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Follow our friend and fellow 2014 Appalachian Trail hiker, 2015 Te Araroa hiker, Gentle Spirit.  His blog can be found at http://www.theferalspirit.com/

Hiking the CDT in 2017:  Feral Spirit

Northbounders

The Continental Divide Trail is the third and longest long distance hiking trail of the Triple Crown.  Running at 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada, it follows the Continental Divide of America along the Rocky Mountains through five states; New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho , and Montana.

The trail is largely a combination of trails and small roads, considered to be 70% complete.  Incomplete portions are traveled by paved/dirt roads.  About 200 people per year attempt to hike the trail each year, which takes about 6 months to complete.  First thru-hiked in 1977, this trail can be continued north into Canada by the Great Divide Trail.

Like the other trails, you can hike this Northbound (most common), Southbound, or a combination of the two.

Northbounders

Many CDT Thru-trekkers start at the Mexico/New Mexico border in March or April when the air is cooler, and water is more readily available.  However, enter Colorado too early, thru-trekkers encounter high snow levels, danger of avalanche, high spring run-off etc.

New Mexico & The Southern Terminus

The Southern Termini (there are currently 3) exist in New Mexico, within the states boot heel.  1) near Columbus Mexico, 2) Antelope Wells, New Mexico, and 3) Crazy Cook Monument east of the Big Hatchet Mountains.  Crazy Cook Monument is the most commonly recognized starting/finishing point, however has no lodging or services.

When approaching the CDT section from the Mexican border to Lordsburg, contact Border Patrol for up-to-date safety information (575) 542-3221. The BLM is placing water cache boxes every 10-12 miles from the border to Lordsburg.

The trail traverses through New Mexico for 770 miles, and has very limited water supply.  However, local volunteers (trail angels) place water (a bunch of gallon jugs for instance) along the trail.  On average, CDT thru-trekkers take one month to make it through the "Land of Enchantment".   This offers many unique trail experiences; from the rugged Rocky Mountains to the grasslands in the Chihuahuan Desert, and has a very 'Wild West' appeal to it.

Some of New Mexicos most famous historic landscapes can be found just off the trail.  Chama River Canyon Wilderness, San Pedro Parks Wildernesses offer dramatic views of mountains, canyon lands and mesa tops. The C.D.T. meanders through Rio Puerco wild lands, El Malpais National Monument badlands (volcanic landscape), Aldo Leopold Wilderness, the Gila Wilderness, and ends at the Big Hatchet Mountains Wilderness Study Area.

The best time to experience this section of the Continental Divide Trail is from mid-April through June. March through early April can provide strong winds that generate some mean dust storms. July through September can be record temperature highs, monsoon rainstorms, and lots of lightning.

For additional information on the New Mexico section, check out some of the maps (Continental Divide Trail Pocket Maps: New Mexico) we have found useful.

Colorado

The C.D.T. passes through some of the highest and wildest mountain ranges of colorado, meandering about 800 miles through the state.  Passing through the San Juan Mountains, and Sawatch Range, the trail is well marked in most areas.  The trail meets up and becomes the Colorado Trail for approximately 200 miles.  The trail passes through the Collegiate Peaks, up to Grays Peak at 14,279 feet (highest point on the C.D.T.).

Depending on the given years snow pack, a hikers schedule, alternative routes are also available.  There is the Creede Cut-off in San Juan Mountains to avoid high amounts of snow or unfavorable weather (Colorado's 'monsoon' season produces some wild afternoon thunderstorms from July to August).  The best time of year to experience this section is from July to September.

Some stretches of the C.D.T. in Colorado have no distinct marked or named trails, but there are some helpful maps.  (Jonathan Ley's or Jim Wolf's maps).

For some additional information on the Colorado section, check out some of the maps (Continental Divide Trail Pocket Maps: Colorado) we have found useful.

Wyoming

Wyoming has the most diverse terrain of all the five states on the C.D.T.  For 550 miles, the Continental Divide Trail explores the Sierra Madre Mountains, the Great Divide Basin, to the Wind River Range up to Yellowstone National Park.  The trail starts south in Wyoming at an elevation of 10,000 feet in the Sierra Madre Mountains.  The trail declines roughly 3-4,000 feet in elevation as it reaches the southern portion of the Great Divide Basin.

From there the trail winds north across the desolate and dry basin, followed by climbing the edges of the foothills back into the forest, and on to the tundra of the Wild River Range.  These peaks reach up to 11,120 ft. above sea level.  As the trail descends south of Green River Lakes, it continues for another 1-200 miles roughly at 7500-9000 ft in the Teton Wilderness and on the high plains of Yellowstone.

Best times of the year to explore this section of the Continental Divide Trail range from July to early September.  Otherwise, the route packs plenty of snow.  Even in July and August, chances of getting afternoon storms are high, bringing rain, sleet, hail, snow, and lightning.  Night time temperatures in the high country are steady at about 30 degrees F.

 For some additional information on the Wyoming section, check out   maps  (Continental Divide Trail Pocket Maps: Wyoming) we have found useful.

Idaho

Northbounders leaving Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming enter the Centennial Mountains of Idaho.  Over the next couple hundred miles, the CDT follows the exact Continental Divide.  It runs 270 miles along the border of Montana, and through the Targhee National Forest, and Salmon National Forest.  Considered big mammal country, expect to see black bear, brown bear, mountain lions, elk and moose.

The trail diverts east through the Anaconda Mountain Range toward Butte, Montana.  Notable points in Idaho CDT include; The alternate route to Macks Inn in Island Park, Idaho.  Henrys Lake Section.  Resupply in Lima, Montana.  Lemhi Pass.  Chief Joseph Pass.

The best time of year to explore this region of the CDT is again from July to early September.  Expect surprise storms, snow, lightning, and other bad weather accompanied with higher elevations.

  For some additional information on the Idaho section, check out   maps  (Continental Divide Trail Pocket Maps: Idaho/Montana) we have found useful.

Montana

The Montana portion of the CDT is almost entirely in mountain ranges!  Running 710 miles, the CDT passes through alpine meadows and craggy peaks.  As the trail heads east toward Butte, the trail passes through the stunning and scenic terrain of Bob Marshall Great Bear Wilderness area, before it heads north into the beautiful Glacier National Park via the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

By Shannonfreix - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24884498
By Shannonfreix - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The best time of year to explore this section of the Continental Divide Trail is early July to early September.  Again, prepare to find snow, storms bringing rain and lightning, hail, otherwise unsafe conditions expected at high altitudes.  *As of 2009, half of the trail through Montana and along the Idaho border are under construction.

  For some additional information on the Idaho section, check out   maps  (Continental Divide Trail Pocket Maps: Idaho/Montana) we have found useful.

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Continental Divide Trail Gear

Continental Divide Trail Maps