Meters)
Difficulty: More Difficult
Elevation Gain: 2,460 Feet (766.8 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 10,200 Feet (3179.6 Meters)
Length: 14.3 Miles (23.83 Kilometers)
Other Maps: Trails Illustrated 134
Recommended Season: Summer
Trail Number: 451
Usage: Moderate
USGS Maps: Little Soap Park, Big Soap Park, West Elk Peak

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

This trail begins at the Coal Mesa Trailhead and Soap Creek Campground and leads north into the West Elk Wilderness. The beginning elevation of the Coal Mesa Trail is 7,740 feet and a horse ramp and corral are available at this site. The trail follows Cow Creek for the first two miles then sharply turns right, splitting from Cow Creek Trail. It climbs a ridge to a high point of 8,960 feet, then meets Coal Creek and Trail 452. At this meeting Coal Mesa Trail veers to the left and leads toward Poison Spring climbing a ridge.

The spring lies at approximately 9,800 feet. The trail passes this spring and continues climbing along the eastern side of the ridge. A mile and a half from Poison Spring the trail intersects with Coal Creek Trail, 452, and continues climbing. The high point of this ascent lies nearly five miles north of this last intersection at the summit of Bonfisk Peak (11,629 feet).

From Bonfisk Peak the tread slowly descends. One and a half miles north of the Bonfisk summit Coal Mesa Trail intersects with Rainbow Lake Trail, 449. The trail leads along a steep slope for approximately two miles then quickly descends into West Elk Creek.

Directions from Gunnison: Drive 26 miles west on Highway 50 from Gunnison. Turn on to State Road 92 and drive .5 miles to Forest Road 721. Turn right on to 721 and drive 7.25 miles to Forest Road 824. Turn right on to 824 and travel .5 miles to Soap Creek Campground. The trailhead for Coal Mesa Trail lies immediately north of the campground.

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Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Cold Water Fishing Cow Creek
ICON Hiking & Walking Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Horseback Riding Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Animal Identification Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Bird Identification Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Mushroom Identification Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Plant Identification Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Wildflower Identification Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Backcountry Skiing Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Viewing Scenery Coal Mesa Trail
ICON Viewing Wildlife Coal Mesa Trail

Related Activities
Coal Mesa Trailhead - Coal Mesa Trailhead lies on Soap Creek Road and provides access to the southern arm of the West Elk Wilderness.

Rainbow Lake Trail - The trail heads northwest from Rainbow Lake Road seven miles into the West Elk Wilderness.

Soap Creek Campground - Soap Creek Campground caters to equestrians using the West Elk Wilderness Area.

Soap Creek Road # 721 - Soap Creek Road leads north from Highway 92 and Curecanti National Recreation Area. It provides access to Soap Creek and the West Elk Wilderness.

More Information

Visitor Information:

Montrose County Chamber of Commerce, 550 N Townsend , Montrose, CO, 81401, Phone: 800-873-0244


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