Hike The Continental Divide

By Mike Boisvert.

Established in 1978 and rivaling the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails, the Continental Divide Trail [CDT] is a United States National Scenic Trail running 3,100 miles (5,000 km) between Mexico and Canada. It follows the Continental Divide along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. States ~ Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. In Montana it crosses Triple Divide Peak which separates the Hudson Bay, Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean drainages. 

In 2004, the trail, a combination of dedicated trails and small roads, was considered 70% complete. The uncompleted portions of the trail must be traveled by bushwhacking or roadwalking.

Only about two dozen people a year attempt to hike the entire trail, taking about six months to complete it. 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.

The Continental Divide Trail along with the Appalachian Trail and and the Pacific Crest Trail form the Triple Crown of long distance hiking in the United States. The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association [ALDHA] -West, keeps track of triple crowners and they report about 130 triple crowners so I think that is the number of people who've completed the CDT since most finish with that trail. 

I read about someone who finished the CDT this summer. He started in 2010 from the south and made it to Colorado before giving it up due to deep snows. This year he started in the north and finished. Said he'd never do it again - too much road walking/route finding. Said he'd do the Pacific Crest Trail again in a heartbeat.

In 2012 the Continental Divide Trail Association [CDTA] Board of Directors made the very difficult and painful decision to cease operations of the CDTA. The financial condition of the organization has been unstable and deteriorating for a number of years. They have not been able to raise the necessary financial resources to sustain the continued operations of the organization.This is a sad day. But the Trail is still there, and it continues to inspire us all. I am confident this inspiration will lead people to start a new and stronger organization to continue the work on the Trail.

I presume the Forest Service will keep up work on finishing the Trail, but this leaves the CDT without an advocacy organization, or a provider of maps and guidebooks. It's hard keeping momentum behind this Trail. It's much further from population centers than the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, it's just plain remote for resupply (and even water in New Mexico), and low use makes it difficult to follow. Eventually its time will come, but I guess that time's a bit further in the future.

Thank goodness Jim Wolfe and the Continental Divide Trail Society are still active in helping the trail. Amazingly, the whole trail has been GPS'd and the remainder of the trail maps should be available this year (Wyoming/Montana).


So, between the "Wolfe guidebooks", Jonathan Ley maps and the above maps, hikers should have enough info to make it start to finish.


You don't have to hike the entire CDT to enjoy. There are many great sections to explore. The Garita Wilderness area in southwest Colorado is the route's best stretch of pristine backcountry terrain, and a five-day, 27-mile traverse offers all the challenge and solitude you could ask for. The whole Colorado section of the CDT is beautiful, with ridgetop walking, endless views, and good trails. But La Garita earns top billing as one of the wildest, emptiest sections of all.

From the Eddiesville trailhead you'll pass through alpine meadows, enormous basins, and old-growth stands. The relatively tame mileage leaves ample time for acclimating ~ you'll be above 12,000 feet for most of the route ~ and a stunning two-mile detour to the bald summit of 14,014-foot San Luis Peak. If you feel ambitious, double back the you came; otherwise, set up for the two-car shuttle.

The La Garita section of the CDT is well-marked, but before you go, it's worth studying the National Geographic/Trails Illustrated and USGS maps. Pick up Jones's Colorado's Continental Divide Trail: The Official Guide. For maps try the National Geographic/Trails Illustrated La Garita Wilderness, #139, and USGS quadrangles for San Luis Peak, Baldy Cinco, Slumgullion Pass, and Halfmoon Pass.

© 2012 Gay Outdoors ; All Rights Reserved.

Hiking, backpacking, camping or vacation adventures, GayOutdoors [GO] has been the LGBTQ outdoorzy community leader for the last 22 years. We are an informal group of diverse hiking enthusiasts in the United States with a shared love of the mountains who prefer hiking with friends. We invite you to join us on our hikes, to post hikes for other members to join you and to share your hiking photos, stories and advice.

Become A Member

If you find it invigorating to hike along a mountain trail with friends not knowing what’s just around the corner, to get some fresh air, to stop and soak in the views on a summit, and to soak your feet in a mountain brook after a hike, give us a try!


Powered by Ecomsolutions.net - ColdFusion Experts