Frequently Asked Questions

Hikers have a lot of questions, and sometimes answers are not easy to find, we have tried to compile some of the most common questions we get here.
1. How do I get to the CDT’s southern terminus?

Southern Terminus Shuttle Information

The BLM amended the location of the trail in 2005 in order to reach the Mexico border without having to cross private lands in New Mexico’s boot heel. Since that time, ground- truthing and finessing locations has occurred, working off the amendment document which allows adjustments to the route in order to mitigate for historic or sensitive areas. The signs along the roads have been removed as preferred routing, more suitable to the criteria of a National Scenic Trail (P.L. 90-543), has occurred across open ground, including the point from the Crazy Cook Monument. The trail now commences north of there several hundred feet, off the national boundary fenceline inside of the 60 ft. Roosevelt Easement.

Directions to the Southern Terminus: (mileages are approximate)

Southern terminus travel: Traveling to the Southernmost Trailhead requires high-clearance 4×4 and takes two hours, one-way once you leave the paved roads.

1. Take Interstate 10 east from Lordsburg or West from Deming to Exit 49

2. Take NM 146 South to Hachita

3. Turn East on NM 9

4. Turn South on NM 81

5. Go south about 11 miles. Just before the curve in the highway, turn left onto the graded dirt road. All roads beyond this point are dirt.

6. Go 3 miles and turn right.

7. Go another 3 miles and turn left.

8. Follow this road around the base of the Big Hatchet Mountains for about 20 miles to a windmill (Mangas Well, named for Apache Chief Mangas Colorado).

9. From the windmill, go east 2 miles. You will be at the international boundary fence. At the cattle guard, there is a concrete monument commemorating the Crazy Cook who murdered someone at the site.

10. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail goes west, back along the road to the windmill, then proceeds northwest through the Big Hatchet Mountains.

FYI: signs are placed at critical intersections along the drive.

2. Where do I get maps and which ones should I use?

The CDTC does not publish a map suitable for hiking purposes. For general information and planning our interactive map is a great resource and a fun way to discover the trail.

For hiking purposes there are a lot of great resources and hikers have several great resources for hiking maps.

Bear Creek Survey Maps

Developed by the former CDT organization and Jerry Brown of Bear Creek Survey, these map guides reflect the most current line data for the CDNST available. These guides will give you the most accurate way point data for the “official” CDNST route, including water sources, critical intersections and general know where you are or need to be information.  We highly recommend you combine these with Yogi’s CDT Handbook and Planning guides for the best adventure possible on the CDNST!

A great free (print at home) resource are maps put together by Johnathan Ley.

3. What is the Continental Divide?

A Continental Divide is a physical land formation that parts the main waterways of a continent. The North American Continental Divide begins in Northern Alaska continuing south through the Canadian Rockies. In the United States the Divide follows the Rocky Mountains through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The southern portion of the Divide peaks along Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental. In South America, the Continental Divide lies along the Andes.In the United States the Divide parts all precipitation and waterways to the west of the Divide into the Pacific Ocean and eastwardly to the Mississippi River drainage and Atlantic Ocean.

4. How long does it take to do a thru-hike?

Prior to the trip, planning, preparation, and training can take anywhere from twelve to eighteen months. The trip itself takes about six months on foot, when averaging 17 miles per day.

5. Should I go North to South or South to North on a thru-hike?

When and where you start depends on many factors, such as your schedule, snow levels, and weather. Most thru-hikers start at the Mexico border in March or April and head north. Others start at the Canadian border in late June; however, due to high snow levels, spring run-off, and avalanche dangers, the delay may last well into July. It is best if you can remain flexible and willing to alter your schedule.

7. What is the best starting time and place to begin a thru-hike?

Northbounders: Many CDT thru-travelers begin at the Mexico/New Mexico border in March or April when the air is cooler and water sources are more readily available. On average, CDT travelers take one month to make it through the Land of Enchantment. Yet, entering Colorado too early in the season means CDT travelers may encounter high snow levels, avalanche, and high spring run-off along Colorado’s high mountains.

Southbounders: Fewer CDT thru-travelers start at the Canada/Montana border, but for those that do, many attempt to get started in mid-June. Mid-June may be summer in some parts of the world, but in Glacier National Park, spring has barely begun. If you begin too early, you will run into deep snow pack and dangerously high river crossings. Stay in contact with the rangers at Glacier as your are obtaining your required backcountry permits. They can help you determine the best time to start for that particular season.

8. Is water an issue on the CDT and do I need to treat it?

The human body loses between 8 to 16 liters of water per day during strenuous exercise. Add to that altitude, temperature and humidity level, and the amount rises. In addition if you lose fluids from diarrhea or other illness, your body can loose up to 24 liters of liquid per day. Therefore it is generally recommended that you drink at least one gallon of water per day on the Trail.

Water can be scarce along the CDT, particularly in Wyoming’s Great Divide Basin and throughout New Mexico. Windmills and stock ponds are potential sources, although they are not entirely reliable and may be on private land. Windmills on federal lands are called Section 4 projects and the rancher who has a federal permit to graze livestock on those lands often has the water right. Streams may be dry or overflowing depending upon the year’s snow pack and the month of the year. Plan where you can get water and be prepared if none is there when you arrive.

