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A new agreement between the Bureau of Land Management and the New Mexico State Land Office will reduce the permitting hassle for hikers trekking the Continental Divide Trail through New Mexico.
Previously, thru-hikers needed to carry permits to travel through state-owned trail sections in New Mexico. As of last week, the two agencies say, state authorities have granted the BLM a right-of-way, meaning permits are no longer necessary. The right-of-way also formally grants the BLM easements to certain sections of the trail, while freeing federal funding for the maintenance and operation for those regions.
The 3,000-mile-long Continental Divide Trail follows the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Formally established as a National Scenic Trail in 1978, the CDT is one of the less-traveled long-trails in the United States due to its rugged character. Expanding access to the New Mexico portion of the CDT is just one way that some trail enthusiasts are hoping to put the CDT on the map.
In a news release, Stephanie Garcia Richard, New Mexico’s Commissioner of Public Lands, stated: “We like to say that the State Land Office is open for adventure, and that has never been truer than it is today as this partnership will significantly improve access to one of the world’s most beloved thru-hike trails.”
The move to expand access on the CDT marks one step of progress in Garcia Richard’s Open for Adventure Program, which is specifically geared towards developing access to some of New Mexico’s most beautiful destinations. It could also make section- and thru-hiking logistically easier.
While the traffic on long-trails like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail surpasses traffic on the Continental Divide Trail by several thousand people every year, the CDT is still growing. Last year, nearly 900 hikers obtained permits to thru-hike the CDT in New Mexico—nearly four times as many as in past decades—and New Mexico officials are hopeful that the new rules will attract more hikers to the trail.
Besides making new trail development on state-owned land easier, Garcia Richard is hopeful that it could provide a boost to would-be trail communities.
“This will be a boon for recreationalists that will be coming to New Mexico through this trail,” she said. “But it’s also a boon for those communities along the trail, and business owners along the trail.”
CDT thru-hikers still need a recreation permit from the Blackfeet Tribe, as well as backcountry camping permits from Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.