Continental Divide Trail map of New MexicoCongress established the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in 1978. The trail represents a monumental conservation effort, stretching 3,100 miles across the United States, from Canada to Mexico. It traverses a multitude of biospheres, from tundra to high desert, with a vast variety of flora and fauna, including several species that are hazardous to encounter, like bears, mountain lions and moose. Additionally, the gorgeous terrain includes two thousand natural, cultural and historical treasures to explore.

CDT in New Mexico

New Mexico’s stretch of the CDT traverses the Big Hatchet Mountains Wilderness, the Gila Wilderness, the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, El Malpais, the Rio Puerco, the Chama River Wilderness, and San Pedro Parks before entering the Colorado Rockies. The trail follows the footsteps of Geronimo and ancient traders. There are historical landmarks to visit along the way. Though the route is sparsely populated, there is an abundance of wildlife, including pronghorn antelope, mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, roadrunner, lizard, javelina and turkey vultures. The vegetation is primarily pinon-juniper, ponderosa pine, cottonwood, aspen, mesquite, leafy aster, prickly pear, and yucca.

As of December, 2015, 85% of the Trail has been finished. 775 miles have been completed in New Mexico, with 80 miles remaining. The remaining 80 miles can be crossed via dirt and paved roads.

Best time to start

Northbounders

Many CDT thru-hikers 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 hike through the Land of Enchantment. It is inadvisable to arrive in Colorado too early. Doing so increases the probability of encountering substantial snow, with the potential for avalanches and torrential spring run-off in the high mountains.

Southbounders

Starting at the Canada/Montana is less common. The hikers that take this route start in mid-June, when spring has barely begun in Glacier National Park. Those who start too early encounter deep snow pack and dangerous river crossings.

Tip: Obtain the required back country permit at Glacier National Park and stay in contact with the rangers. The rangers can help determine the best time to start as well as provide updates regarding seasonal hazards or concerns.

There isn’t a comprehensive permit encompassing the entire traill. Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park require back country permits.

Fees & Permits

Gooseberry Trail on Mount Taylor, part of the Continental Divide trail systemWeather/Climate

Weather patterns in New Mexico differ in important ways from those in other states. For example, many hikers assume that rain isn’t a concern, because the state has an arid climate. Not true. Not only does it rain, but often mother nature unleashes with a ferocity seldom experienced elsewhere.

The wettest months are July, August and early September. This New Mexico’s “monsoon season.” Moisture laden tropical air triggers afternoon thunderstorms. Hiking in the mountains during these storms is dangerous. Hikers at high elevations during the monsoon season should start heading lower by around noon. The lightning during these storms is intense. Flash flooding isn’t unusual, which makes canyons and arroyos hazardous. Be careful when selecting a campsite. Dry waterways can become raging torrents within moments during a storm.

By mid-September, the monsoon pattern weakens and the weather is ideal—bright, sunny days with clear turquoise skies by late September. October is pleasant during the day, cool at night.

Southern Terminus

The Crazy Cook Monument is the most commonly recognized starting (or finishing) point of the Continental Divide Trail. There are no services or lodging due to the remote location. Columbus, New Mexico is the closest town and they provide shuttle service to the border terminus.

Tip: For those hiking longer stretches or attempting the entire route…do not leave your car parked at the border!

The Continental Divide Trail in the Gila Wilderness
The Gila Wilderness, north of Silver City.

New Mexico CDT Mail Drop Addresses (south to north)

C/O General Delivery
US Post Office
500 N. Hudson Street
Silver City, NM 88061

C/O Mimbres Ranger Station
PO Box 50
Mimbres, NM 87830

C/O General Delivery
US Post Office
7 Balke Street
Reserve, NM 87830

C/O General Delivery
US Post Office
Highway 60
Pie Town, NM 87827

C/O General Delivery
US Post Office
816 W. Santa Fe Ave,
Grants, NM 87020

C/O General Delivery
US Post Office
6358 Main St, Cuba, NM 87013

C/O Ghost Ranch Conference Center
Abiquiu, NM 87510

C/O General Delivery
US Post Office 199 W. 5th Street,
Chama, NM 87520

Red cliffs around Ghost Ranch
The Continental Trail runs through Ghost Ranch, outside of Abiquiu

Towns, forests and wilderness areas en route

Additional Resources

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.

Continental Divide Trail Association
A coalition that “connects the community that supports the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.”

Guthooks CDT App
From the makers of the well-known PCT and AT apps, this app for the  Android and iOS platforms make use of Bear Creek’s maps, along with trail information. Accurate, useful reports.

Continental Divide Trail Society
The CDTS produces a set of guidebooks. They are more hiker oriented (scenic, off the beaten path, not always horse accessible).

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