The Trail Unites Us is a well organized blog by Elisabeth “LoveNote” Chaplin and currently maintains an unofficial crowd sourced water sources report.

9. Do I need a permit?

There currently is not one all-encompassing permit for the entire length of theCDT. Backcountry permits are typically required when traveling through Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. It is best to contact the land-manager of the area you will be traveling through to get current updates on permit requirements and any restrictions within the area. Visit our Explore by State pages for land manager contacts in each state.

New Mexico

Colorado

Wyoming

Idaho/Montana

10. How many miles per day can I expect to travel?

For those planning to thru-hike the CDT in one season or six months, a good daily mileage goal is 17 miles.

11. How much of the CDT is complete, navigable for thru-hikers?

Although America’s most challenging trail is not complete, with good maps, a compass and thorough planning, a person can travel from Mexico to Canada following close to the geographic Continental Divide. Signs and markings identifying the CDT vary. Some segments are on well-marked trail, while others require cross-country travel or lead to unclear, poorly marked and unmaintained trails. In some areas, the Trail temporarily follows roads to avoid trespassing on private lands or until a better, non-motorized route is built. Currently, 72% of the Trail is complete, located on non-motorized areas along low-impact routes.

12. What do I need to know about wildlife safety/precautions?

The CDT is home to various types of wildlife, from the javelinas of New Mexico to the majestic and daunting grizzly bear of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. As travelers along the CDT, it is important to be aware of the various wildlife and the precautions necessary to avoid dangerous encounters.

In all cases of varying wildlife, it is essential to remember that you are traveling through their habitat and should avoid all contact with wildlife by abstaining from any conduct that encourages wildlife to become habituated to human contact; such as advertently or inadvertently feeding wildlife. For additional Wildlife Tips visit our Challenges & Risks page.

13. What is the Great Divide Basin?

The Great Divide Basin is a unique area along Wyoming’s portion of the Continental Divide, where the Divide splits in two and rejoins to create a 2.5 million acre desert basin. There are no water channels leaving the Basin and minimal precipitation entering this ecosystem. Any precipitation within Great Divide Basin is absorbed or evaporates through a series of alkali flats or salt lakes. The Continental Divide Trail follows the northern portion of the Great Divide Basin, beginning from the south at Rawlins and exiting the Basin at South Pass City to the north.

14. Does the Trail currently travel on Private Land?

Since the Trail is not complete, you will have to contend with private land issues. Please respect the traditions and lifestyles of the people living along the Trail by never crossing private lands without permission. In many cases they need the land to survive and are good stewards of the land. Their traditions are embedded into the history of these lands and the character of the Continental Divide Trail. Where private lands block the continuation of theCDT, and you are unable to get permission to cross these lands, utilize other trail or road routes. The 1:100,000 scale land status maps, which can be obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey, provide good information on land ownership.

14. Does the Trail currently travel on Private Land?

Since the Trail is not complete, you will have to contend with private land issues. Please respect the traditions and lifestyles of the people living along the Trail by never crossing private lands without permission. In many cases they need the land to survive and are good stewards of the land. Their traditions are embedded into the history of these lands and the character of the Continental Divide Trail. Where private lands block the continuation of theCDT, and you are unable to get permission to cross these lands, utilize other trail or road routes. The 1:100,000 scale land status maps, which can be obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey, provide good information on land ownership.

15. What type of weather conditions can I expect?

All CDT travelers need to be prepared for any type of weather. It can snow, hail, lightning, rain and beam with beautiful sunshine all in one day on the Trail. Learn what weather signs to look for. Know the different types of cloud formations and other natural phenomena and how they can help you forecast weather. Temperatures on the CDT range from below freezing to over 100 degrees depending on where you are and when you travel. Be prepared with layered clothing, proper gear and lots of water. Consider traveling in the morning when it is cooler and to avoid afternoon storms.

In open areas of the CDT (either high or dry), wind is either blowing or it’s about to, so plan for it. Select campsites that are below the ridgeline, behind boulders, or snuggled into whatever vegetation exists. Use all of your shelter’s tie-down lines. Avoid building rock shelters, or if your stove requires one, re-place the rocks in order to preserve the rustic CDT.

16. What is Altitude sickness and what precautions should I take?

Altitude Sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) typically occurs in individuals traveling above 5,000 feet. At higher elevations the air becomes less dense and each breath contains less oxygen. Because the entire CDT is at elevations greater than 5,000 feet it is important for CDT users to know the preventions, as well as; recognize the symptoms of altitude sickness. For additional information on Altitude Sickness, including causes and preventions, visit our Challenges & Risks page.In open areas of the CDT (either high or dry), wind is either blowing or it’s about to, so plan for it. Select campsites that are below the ridgeline, behind boulders, or snuggled into whatever vegetation exists. Use all of your shelter’s tie-down lines. Avoid building rock shelters, or if your stove requires one, re-place the rocks in order to preserve the rustic CDT.

17. Are dogs permitted on the CDT?

Dogs are permitted on the CDT except in the three National Parks the Trail travels through, Rocky Mountain NP (CO), Yellowstone NP (WY), and GlacierNP (MT).