The Continental Divide Trail is one of three mammoth long-distance walks in the United States of America. Together with the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail this walk is part of the ‘triple crown’ of hiking – one of the big hiking challenges in the world. Many people have walked sections of the Continental Divide Trail but few people have walked all three long-distance routes end to end in one go.
Photo Courtesy: https://wwwdotwarriorhikedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/pct-map2.jpg?w=640
The Continental Divide Trail follows the line down the United States on one side of which water drains into the Pacific Ocean and on the other side of which water drains into the Atlantic. It runs for a staggering 3100 miles between Canada and the Mexican border. The trail is a combination of dedicated tracks and back roads and it is considered to be around 70% complete at present. The route passes along the high Rocky Mountains and travels through five states, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
Only around two hundred people a year attempt to walk the entire route in one go. It takes around six months. It was first thru-hiked in the 1970s and those looking for a super-challenge have walked it both ways as a round trip, or combined it with the Pacific Crest trail as the Great Western Loop, or with the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails as the ‘triple crown’.
Those walking the route face numerous challenges. In the south, for the 700 or so miles through New Mexico, the route is arid and long stretches there is a real dearth of water. Local volunteer groups go out and place caches of gallon water containers along the route to help walkers.
Further up the route there is also snow to contend with in the high mountains of Colorado and storm season can be a problem in the Great Continental Divide Basin in Wyoming in which there is nowhere to hide from what can be extremely violent thunderstorms. Though problems faced in Wyoming are more than made up for by the grand finale of Yellowstone National Park.
Photo Courtesy: http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/020/cache/yellowstone-fountain-geyser_2018_600x450.jpg
Photo Courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/Bison_near_a_hot_spring_in_Yellowstone.JPG
Of course the mountains of Idaho and Montana also come with their own high-terrain issues, but throughout all the northern states traversed by this trail there are enough spectacular scenic highlights to keep even the most beleaguered of walkers going.
The route is not one that can be undertaken lightly. It should go without saying that you should always make sure you are fit enough for the challenge and also that you are well-prepared and have brought all the necessary equipment and provisions with you. Backpacks must be pared down to minimum weight to accomplish this route in a timely manner, but obviously not at the expense of things it was crucial that you bring with you.
This is not a challenge to suit everyone, though most people could manage a smaller section of the trail. It passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States, so walking at least a part of this grand trail should, in my opinion, be on your bucket list.
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