Management Toolbox

The Forest Service is responsible for making sure that the many land managers and partners along our 3,100 miles of trail know the special status of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and the policies that make it different from other trails. The documents on this page are key resources that describe how the trail should be managed. Since the Continental Divide Trail is a resource for the American public, it is important that these policies are available to everyone so that management decisions are transparent and our many partners along the trail can easily access key information.

Guiding Documents

National Trails System Act (1968)

This Act established our system of National Scenic, Historic, and Recreation trails and lays out the basic framework for managing these types of trails. The Continental Divide Trail was added to the National Trails System Act as an amendment in 1978.

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Comprehensive Plan (2009)

First written in 1985 and revised in 2009, the Comprehensive Plan sets out guidance for managing the Continental Divide Trail and provides a basis for more specific policies along the trail.


For USDA Forest Service Land Managers

Recommended Forest Plan Components for the Continental Divide Trail (2017)

Continental Divide Trail Forest Plan Direction Transmittal Letter (2016)

Each National Forest has a Forest Plan, which provides strategic direction that guides how the forest is managed. The Recommended Forest Plan Components document provides a template for including the Continental Divide Trail in Forest Plans. The Transmittal Letter is the official, signed document requesting that National Forests with Continental Divide Trail mileage use this template when developing new Forest Plans.

National Trails System Forest Planning Guidance (Presentation)

Clicking the link above will download the powerpoint. This presentation reflects agreements between Ecosystem Management Coordination and Recreation Directors to clarify requirements and provide tools and best practices when developing plan direction within the Forest Service for National Scenic and Historic Trails.


For Partners and Land Managers

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Management Tool: Managing Recreational Uses

This document is a tool to promote consistent management of recreational uses on the Continental Divide Trail. For example, it will assist land managers making decisions involving recreational special use permitting, or determining which uses should be allowed on newly constructed sections of trail.

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Vegetation Treatments: Best Practices

This document provides recommended best practices for units to employ when planning for and implementing vegetation treatments within the Continental Divide Trail corridor so the nationally significant scenic values are conserved, enhanced, or restored consistent with law and policy.

Optimal Location Review process for the Continental Divide Trail (2017)

Though the general trail corridor has been designated by Congress, many sections of the trail are located along motorized routes, have low scenic integrity, cross non-federally owned lands, or are otherwise in need of rerouting. This process, developed in partnership with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, guides how the best location for the Continental Divide Trail should be determined.

Continental Divide Trail Service Mark Guidelines (2016)

The service mark is the federally protected symbol of the Continental Divide Trail. This document describes who may use the service mark, and in what contexts.

Continental Divide Trail Marking Guide (2018)

This document summarizes trail marking policy and best management practices to promote a consistent approach to marking the Continental Divide Trail. A well-marked trail will lead to enhanced visitor experiences for all trail users.

Continental Divide Trail Interpretive Plan

This plan lays out goals, objectives, and recommendations for interpretive and educational efforts associated with the trail.

Continental Divide Trail Trailhead Guidelines

Trailheads are key locations that provide access to the trail and can set the stage for trail visitors by providing opportunities for education and engagement. This document provides standards for trailhead design along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.


A map of the Continental Divide Trail's route through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
An image of mountain peaks under a gray cloudy sky, with a forest in the foreground.