THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL
The Continental Divide of the Americas, also known as the Great Divide, is a hydrological divide that separates the watersheds that drain into either the Pacific, Atlantic or Arctic Oceans. The divide begins at Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, and mostly follows the Rocky Mountain and Andes ranges all the way down to Tierra del Fuego in Patagonia, Chile. The Continental Divide Trail, however, only spans the United Sates.
The unofficial motto of the Continental Divide Trail: Embrace the Brutality. Considered the crown jewel of the long-distance trail “Triple Crown”, the CDT is an entirely different beast than the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails. Much of the CDT requires route finding, and many thru-hikers report that they had to check their maps and compass as frequently as every fifteen minutes. The “trail” itself is incomplete; for large portions of the route there is no physical trail, there are many alternate routes to choose from, and it is said that no two hikers ever walk the same CDT. To successfully thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail, one must simply walk continuously from Canada to Mexico or vice versa, staying near the Divide.
For most people, this means walking about 2,700 miles through Montana along the border of Idaho, down through Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. This is what I plan to do, beginning at the Canada-US border in Glacier National Park and finishing at the Crazy Cook Monument at the US-Mexico border in the “boot heel” of New Mexico. Following my intended route, I’ll cross 25 National Forests, 21 wilderness areas, three National Parks, one National Monument, and eight BLM Resource Areas. The highest point on the CDT is Gray’s Peak in Colorado (14,270’) and the lowest point is at the northern terminus: Waterton Lake, Glacier National Park (4,200’). The total gain in elevation for a southbound hiker is roughly 457,000 feet and total elevation loss is almost identical.
- Glacier National Park
- The Wind River Range
- The Great Divide Basin
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- The San Juan Mountains
- Gila River Cliff Dwellings
For more info on the trail and long-distance hiking, check these sites out:
- A Quick and Dirty CDT Guide
- The Hiking Life - info on trails and ultralight backpacking