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CDT: Cumbres Pass (CO-17) to Wolf Creek Pass (US-160)

Wolf Creek

Begin your journey through the southern San Juans, where alpine terrain and high mountain lakes abound.

Hiking Difficult

111 km
3.4 km
3.2 km
1 day +
Low Point
3 km
High Point
3.9 km
CDT: Cumbres Pass (CO-17) to Wolf Creek Pass (US-160) Map

For northbound thru-hikers, the Colorado state line is a long-awaited benchmark along a nearly-3,000 mile journey connecting Mexico to Canada by way of the Rocky Mountains. With almost 800-miles of the dry Chihuahuan desert, vast canyonlands of lava flow, and high mountain peaks at your back, the trail changes character as you begin to climb alongside some of the highest points in Colorado - including some of the state's acclaimed 14ers along the way.


The southern trailhead for this section is just north of the NM/CO state line along CO-17, locally known as Cumbres Pass. Overnight parking is available, and the small Gateway Community, Charma, is just a short hitchhike back into New Mexico. The quaint village, as best described by the CDT Coalition, is "a small but diverse community that values its natural and cultural heritage." And while it may not be a must-visit destination if traveling by car, hikers can experience this enchanting town that once served a railroad hub for coal, and even sheep, they continue.

For those heading north on the trail, the first 55 miles of this segment tour the southernmost portion of San Juan National Forest, including some wilderness. Originally named Rio San Juan, after Saint John the Baptist, the mountains offer the perfect introduction to Colorado's high peaks, with some of the highest topping 13,000' by a small margin. Expect long stretches of true alpine terrain, and don't fret about your water supply since you'll be hiking along quaint alpine ponds and lakes, and frequently within distance to some form of flowing or otherwise obtainable water (frozen lake, snow, etc.). Worth noting, it has been suggested that grizzly bears may still live within the area, though Wikipedia notes how there is no sufficient evidence to support the claim.

For anyone seeking a day hike in this area, your options are limited, though the massif that includes Summit Peak, Montezuma Peak, and Long Trek Mountain can be accessed from a remote forest service road to the east. Camping is also abundant, though you may want to check with the ranger station for current road conditions since these are extremely remote, high-mountain roads.

Bringing this segment to an end, the trail runs along the boundary of the Wolf Creek Ski Area. To the southwest, Pagosa Springs "combines a relaxed small-town atmosphere with abundant outdoor recreation, plenty of services, excellent soaking and fantastic scenery for a unique experience," the CDT Coalition writes. The town, whose name is a derivative of a Ute word meaning smelly water or healing water, has origins tracing back to the 1800's gold rush - and even logging into the 1900s. It's a must-visit trail town that comes highly recommended by those who have been.

Unique to this road crossing, a second trail town, South Fork, is located just to the northeast along US-160. Though the town was historically shaped by the transportation industry, including stagecoaches and the modern highway system, the town was revived in the 1900s when Colorado devised a program to promote and develop skiing areas around the state. In fact, the town was only recently incorporated in 1992, making Colorado's newest town, according to the CDT Coalition.

Sources: https://continentaldividetrail.org/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SouthSanJuanWilderness https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SanJuanNationalForest



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between May and October


  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area