Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

The Continental Divide Trail

From the deserts of New Mexico to the alpine peaks of the northern Rockies, the Continental Divide Trail winds its way through the stunning and diverse landscapes of the central United States, a ribbon that ties together many of the defining moments and movements in our nation’s history.

The trail stretches 3,100 miles from the Mexican border, winding through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana to reach the Canadian border in Glacier National Park. Designated as a National Scenic Trail by Congress in 1978, the Continental Divide Trail celebrated its 40th year in 2018. Learn more about the history of the trail and the land that it crosses.

The CDT provides access to some of the nation’s most treasured scenic terrain for hikers and equestrians, with many sections of the trail also open to cyclists and motorized uses. While some people attempt to travel the entire 3,100 miles in a single season, many others enjoy the trail a few miles at a time. The congressionally designated trail corridor also acts to conserve natural, historic, and cultural resources for generations to come.

Continental Divide Trail overview map  

What is the Continental Divide?

The peaks of the Rocky Mountains “divide” the watersheds of North America - rain or snowmelt on the eastern side of the Divide drains into streams and rivers that eventually flow into the Atlantic Ocean, while rain or snowmelt on the western side of the Divide flows to the Pacific Ocean. The Continental Divide Trail follows the geographical divide as closely as possible.

This map shows how water flows from the Continental Divide into streams and rivers that eventually make their way to the oceans. The Divide is shown in white, and each watershed is displayed in a different color.

 

A map showing river systems of the United States and the Continental Divide.
The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail extends 3,100 miles along the physical continental divide between Canada and Mexico.

 

A picture with the National Trails System 50 years (1968 to 2018) logo and with high elevation lake and mountains in the background.
National Scenic Trails 50th Anniversary, 2018

 

What is a National Scenic Trail?

National Scenic Trails are designated by Congress for their nationally significant qualities. They provide outdoor recreation opportunities, promote resource preservation and public access, and encourage the appreciation of the great outdoors and America’s history and cultural diversity. In 2018, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of our National Trails System, which today includes 11 National Scenic Trails, 19 National Historic Trails, and more than 1,200 National Recreation Trails. Learn more about National Trails.