About the Trail

Frequently Asked Questions

The trail is about 3,100 miles long. To put that number into perspective, if you walked 20 miles every single day, it would take 5 and a half months to get from the Mexican border to the Canadian border along the Continental Divide Trail.

The Continental Divide Trail passes through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, weaves along the border between Idaho and Montana, then crosses fully into Montana to reach the Canadian border. 95 percent of the trail is on public land, managed by the USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, or Bureau of Land Management. Learn more about the regions the trail passes through.

The trail has two official northern endpoints on the border between Montana and Canada. The main northern terminus is in Glacier National Park at Waterton Lake. The other is at the Chief Mountain border crossing, and is a good option for those who do not have a passport or are concerned about snow levels in the early or late season.

The southern terminus is at the Crazy Cook Monument in the "bootheel" region of New Mexico, on the Mexican border. The closest town to the southern endpoint is Hachita, New Mexico.

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition's trip planning guide gives detailed information on how to access the endpoints of the trail.

The Continental Divide Trail is for everyone! Whether you enjoy the trail for just a few hours, days, or weeks at a time, you can have an incredible experience on the trail. Most people hike on the trail, but it is also open to horseback riding. Some sections are open to mountain biking and motorized use.

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition has excellent resources available for planning a thru-hike or thru-ride, including maps, a water report, permitting information, and a free planning guide.

The trail's path along the Continental Divide, a unique geographic feature, defines many of the special qualities of the trail. The trail is remote and stays at high elevation for most of its length - the highest point on any National Scenic Trail, Gray's Peak, is 14,270 feet above sea level and the trail climbs all the way to its peak. The Continental Divide Trail also provides a window into the rich history of the West, from the history of indigenous peoples to westward expansion to sheepherding and mining in the Rocky Mountains. Crossing through diverse ecosystems and open to many uses, the trail provides a unique experience to all who seek to enjoy it.

 

Ways to Enjoy the Continental Divide Trail

From day trips to multi-day excursions, on foot, wheels, or hoof, there are many ways to experience the Continental Divide Trail. Hundreds of thousands of people have had adventures on the trail, perhaps without even knowing it exists: visitors to Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser, hikers in Glacier National Park, and even downhill skiers at many ski resorts on Colorado’s Continental Divide.

The Continental Divide Trail’s primary purpose is for hiking and horseback riding, but some sections of the trail are also open to mountain biking and motorized use. Because the Continental Divide Trail was created as a patchwork of shorter existing trails, motorized uses are still permitted on segments that had allowed them before becoming part of a National Scenic Trail.

Some activities may be restricted to certain areas, seasons, or require permits or licenses; be sure to check with the local land manager for rules and regulations while planning your trip.

Close-up of a wooden CDT sign on a tree.

 

Soaking in the view at Pitamakan Pass, Glacier National Park.

Trip Planning

For any trip on the Continental Divide Trail, it is important to be prepared. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Water - Some sections of the trail, particularly in New Mexico and Wyoming, have scarce water supply points. Be aware of where these are located and know that supply can vary seasonally. Always carry a method of water filtration or purification if you are relying on natural water sources.
Navigation - Carry a map of the area, and remember that mobile phone coverage is not reliable in the backcountry.
Equipment - Pack accordingly for your trip. Trail mix and a full water bottle may be enough for a short hike, but you may need more gear such as a shelter and cooking equipment for a longer journey. Basic first aid supplies and appropriate footwear are always recommended.
Weather Conditions - Be aware of and prepared for the climate and weather conditions you may encounter. The trail passes through diverse climates and elevations, so conditions will vary dramatically depending on your location and the season.
Permits - Individual permits are required for backcountry camping in certain areas: Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Blackfeet Reservation, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness. A permit for recreation on State Trust Lands in New Mexico is also required, and is available from the Continental Divide Trail Coalition.
Respect Landowners - Some sections of the Continental Divide Trail are located on state trust land or private property. Trail users are allowed to enjoy these sections thanks to easements. Respect private property by staying on the designated trail and closing any access gates behind you.
Know Before You Go Read more tips from the Forest Service about enjoying the outdoors safely.

Visit the Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s website for more trip planning resources, including a downloadable planning guide, up-to-date trail maps, and a crowd-sourced water report.

Leave No Trace

Responsible trail users follow a shared ethic of outdoor recreation called Leave No Trace, which encourages enjoyment of our outdoor spaces while leaving minimal impact. This not only helps to maintain healthy ecosystems for plants and animals to thrive, but also ensures that our natural spaces remain beautiful for future human visitors.

Leave No Trace Principles:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

For more information, visit www.lnt.org.

A woman carrying camping supplies in a forested campsite.
When enjoying time outdoors, be mindful of the Leave No Trace Principles.