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Continental Divide National Scenic Trail


Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

Continental Divide Trail
Length 3100 mi (4989 km)
Location United States
Designation National Scenic Trail in 1978
Trailheads Glacier National Park (U.S.)
Crazy Cook Monument & Columbus (alternate), New Mexico United States-Mexico border
Use Hiking
some Horse riding
some Mountain biking
Highest point Grays Peak, Colorado, 14,270 ft (4,350 m)
Lowest point Columbus, New Mexico, 3,900 ft (1,200 m)
Hiking details
Trail difficulty Moderate to Strenuous
Months April to October
Sights Continental Divide
Hazards Severe Weather
Mountain lions

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (in short Continental Divide Trail) is a United States National Scenic Trail running 3,100 miles (5,000 km) between Mexico and Canada. It follows the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. statesMontana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. In Montana it crosses Triple Divide Peak which separates the Hudson Bay, Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean drainages.

The trail is a combination of dedicated trails and small roads and considered 70% complete. Portions designated as uncompleted must be traveled by roadwalking on dirt or paved roads.

Only about two dozen people a year attempt to hike the entire trail, taking about six months to complete it. As of 2008, no equestrians have managed to ride the entire trail in a single year, although several "long riders" have tried. German long-distance rider Günter Wamser (on his way from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska[1]), and Austrian Sonja Endlweber (who joined him for the rest of the journey from Mexico) managed to complete the tour with four Bureau of Land Management mustangs in three summers 2007–09.[2]

In 2007, Francis Tapon became the first person to do a round backpacking trip "Yo-Yo" on the Continental Divide Trail when he thru-hiked from Mexico to Canada and back to Mexico along the CDT and needed 7 months to finish it.[3][4]

The Continental Divide Trail along with the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail form what thru hiker enthusiasts have termed the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the United States.

This trail can be continued north into Canada to Kakwa Lake north of Jasper National Park by the Great Divide Trail, which is so far described only in a few books and carries no official Canadian status.

New Mexico

The CDT in New Mexico is about 700 miles (1,100 km) long and some portions have very limited water.[5] Local volunteer groups place water caches (usually a pile of plastic gallon jugs) at strategic points along the trail.[6][7] Three southern termini of the trail exist: Crazy Cook Monument, Antelope Wells and near Columbus, all in New Mexico's boot heel. The terminus near Columbus is not on the Continental Divide (see Animas Mountains) but rather in the vicinity of Columbus, New Mexico, a village that is also the northern terminus of the annual 250-mile (400 km) Cabalgata Binacional Villista.

Alternate Route via Columbus, New Mexico - Antelope Wells, New Mexico is the most commonly known starting or finishing point of the Continental Divide trail, but due to its remote location devoid of any lodging or services, Columbus, New Mexico is considered the alternate starting or finishing point for those hiking or biking the Continental Divide trail. Located 3 miles from the International Port of Entry at Palomas, Mexico, Columbus is a small border village with such amenities as two modest hotels, a gas station, a handful of small cafes, Post office, bank, mechanics, and grocery stores. The village of Columbus, New Mexico is listed as an historical site due to the 1916 invasion by Pancho Villa and his "Villistas". The village has two museums and a state park commemorating the raid and punitive expedition led by the U.S. Army General "Blackjack" Pershing to capture Pancho Villa.

Notable points on the CDT in New Mexico include:


The CDT passes through many of the highest and wildest mountain regions of Colorado, such as the San Juan Mountains and the Sawatch Range. In most areas the trail is well marked. It is concurrent with the Colorado Trail for approximately 200 miles (320 km). The Continental Divide itself in Colorado meanders some 650 miles (1,050 km). There are some stretches of the Continental Divide in Colorado that have no distinct marked or named trail, but Jonathan Ley's or Jim Wolf's maps are helpful.[8] The Continental Divide Trail in Colorado has been GPSd recently.[9] Some stretches of the Continental Divide in Colorado are still a wilderness to even a footpath.

Additional points of interest along the Colorado CDT include:[10]


The CDT includes a large section of rangeland in the middle of the state, as well as the Wind River Range and Absaroka Range in the northwest portion of Wyoming. The CDT traverses a large portion of the southern half of Yellowstone National Park. Hikers must decide on a route with regard to the Great Divide Basin at the southern end of the state (since the actual Continental Divide forks in southern Wyoming forming in an endorheic basin there). The shortest route is through the middle, and water availability is uncertain in most years.

Additional notable features in Wyoming include:


Northbounders leaving Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming enter the Centennial Mountains of Idaho. For the next couple of hundred miles, the CDT follows the Continental Divide which is also the boundary between Idaho and Montana. Next the Trail diverts east thru the Anaconda Mountain Range toward Butte, MT.

Notable points on the CDT in Idaho include:

  • The alternate route to Macks Inn in Paradise Island, ID
  • Henrys Lake Section
  • Resupply in Lima, MT
  • Lemhi Pass
  • Chief Joseph Pass


The Montana portion of the CDT is almost entirely in mountain ranges, running along the Idaho border for part of the way. Approximately 110 miles (177 km) of the trail traverses Glacier National Park.

Additional notable points on the CDT in Montana include:

The Montana Wilderness Association is the leading non-profit partner for the northern section of Continental Divide Trail. MWA staff are working to connect the 980 miles of CDT in Montana and Idaho with the help of dedicated volunteers and agency partners.[11]

See also


External links

  • CDT Montana, Montana Wilderness Association
  • Continental Divide Trail Society
  • Continental Divide Trail Coalition
  • Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park (National Park Service)
  • Jonathan Ley's CDT Hike - a hiker's website
  • Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest web site - Describes the northernmost parts of the trail
  • CDT-L - Continental Divide Trail Mailing List
  • Mailing Label Maker - Continental Divide Trail Mailing Label Maker
  • CDT Thruhiking Resources - Listing of important resources to thruhike the CDT
  • Google Map of CDT High Resolution Google Map of CDT
  • A Quick & Dirty CDT Planning Guide - A general overview of the CDT for planning purposes
  • Francis Tapon's CDT Yo-Yo hike - a website of the first person who made a round-trip on the CDT
  • Hiking Journals from people on The Continental Divide Trail

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