CDTC Background

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) is a 501 (c) (3) national non-profit organization building a strong community of CDT volunteers, enthusiasts and supporters who want to see the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) completed and protected. Our mission is to create a community committed to constructing, promoting, and protecting, in perpetuity, the CDT, which stretches from Canada to Mexico, through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Why CDTC was formed:

On November 10, 1978, Congress established the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT). For many years following its designation, development and recognition of the Trail languished due to a lack of adequate federal funding for the Federal Agencies tasked with its oversight.  In addition, public awareness and engagement in the volunteer stewardship necessary for keeping the Trail well marked and maintained was almost non-existent.  Finally, and most importantly, a lack of consistent direction and focus regarding the Trail’s identity, management, and national significance within the public lands it traversed often left it subject to the discretion of the land managers charged with its stewardship.

The Continental Divide Trail Society (CDTS), a group established long before the Congressional Designation in 1978, and instrumental in the inclusion of the CDT in the 1978 legislation, has a narrow focus of influencing trail routing decisions made by the Agencies, and supporting the small, but highly passionate, thru-hiker community. Therefore, while CDTS ‘s efforts to support consistent direction for the CDT have been effective, it’s goal was not necessarily to build a broad coalition of supporters and volunteers. 

In 1995, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance  (CDTA) formed to cultivate and develop the public and private enthusiasm for the CDT. Over the next 16 years, CDTA coordinated volunteers to complete over 1000 miles of non-motorized new or reconstructed tread for the CDT, it created a national public awareness program to raise the profile of the CDT, it inventoried and mapped the official route of the CDT to develop official map books for the public, and it effectively raised the attention and allocation of funding for the CDT in National, Regional and local agency budgets. Most importantly, it created a unified voice amongst the public to support and encourage consistent management direction for the CDT as a non-motorized Trail Corridor.  In December of 2011, CDTA ceased operations.  While Volunteer construction efforts continued through local and regional volunteer groups, its closure left a gap in the coordination, trail protection, and Trail information areas.

In June of 2012, recognizing there was a need for a national advocate group and unified voice for the Trail and determined to ensure the CDT not languish again because of limited funding and public engagement, Trail enthusiasts passionate about the CDT formed the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC).  The CDTC is made up of volunteers, recreationists, Trail supporters and natural resource professionals with the desire to build upon the strengths and successes of the past and pick up where others left off, building strong alliances with the many other local regional groups that care about the CDT and to build a strong national and international community with the soul mission being the CDT!  CDTC sees itself as an advocate for the Trail that will create a long-term trail culture that will love, support, and protect the Trail not only today, but for future generations to come.

On May 21, 2014, CDTC signed its official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US Forest Service establishing CDTC as the lead national partner working with federal agencies to support stewardship of the CDT.

The CDTC Vision:

CDTC envisions the CDT as a place where you connect with friends and family, draw inspiration, and create outstanding personal experiences. We see the CDT as a world-class national resource that inspires pride, passion, respect, creativity, community, and perseverance.  

CDTC Value Statement:

Inspired by the power and grandeur of the CDT and in keeping with the Trail’s values, CDTC commits to conducting all transactions and dealings with integrity and honesty, and promoting working relationships with board members, staff, volunteers, partners and program beneficiaries that are based on mutual respect, fairness, and openness.

Continental Divide Trail Coalition Pillars

The CDTC Board and Advisory Committee identified and endorsed four pillars of focus for the Coalition. They are stewardship of the Trail, promotion of the Trail, building a strong Trail Community to support the Trail, and building an organization with sound governance to support its efforts.   CDTC focuses on these four pillars to generate a broader culture of stewardship and belonging within and amongst the Trail Community.

Stewardship-Embracing the Vision for the CDT. CDTC recognizes the Trail belongs to the American Public and that we have a responsibility to future generations to responsibly manage the Trail’s resources and to place those resources in a sacred trust that will ensure the Trail continues to nurture others the way it has nurtured us. To that end, CDTC is committed to building a non-motorized backcountry Trail and protecting the Trail corridor along the Continental Divide.  CDTC serves the Trail through on the ground projects that ensure the Trail is maintained and its corridor is protected in perpetuity.   This is accomplished through advocacy efforts for the Trail with agencies, law makers and the general public; supporting, and inspiring volunteerism for Trail construction and maintenance; communicating the vision and direction of the Trail as a sustainable resource; educating users, volunteers and the general public on the appropriate route and uses of the Trail; cultivating strong partnerships; fundraising to help leverage resources and widen our impact to protect and preserve the CDT; and by encouraging and supporting land protection efforts to acquire the acquisition of the Corridor on private lands to solve some of the Trail’s most challenging connectivity issues.

