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CDT: MacDonald Pass (US-12) Rogers Pass (MT-200)

A remote segment of the CDT known for its views from the Granite Mountain Lookout Tower.

Hiking Difficult

109 km
3.9 km
4.2 km
1 day +
Low Point
1.7 km
High Point
2.5 km
CDT: MacDonald Pass (US-12) Rogers Pass (MT-200) Map

This segment of the CDT begins at US-12 near MacDonald Pass. A large trailhead offers overnight parking for dozens of vehicles, and the road offers access to Helena, one of the trail's many Gateway Communities. As the capital of Montana, gold mining abounded in the late 1800s and even earned it the nickname as the "Queen City of the Rockies," the CDT Coalition notes. As with many current towns that were founded during the mining boom, Helena transitioned into an important railroad hub soon after. More recently, agriculture and recreation in the nearby National Forest have helped shape the town into what it is now.


For thru-hikers continuing north, this section of the trail is lesser-traveled due to its remoteness, though it's a great choice for a section hike if you're visiting Helena or Butte. Greenhorn Mountain and Bald Butte mark a slight westward shift on the trail, and remnants of ancient gold, silver, lead, mining can be seen throughout the area. At one point, sources note how the area once hosted a small community that included a few stores, post office, saloons, and even a school.

Towering across the valley to the northwest, Granite Butte is another highlight of this segment. A lookout tower sits atop the summit and, according to the Forest Service, can be rented for just $45 per night! Its perch offers stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and their hillsides, and the lookout can be rented year-round if you're willing to ski or snowmobile your way there during winter.

Rounding out this section's northern half, you'll pass trailheads at Stemple Pass and Flesher Pass before arriving at Rogers Pass. Overnight parking is available at all three, and MT-200 at Rogers Pass offers direct access into Lincoln, another Gateway Community. Occupied by Native Americans for at least 10,000 years, the small town served as a mining outpost until the 1970s and continues to draw in tourists every year.

Sources: https://www.flickr.com/photos/outlawpete/29866528086 https://www.theoutbound.com/montana/backpacking/continental-divide-trail-macdonald-pass-to-priest-pass



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
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area