About the CDT

Photo by Meg Killen

The Continental Divide Trail has a strong role in the history, heritage and culture of our nation. Get your learn on!

The Blackfoot tribes have referred to the Continental Divide as the “Backbone of the World”. For nearly 1,000 miles the rugged Great Divide twists from Yellowstone north to the Canadian border in Glacier National Park. Along the northern section, you can still see ancient travois trails, walk in the steps of Lewis and Clark or follow fresh tracks of grizzly, wolverine and mountain goat.

In 1968 the National Trails Act passed, creating the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. These trails were recognized as wild, remote and unique quiet recreation opportunities that highlighted our nation’s heritage, culture and natural treasures.The Continental Divide Trail was proposed in 1966 by Benton MacKaye; a friend of wilderness advocate Bob Marshall and co-founder of The Wilderness Society. MacKaye hand delivered a plan to the Secretary of Interior, Stewart Udall, calling for creation of a great trail linking wilderness areas, parks and public lands along the Rocky Mountains.

In 1978, Congress designated the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) for hiking, horseback riding, quiet recreation and conservation of natural, cultural and historic resources.  The ultimate goal is to connect a trail from Mexico to Canada for 3,100 miles along the spine of the Rocky Mountains.  The CDT navigates dramatically diverse ecosystems through mountain meadows, granite peaks and high-desert surroundings. These are special landscapes that host the starting point for our water systems (to the Pacific and Atlantic), are uniquely critical for wildlife and equally important to preserve the western heritage of the people that live here.

Unlike the AT or PCT, the Continental Divide Trail is not yet complete. Yes, one can travel the entire distance from Canda to Mexico, however, in many places there is not trail, but instead, motorized road. In other places, legal rights of ways and land acquisitions are necessary for proper access through private, state and Tribal lands.

Considering these "gaps", the CDT is only 75% complete at the moment. While the trail grows closer to the completion status, it should be noted that the last pieces are the most difficut to connect. The toughest, most challenging hurdles are left to overcome.

Completion status for each state: New Mexico 80% (770 miles), Colorado 75% (800 miles), Wyoming 88% (550 miles), Montana and Idaho 58% (980 miles). We need YOUR help to finish this work. Please volunteer or donate today.

"The nature and purposes of the CDNST are to provide for high-quality scenic, primitive hiking and horseback riding opportunities and to conserve natural, historic, and cultural resources along the CDNST corridor."

"The CDT is managed to provide 'high-quality' hiking and horseback riding, backpacking, nature walking, photography, mountain climbing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Bicycle use may also be allowed on sections of the CDNST (16 U.S.C. 1246(c)) outside of wilderness and recommended wilderness areas." - 2009 CDNST Comprehensive Plan, USFS.