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Continental Divide WSA

The CDT: New Mexico Section

Explore remote desert expanses, wander through fields of ancient lava, then climb your way into Colorado as the CDT begins its journey north through the Land of Enchantment.

Hiking Moderate, Difficult

Also in Chihuahua, MexicoColorado, United States of America

Continental Divide WSA
Continental Divide WSA Photo: BLM


Beginning at an obscure point on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, the Continental Divide Trail begins a wild 3,000-mile journey northward towards Canada. Though arriving at the trailhead is almost as much of a journey as the trail itself, northbound hikers flock to the Crazy Cook Monument every spring, often setting their sights on April 15th to begin their trek. This guidebook encompasses the section of the CDT in New Mexico, totaling just under 800 miles between state lines, plus a few more to the nearest road crossing at Cumbres Pass.

For thru-hikers beginning their journey, the southernmost sections of the CDT boast “an extensive history of war, pioneering adventure, and Native American resettlement to add to its mystique," the CDT Coalition describes. The trail also passes through the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert, where you’ll have plenty of chances to view wildlife, including golden eagles, kestrels, and other birds along the steep cliffsides. "Other species of note found in the area include desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, javelina, mountain lion, thick-billed kingbird, varied bunting, several species of rattlesnakes and the Sonoran mountain kingsnake," the article continues.

Once part of ancient cultures including “lands of the Chiricahua Apache, Pueblos, Western Apache, Ute, and Zuni tribes,” the CDT Coalition considers the trail to pass through some of the most “spectacular natural and historic landscapes” the Land of Enchantment has to offer. “Ponderosa pine, cottonwoods, aspen, mesquite, prickly pear, and yucca” can be found throughout different portions of the trail, and the volcanic badlands near El Malpais National Monument seen on this segment are a sight to behold. Of course, the stunning Wild and Scenic Rio Chama River seen on this section) is one of the trail’s other highlights, and a popular destination with the whitewater crowd.

For thru-hikers, planning your time in New Mexico comes with a few challenges - most notably, water. Though a distinct monsoon season moves in mid-to-late summer, spring weather tends to produce less rain and can be potentially dangerous if you don’t plan ahead. Thankfully, the CDT Water Report is there to help. Up-to-date information on wells, water tanks, and seasonal springs can be found by-mileage, or by-state. A series of water cache boxes are also managed by the CDT Coalition and help to bridge longer stretches without dependable water. More information on those caches, plus hiker shuttles, gateway community information, and permitting can be found here.

Sources: CDT Coalition

Routes included

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