“The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is one of the most significant trail systems in world.”
— Guthrie Alexander
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The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) is one of the most significant trail systems in the world. Established by Congress in 1978, it spans 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada, traverses five states and connects countless communities along its spine.
Over the past 30 years, it has gradually assumed a marked physical shape; and preserves and celebrates an opportunity for adventure and history with one of the most significant features on our planet.
Picture yourself on one of the CDTs longest roadless sections, right in the middle of the half-million acre Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado, where the trail tracks through high glacial valleys and offers views of the craggy Needle Mountains or out on the trail in central New Mexico, where the desert meets the mountains. The span of one days outings offers an immense diversity of landscapes. Extending 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico, the CDT encounters a multitude of ecosystems from tundra to desert, hosts a rich variety of wildlife, and preserves nearly two thousand natural, cultural, and historical treasures.
Considered one of the greatest long-distance trails in the world, it is the highest, most challenging, and most remote of our National Scenic Trails. Ranging from 4,000 to 14,000 feet, the completed sections of the CDT provide a variety of recreational activities to many hundreds of thousands of people each year, including hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting, and sightseeing. For the long-distance hiking community, the CDT is one-third of the Triple Crown, and annually, while the number is growing, approximately 150 ambitious travelers attempt to complete an end-to-end trek.
Congress designated the CDT on November 10, 1978 and recognized the valuable contributions that volunteer and private, non-profit trail groups have made to the development and maintenance of the Nation’s trails. In recognition of those contributions, Congress further recognized that it was critical to encourage and assist volunteer citizen involvement in the planning, development and management, where appropriate, of these trails.
National Scenic Trails are created to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of the nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities of the areas through which such trails may pass.
The vision of the Interagency Leadership Council for the CDT is to complete the trail to connect people and communities to the Continental Divide by providing scenic, high-quality, primitive hiking and horseback riding experiences, while preserving the significant natural, historic, and cultural resources along the trail.
The CDT is one of the most significant Trail Systems in the world, and its 3,100 mile length provides access to some of the most wild and scenic places left in the world while promoting conservation of the environment and physical health and well being.
The CDTC estimates that as of December 2015, 85 % of the trail is completed. The official route starts at the Canadian Border in Glacier National Park and ends in the Big Hatchets Wilderness Study Area on the Mexican Border, and is mapped and usable.
Estimated Miles in each state and miles to “complete”:
Montana/Idaho – 980 estimated miles, 250 miles to be completed
Wyoming – 550 estimated miles, 55 miles to be completed
Colorado – 800 estimated miles, 75 miles to be completed
New Mexico – 775 estimated miles, 80 miles to be completed
Along its national extent, the CDT travels through 25 National Forests, 21 Wilderness Areas, 3 National Parks, 1 National Monument, 8 BLM Resource Areas and through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Some segments of the CDT remain open to motorized use, many of these segments make up some of the trail locations we seek to relocate.
The lead federal agency responsible for completing the CDT is the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). They work with the National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the nonprofit partners to complete, maintain, and manage the CDT.
The highest point on the CDT is Grays Peak in Colorado (14,270 feet) and the lowest is along Waterton Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana (4,200 feet)