All orders qualify for free returns. Free shipping is automatically applied to orders over $50. Want to enjoy free shipping on every order? Join Routefinders Rewards for free.

Free shipping is not available for pro deal members unless otherwise stated.

Along America’s Backbone: The Continental Divide Trail

Winding along the spine of the continent, at the parting of the Atlantic and Pacific watersheds, the 3,100-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail has long been renowned for its remoteness, challenge, and breathtaking beauty. One-third of the “Triple Crown” of the American wilderness backpacking, along with the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, the CDT is one of the largest conservation efforts in the history of the United States, and a labor of love for the network of volunteers, land managers and owners, local Gateway Community members, Indigenous  tribes, and many other stakeholders, who seek to complete, promote, and protect it. The trail’s lead non-profit partner, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition(Se abre en una ventana nueva), is approaching its tenth anniversary next year, with great cause to celebrate. Now 96% complete on public lands, the Continental Divide Trail continues to be a destination for recreation, education, community, worship, history, and more, for visitors all over the globe as well as local residents. And with the introduction of the Continental Divide Trail Completion Act(Se abre en una ventana nueva) in 2021, the future of the trail has never looked brighter. 

HISTORY The passage of the National Trails System Act in 1968 officially designated the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails and directed that fourteen other possible routes be studied, including the Continental Divide Trail, but the CDT’s unofficial history started long before its Congressional recognition. As part of the ancestral lands of at least 14 Native tribes, the landscapes of the Continental Divide have been called home and held sacred since time immemorial. Parts of what are now the Continental Divide Trail today have been in use for thousands of years as paths for travel and hunting.   The official pursuit of the CDT began in 1962, during which time the Rocky Mountain Trails Association reports that they walked and marked a proposed CDT in Colorado, along with help from the Colorado Mountain Club. The National Trail Systems Act lent momentum to the cause, and by 1978, the CDT was added as  an amendment to the Act. In that same year, Jean Ella Smith and Lynn Wisehart became the first women to thru-hike the trail from Mexico to Canada. In 1981, the CDT Comprehensive Plan was drafted “to provide a uniform Trail Management Program, which reflected the purposes of the National Scenic Trail System, and at the same time, allowed for the use and protection of the natural and cultural resources found along the designated route on lands of all jurisdictions,” a rubric for the “CDT Experience” that is still used as a guiding principle today. The Plan identified a fifty mile wide corridor on either side of the physical Continental Divide in which to locate the final route.   Image via Eric Shaw In 1995, the Continental Divide Trail Association, which predated the Coalition, was formed with the goal to complete the CDT, and became the lead non-governmental partner for the stewardship of the trail. For nearly two decades, the CDTA worked diligently to muster over 12,000 volunteers to help complete the trail. However, in 2012, CDTA ceased operations, leaving the CDT without a specific organization to coordinate and protect it. Many partner organizations up and down the Divide stepped forward to help fill the void, but the need for a central non-profit remained evident. In 2012, a new Coalition formed, composed of former CDTA staffers, volunteers, thru-hikers, and supporters. From around a kitchen table, a group of CDT enthusiasts decided to pursue a new, community-centered approach to trail management. In the decade since, the CDTC community has continued to flourish, growing in popularity along with the trail.

MISSION AND GOALS Now entering its second decade, CDTC continues on its mission to complete, protect, and promote the CDT. Though the vast majority of the trail is now on public lands, there are still places in which CDT travelers are forced onto road walks that are unsafe and unscenic. Moving those segments onto safe public land remains a top priority for CDTC, a goal which is greatly helped by ongoing National-level legislation, including the Great American Outdoors Act(Se abre en una ventana nueva) which provided full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund(Se abre en una ventana nueva), and the proposed Continental Divide Trail Completion Act(Se abre en una ventana nueva), which would prioritize the completion of the trail by its 50th birthday in 2028.    But CDTC sees the trail as more than a simple path on the ground, and its mission as more than trail maintenance. “The CDT is a connector of cultures, communities, and landscapes, from the High Desert towns like Silver City along the Gila River in New Mexico to communities like Lincoln on the edge of the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana, the trail is the common thread that weaves together countless natural, historical, and cultural treasures,” said Teresa Martinez, Executive Director of CDTC, in her written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.(Se abre en una ventana nueva) Engaging with and celebrating the life of the Continental Divide is the great joy and part of the mission of CDTC.   Image via Eric Shaw As a member of several outdoor equity groups, including the Next 100 Coalition(Se abre en una ventana nueva), Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E Initiative(Se abre en una ventana nueva), Monumental Shift(Se abre en una ventana nueva), The Bridge Project(Se abre en una ventana nueva), and the Colorado Outdoor Equity Coalition(Se abre en una ventana nueva), among many others, CDTC works to help foster a brighter future along the Divide, so that the benefits of the outdoors are equally available to underserved and historically disenfranchised communities.    In our 19 Gateway Communities(Se abre en una ventana nueva), which are towns along the CDT friendly to trail users and dedicated to the completion and protection of the trail, local Trail Ambassadors work with CDTC to help educate their communities about the social, ecological, and economic benefits of the trail. In 2021, Butte, MT was designated as the newest Gateway Community and joins a roster of wonderful towns that CDT travelers can enjoy.   Because, of course, the 3,100 miles of the CDT continue to fascinate outdoors enthusiasts from all over the globe. Countless visitors will find their way to trail for a short visit in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. And hundreds of travelers will wander to the Mexican or Canadian borders every year to attempt a thru-hike that will take them through 20 National Forests, 25 Wilderness Areas, 3 National Parks, 1 National Monument, and 13 Bureau of Land Management resource areas. This journey will take several months, requiring persistence, backcountry skills, and a love for the Divide.   “No trail in the world has captured my heart quite like the Continental Divide,” says Allie Ghaman, CDTC Communications Coordinator and 2018 CDT thru-hiker. “From the vivid sunsets of the New Mexican bootheel to the titanic peaks of Glacier National Park, the diversity of the landscape of the Continental Divide is a constant delight and surprise. Every day on the CDT is a gift and a reminder of the importance of protecting these magnificent landscapes for future generations.”   Whether you are on the Continental Divide Trail for an afternoon’s horseback ride or decide to go backpacking for months on end, we know your visit will be memorable.

GET INVOLVED The protection of the Continental Divide Trail wouldn’t be possible without the help of supporters all around the world. When you donate to CDTC(Se abre en una ventana nueva) before the end of the year, all individuals who donate $250+ will receive a free Osprey DayliteTote Pack and a free year-long subscription to Backpacker magazine! Osprey has long been a supporter of the Continental Divide Trail and its travelers, and CDTC could not be more thankful for their support. Any donation, no matter what size, has a real impact on the future of the CDT, and is greatly appreciated. And if you aren’t able to donate at the time? There are still plenty of ways to get involved! “We’d love to see you on a Volunteer Project in 2022 to help maintain the trail — no prior experience needed!” says Allie Ghaman, CDTC Communications Coordinator. “Supporters could also join in an event in our Gateway Communities(Se abre en una ventana nueva), learn more about Continental Divide in our Atlas(Se abre en una ventana nueva), or share their own CDT experiences(Se abre en una ventana nueva) as part of CDTC’s 10 year anniversary celebration. Or just get out on the trail and enjoy an afternoon on the Divide! All of CDTC’s work is done in the hope that everyone can have a chance to experience the wonder and restoration of this spectacular trail.”