Considered to be one of the greatest long-distance trails in the world, the Continental Divide Trail is a pathway that goes from all the way from Mexico to Canada. A variety of terrain, wildlife, and historical treasures make Continental Divide Trail hikes a must-do activity for every serious hiker. In addition, the trail offers a host of recreational activities that range from horseback riding, fishing, and wildlife viewing to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. This is the reason why thousands of people flock to this trail every year, whether they are looking for an easy section hike to enjoy with the family or an extended hike to experience the beauty of everything the trail has to offer.
Going on Continental Divide Trail hikes means that you have 3,100 miles to explore, which is bound to be an unforgettable experience for any hiker. If you are someone who takes hiking seriously, Continental Divide Trail hikes are sure to fascinate you. Although not easy by any standard, around 150 hikers attempt to complete a thru-hike on this beautiful trail every year, and the number is increasing every year. However, attempting an end-to-end hike on the Continental Divide Trail is not a spur-of-the-moment decision. You need to put in considerable research, planning, and preparation before you set off to explore the trail. There may be numerous questions on your mind about Continental Divide Trail hikes, so here are some commonly-asked questions about the trail, and the answers.
The Continental Divide Trail is one of the most challenging hiking trails in the United States, although certain parts of the trail are not complete. However, you can make it easier with good planning in advance, some useful maps, and a compass. During Continental Divide Trail hikes, you will come across different sections—while some are well-marked, others are poorly marked or have unmaintained trails. In certain areas, the Continental Divide Trail follows roads temporarily in order to avoid going through private lands. At present, around 72% of the entire trail is complete and navigable.
End-to-end Continental Divide Trail hikes involve a lot of planning as well as training for hikers, so the entire preparation process may take you anywhere between 12-18 months. Once you start out on your thru-hike, the trip will take approximately six months to complete.
For Continental Divide Trail hikes, you can travel either North to South or the other way round, and the time and place to start your hike depends on several factors such as weather and snow levels. Many northbound thru-hikers start the trip in March or April at the Mexico/New Mexico border as the air is cooler during these months and water is more easily available on the trail. However, entering Colorado too early may mean that you have to encounter avalanches and high snow levels in the high mountains. For southbounders, hikers start at the Canada/Montana border usually around mid-June. This is because mid-June is when spring starts to set in Glacier National Park, and beginning your hike earlier that that can potentially expose you to dangerously high river crossings and deep snow. The best way is to be flexible about your schedule and contacting the park rangers at Glacier to help you out with the best starting time depending on the season in different years.
If you are planning a thru-hike on the Continental Divide Trail over a period of six months, you can keep a daily mileage goal of 17 miles.
On an average, Continental Divide Trail hikes mean that you will need approximately $1000 a month during a thru-hike. But this is an approximate amount, as the length of your trip will depend on how long you want to spend in particular section, your speed, and weather conditions. A longer hike will involve buying more food and possible costs in replacing hiking gear, so calculate your expenses accordingly and keep additional costs handy.
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