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Backpacker Magazine – December 2000

Hiking The Continental DivideTrail

Can you tackle our readers' favorite long trail? Test your hiking mettle against the Continental Divide Trail.

by: Taryn Jory and Andy Dappen

It's a question of ENDLESS DEBATE: Of the three really long trails (those that span the country), which is king? You, the readers, have spoken, and—sorry, East and West Coasters—the middle ground prevailed.

As it follows the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) climbs striated peaks, passes innumerable alpine lakes, traverses open forests and meadows, and crosses high deserts. The mountain splendor, wildlife, and solitude along this long, long trail aced those of both the Appalachian and the Pacific Crest Trails.

Readers may like the CDT best because it's the hardest to trek and, as the proverb maintains, "Much hardship, much pleasure." It's certainly the longest (3,100 miles), the highest, and, with only 70 percent of the trail completed, the trickiest to piece together. And those factors combined are why only about a dozen people each year complete the 6-month, five-state trek across five distinct ecological zones.

For best information: Continental Divide Trail Alliance, (888) 909-2382;
Continental Divide Trail Society, (410) 235-9610;
The guidebook series from Westcliffe Publishers (800-443-7227;, which includes Colorado's Continental Divide Trail: The Official Guide, by Tom Lorang Jones ($24.95), and similar titles for Montana/Idaho, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

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