Continental Divide Trail

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The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (in short Continental Divide Trail (CDT)) is a United States National Scenic Trail running 3,100 miles (5,000 km) between Mexico and Canada. It follows the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. In Montana it crosses Triple Divide Peak which separates the Hudson Bay, Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean drainages. The trail is a combination of dedicated trails and small roads and considered 70% complete. Portions designated as uncompleted must be traveled by roadwalking on dirt or paved roads.

Only about two hundred people a year attempt to hike the entire trail, taking about six months to complete it. Dave Odell thru-hiked in 1977 and in the same year Dan Torpey hiked from the NM/CO border to Mt Robson, Canada. German long-distance rider Günter Wamser (on his way from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska), and Austrian Sonja Endlweber (who joined him for the rest of the journey from Mexico) managed to complete the tour with four Bureau of Land Management mustangs in three summers 2007–09.

In 2007, Francis Tapon became the first person to do a round backpacking trip “Yo-Yo” on the Continental Divide Trail when he thru-hiked from Mexico to Canada and back to Mexico along the CDT and needed 7 months to finish it. This seven-month journey spanned over 5,600 miles. Tapon took the most circuitous, scenic, high, difficult route north and while returning south, took the more expedient route. Andrew Skurka completed the trail as part of the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop in 2007.

The youngest person to hike the trail is Reed Gjonnes, who hiked the trail with her father Eric Gjonnes from April 15 to September 6, 2013 at the age of 13.

The Continental Divide Trail along with the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail form what thru-hiker enthusiasts have termed the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the United States.

This trail can be continued north into Canada to Kakwa Lake north of Jasper National Park by the Great Divide Trail, which is so far described only in a few books and carries no official Canadian status.

Colorado

The CDT passes through many of the highest and wildest mountain regions of Colorado, such as the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado and the Sawatch Range in the central region. In most areas the trail is well marked. It is concurrent with the Colorado Trail for approximately 200 miles (320 km). The CDT itself meanders in Colorado some 650 miles (1,050 km) at higher altitudes. Depending on any given year’s snow-pack and a hiker’s individual schedule, alternative routes are available. The Creed Cut-off in the San Juan Mountains to avoid persistent snow or unfavorable weather is such an example. This should be balanced with Colorado’s ‘monsoon season’ with afternoon thunderstorms that usually occur in late July and August. The route’s location makes short side trips to many of Colorado’s 14,000-foot (4,300 m) peaks feasible. A few stretches of the CDT in Colorado have no distinct marked or named trail, but Jonathan Ley’s or Jim Wolf’s maps are helpful. The Continental Divide Trail in Colorado has been surveyed recently by Jerry Brown and colleagues. Some stretches of the CDT in Colorado are still a wilderness footpath.

Additional points of interest along the Colorado CDT include:

  • Collegiate Peaks Wilderness
  • Grays Peak – highest summit on the CDT
  • Mount Elbert and Mount Massive – Colorado’s highest peaks
  • Rabbit Ears Pass
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Wolf Creek Pass
  • North Park
  • Middle Park
  • South Park

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is a 3,100-mile trail that runs on or near the Continental Divide, from Canada to Mexico. However, the route is not complete. Most of the route through Colorado has been designated, though some sections of trail are not built. From Rollins Pass south to James Peak, the trail is designated with CDT-branded markers (photo). Spectacular views along this trail overlook the lakes within the James Peak Wilderness.

The South Boulder Creek Trail reaches the Divide at Rogers Pass. From here, the Continental Divide Trail traverses the steep west slope of the Divide towards James Peak on an old road grade. The road grade turns off the Divide at the Ute Trail. The Continental Divide Trail continues to the summit of James Peak.

Permit Info: Sections of this trail enter into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, which requires camping permits for all overnight trips between June 1 and September 15. Organized groups are required to have a permit for both camping and day-hiking year round. Overnight permits cost $5 per group, per trip from June 1 through September 15. Day-hiking permits are free year round.
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Sections of this trail enter into the Indian Peaks (see the “Permit Info” section) and James Peak Wilderness Areas. Restrictions apply:

  • Motorized and mechanized vehicles are prohibited.
  • Pets must be on a hand-held leash at all times.
  • Campfires prohibited.
  • Campsites must be at least 100 feet away from water and trail.
  • Group size is limited to 12 (people and livestock combined).

Fishing and hunting: permitted in accordance with regulations established by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

Closest Towns: Rollinsville, Colorado
Water: None
Restroom: Practice Leave No Trace principles
Operated By: U.S. Forest Service
Information Center: Boulder Ranger District, 2140 Yarmouth Ave, Boulder, CO 80301

Directions: There are no trailheads on Boulder Ranger District that serve the Continental Divide Trail. It can be hiked to via South Boulder Creek Trail and Forest Lakes Trail.

Stats

  • Trail Measurement: 3,100 Miles
  • Compass Latitude: 38°58'41.5"N
  • Compass Longitude: 106°26'58.2"W
  • Numeric Latitude: 38.978206
  • Numeric Longitude: -106.449510
  • Elevation in Meters: 1,200 to 4,350 (3,557 to 4,052)
  • Elevation in Feet: 3,900 to 14,270 (11,670 to 13,294 in Colorado)

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References

  • Trail Location
  • Trail Measurement
    3,100 Miles
  • Compass Latitude
    38°58'41.5"N
  • Compass Longitude
    106°26'58.2"W
  • Numeric Latitude
    38.978206
  • Numeric Longitude
    -106.449510
  • Elevation in Feet
    3,900 to 14,270 (11,670 to 13,294 in Colorado)
  • Elevation in Meters
    1,200 to 4,350 (3,557 to 4,052)
  • Trail Images
  • Trail Maps
  • Trail GPS Files
    • Trail Weather

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