Lowline Trail, 438, leads north from Mill Creek Road, Forest Service Road 727, to Cliff Creek Trail, 840. It traverses through 15 miles of the eastern West Elk Wilderness. It is a great trail on which to base an extended trip, because it provides various links to other trails. It also provides many hours of hiking amidst glorious scenery.
This trail description begins at the southern terminus of the Lowline Trail, which is Mill Creek Road. This road stems from Ohio Creek Road nine miles north of Highway 135. The Lowline Trail extends north from the Mill Creek Road approximately four miles west of Ohio Creek Road.
Leading north from Mill Creek Road, Lowline Trail crosses the eastern flanks of a steep ridge. It hits a high point of 10,960 feet before descending into the Squirrel Creek drainage. Approximately a quarter mile passed Squirrel Creek, Lowline Trail begins to follow Forest Road 871. The trail makes a sharp eastward turn, follows the road for a half mile, then veers to the left away from the road. Shortly after it leaves the road the trail turns sharply northward.
Lowline Trail follows a relatively flat path for the next two miles then begins to steadily ascend. It reaches a high point of 10,000 feet then slowly descends into the Castle Creek drainage. Approximately a quarter mile from this high point Lowline Trail intersects an unnamed trail and continues descending. A mile and a half passed the trail intersection it crosses South Castle Creek and begins climbing toward Mill Castle Trail, 450.
To continue following Lowline Trail turn right (north) at the Mill Castle Trail junction. Lowline Trail continues north toward Beckwith Pass from this point. This is also where the tread enters the West Elk Wilderness. After crossing Castle Creek, the trail leads over a ridge above 10,000 feet then descends into the Pass Creek drainage. The trail crosses Pass Creek then leads out of this shallow gulch and into the Cliff Creek valley. After paralleling the Cliff Creek headwaters for a quarter mile, Lowline Trail is intersected by Pass Creek Trail from the east. The trail continues to descend into the Cliff Creek valley for two more miles before it ends at Cliff Creek Trail, 840.
Directions from Beckwith Pass Trail, 840: Trail 438 may be reached by Trail 842 near the top of Beckwith Pass, which starts at Lost Lake Campground.
Directions from Paonia: Travel east on Highway 133 for 16 miles and turn right onto the Kebler Pass Road at the base of Paonia Dam. Horse Ranch Park is near the top of Kebler Pass. The trail starts at Horse Ranch Park where you'll find good parking and signage.
Directions from Swampy Pass/Pass Creek, trail 439: The west end of Swampy Pass Trail # 439 junctions with Lowline Trail.
Directions from Mill Creek Road: The trail leaves north from Mill Creek Road, four miles west of the Ohio Creek Road.
Directions from Horse Ranch Park: The trail leads south from Horse Ranch Park, twelve miles west of Crested Butte on Kebler Pass.