Continental Divide Trail Essentials

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.


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

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

 

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.