Building a Strong Trail Community. CDTC establishes strong community-based relationships through activities that support the construction, maintenance and support of the CDT. We engage a wide audience of volunteers, supporters, and partners in an on-going process that will inform the work and the priorities of CDTC as the organization evolves.  We feel that building stronger local relationships with communities adjacent to the Trail and involving volunteers on the ground is the most powerful way to build our movement and preserve and protect the CDT. This includes municipalities, “gateway communities”, state and federal governments, public entities, and tribal communities and governments. While we always look outward to build a diverse and broad coalition of supporters for the Trail, we are mindful of our closest allies, including but not limited to; the federal and state agencies whom we depend on for support and guidance, the Trail’s users particularly hikers and equestrians, and the volunteer stewardship organizations along the trail whom have adopted many sections of the CDT as their own and work independently with local land managers to implement projects. CDTC also seeks to establish formal cooperative agreements and strong cooperative relationships with federal and state agency partners.  Through building this network of individuals, groups, and local communities, we will build a strong and healthy voice for the CDT that will help promote the Vision for the CDT and ensure it remains a national landmark for generations to come.

Trail Information, Outreach and Education. CDTC esnures the Trail enjoys a high profile with the public, and to ensure all Trail data and information remain of high quality and easily accessible to the various audiences who desire this information. CDTC serves as a virtual clearing-house to coordinate information among our partners, both public and private. We work with various web based and print media outlets to disseminate trail information and data. We post information on-line to highlight unique areas and opportunities to experience the Trail, provide available resources and services to users, and reach out with general information about the CDT and other National Trail resources. CDTC is the hub of accurate, reliable information for the CDT, its partners, and the general recreation and conservation communities.  This also includes doing formal and informal presentations to existing and new communities and partners, and producing materials that effectively brand the Trail. Finally, CDTC cultivates partnerships with media outlets and other promotional avenues for dissemination of Trail resources, issues impacting the Trail and partner and CDTC activities.

Organizational Governance- CDTC develops and sustains an active governing body that is responsible for setting the mission and strategic direction of the organization and provide oversight of the finances, operations, and policies of CDTC.  To accomplish this, CDTC’s board members and staff have the requisite skills and experience to carry out their duties and all members understand and fulfill their governance duties acting for the benefit of CDTC and its public purpose. The organization conducts all transactions and dealings with integrity and honesty and promotes working relationships with board members, staff, volunteers, partners, and program beneficiaries that are based on mutual respect, fairness and openness. We articulate and adopt organizational policies and seek sufficient resources to ensure financial stability of the organization, so that CDTC can effectively carry out its responsibilities.  CDTC ensures all spending practices and policies are fair, reasonable, and appropriate to fulfill the mission of the organization and be knowledgeable of and comply with all laws, regulations and applicable conventions for best management practices of non-profit organizations. Finally, we ensure that all the resources of the organization are responsibly and prudently managed and the organization has the capacity to effectively carry out its programs.  


Continental Divide Trail Coalition Facts:


  • CDTC is the lead national non-profit membership organization founded to build a strong community of supporters and Trail Enthusiasts who want to see the Trail completed and protected.
  • CDTC is involved in trail planning, scouting and construction, fundraising, advocacy, volunteer recruitment and coordination, distribution of public information, education and conservation of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and its Corridor.
  • CDTC is headquartered in Golden, Colorado, with a broad base of board members and supporters in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and across the United States.
  • CDTC has over 1200 members
  • CDTC supports the following principles:
    • The Vision of and implements the CDT Leadership Council Charter.
    • The management of the CDT is seamless across Federal, State, and other administrative boundaries.
    • Trail routing provides for nationally renowned high-quality hiking and/or horseback riding trail experiences that strive to highlight the significant features and provide connectors to communities along the CDT.
    • The intent of the trail is to provide primarily a non-motorized experience consistent with the National Trails System Act and the 2009 CDT Comprehensive Plan.
    • Land and resource management plans provide direction for the CDT that is consistent with the National Trails System Act.
    • The natural, historic, cultural, and scenic features of the CDT are sustained over time.
    • CDT interpretive and educational materials include accurate information on significant features, trail location and conditions, and access.  This information is readily available.
    • Trail partnerships between the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and others are developed, nurtured, and promoted.  Youth, volunteers, and private nonprofit trail groups are engaged and involved in the planning, management, construction, and maintenance of the trail.