The Continental Divide Trail Overview

Gorp.com
Trail at a Glance
Length: 3,100 miles
Route: Crest of the Rocky Mountains
Highlights: Many along this magnificent trail:
Glacier National Park
Yellowstone National Park
The Great Divide Basin in the New Mexico desert
Completion: 70%. Uncompleted segments are mostly through BLM land in New Mexico and Wyoming.
Hiker Purity: Some portions of the trails are open to ATVs. Some road walking.
Partnership Organizations: Continental Divide Trail Alliance
advertisement

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail provides spectacular backcountry travel the length of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. It is the most rugged long-distance National Scenic Trail.

Trail users wind their way through some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States and have an opportunity to enjoy a greater diversity of physical and natural qualities than found on any other extended trail. The route of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail crosses five ecological life zones, and users can take in the topography, climate, vegetation, and wildlife of the Rocky Mountain West. The trail travels from Canada to Mexico, through five western states—Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.

The trail's southern node is the Mexican border near Antelope Wells, New Mexico. The trail shoots north through the desert into the Gila National Forest and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. It then crosses the El Malpais National Monument, picking up the 1,000-year-old Zuni-Acoma trade route. Before reaching Colorado, the trail travels through the Cibola National Forest and the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests.

Entering Colorado from the south, the Trail passes through remote, rugged alpine terrain like the South San Juan, Weminuche, and La Garita Wilderness Areas. There are several crossings of the Continental Divide and the Colorado Trail; for over 100 miles, the routes of the CT and the Continental Divide Trail are contiguous. The trail is almost entirely on national forest land, including San Juan, Rio Grande, San Isabel, Gunnison, White River, Pike, Arapaho, and Medicine Bow-Routt. A chunk of the trail passes through Rocky Mountain National Park and the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness.

The trail ventures into Wyoming at Routt National Forest. It then crosses BLM land before reaching the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Popo Agie and Fitzpatrick wildernesses. From there, it's on to Yellowstone National Park.

The trail crosses into Idaho at the Targhee National Forest. It stays close to the Montana border, and after it finally jumps the line, users get to explore the Salmon National Forest, Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, and Helena National Forest. The trail transverses the Scapegoat, Bob Marshall, and Great Bear Wildernesses. Finally, after passing through Glacier National Park, the trail ends at the Canadian border.


Published: 6 Oct 2008 | Last Updated: 2 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

advertisement

Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »