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By Diane Spicer
Hikers are fortunate that the Continental Divide Trail exists - a long trail that splits a continent.
Or provides its backbone, if you'd prefer a more poetic description.
That's the claim to fame for the CDT, or Continental Divide Trail, one of the best, and toughest, hiking trails North America has to offer.
In other words, hiking royalty.
Although not as well known as the PCT and the AT, this long trail offers plenty of adventure.
2800 miles of adventure, more or less.
take the word "trail" with lots of wiggle room, because there are miles
and miles of road walking along with route finding across unmarked
terrain ("cross country").
This trail taps your navigational skills, with many alternative routes available.
No wonder hikers tackle it after they've developed a deep skill set.
Let's assume you wish to move in a northbound (nobo) direction.
You can put your boots on the southern terminus of this trail in one of three locations in New Mexico:
The trail wends its way through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Hiking this route is not for the faint of heart, or the navigationally challenged.
That's why its so important to consult authorities like the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) early in your planning, to get maps, updates and route revisions.
For a detailed selection of free maps compiled by a veteran Continental Divide hiker, take a look at this.
Or use the geospatial pdfs, reduced size pdfs, and app map downloads from CDTC, also free and available here.
Hiking the CDT from end to end takes determination over and beyond what hiking the PCT or the AT demands from a hiker.
The trail takes you through severe ecosystems and terrains, with changing weather and temperature conditions:
To name just a few challenges!
Can you see how your hiking camping equipment list will change as you work your way along this trail?
Don't take on this trail unless you're skilled in navigation, using map and compass. Relying on GPS instrumentation may or may not pay off, given the extreme conditions.
Let's give you some options.
The CDST is administered by the United States Forest Service (extra points for guessing the correct acronym).
It is more trail-ish than the CDT, and is being used more often by hikers seeking a reliable route.
Do the 2 trails coincide?
Read up on all of the nuances, along with lots of straightforward advice and comparisons with other long trails from a CDT veteran, here.
You want to do your homework if you plan on hiking the CDT end to end, or even section hike it.
A perfect way to get a feel for what you're in for? Read a first hand account.
Don't forget to share your CDT adventures with all of us, using this easy peasy posting process.
Then it's on to planning a new long trail hiking adventure.
Happy CDT Trails!
Continental Divide Trail