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.