The history of hiking The Continental Divide Trail

Meandering across 3,100 miles, the trail connects Mexico to Canada.

  • From Nebo Pass, sun and snow spotlight the Rio Grande Pyramid and a distinctive feature called the Window.

    Bart Smith
  • Kevin "Kip" Rusk stares off into the distance over the northern Colorado Divide. On his 1977 trek, Rusk set the goal of sticking as strictly to the Divide as possible.

    Kevin Rusk
  • A late spring hiker walks in the white expanse of the San Juan Mountains.

    Patrick Pöndl
  • A storm closes in on the plains of San Agustin.

    Bart Smith
  • In 1922, two young women pause on a day hike at Montana's Priest Pass.

    U.S. Forest Service
  • Spider Lake sits in the Bald Mountain Basin of the Wind River Range in Wyoming.

    Patrick Pöndl
  • Bill Gamber, founder of outdoor gear company Big Agnes, helps the CDT celebrate its 40th anniversary. Big Agnes adopted 72 miles of the trail and was part of a legion of other trail adopters wielding hammers and nails to help fully sign the CDT.

    Big Agnes
  • An expansive view opens up as a hiker approaches Cottonwood Pass.

    Patrick Pöndl
  • Two hikers head toward Grants, New Mexico.

    John Henzell
  • A hiker walks along the trail to Knapsack Col on CDT's alternate route in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.

    Josh Tippet
  • In Glacier National Park, the Ptarmigan Wall path leads to the eponymous tunnel built in 1930 to allow hikers to avoid a precipitous climb that previously existed between Many Glacier and Belly River Valley.

    Patrick Pöndl


The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail have both become famous in books and film, achieving notoriety as two classic ways to experience the United States on foot. But there is another and less-frequented third path that runs down the spine of the nation and across five states, and, according to Barney Scott Mann, there are many reasons to hike it. In The Continental Divide Trail: Exploring America’s Ridgeline Trail, Mann writes about this less well-known option, a 3,100-mile journey from Mexico to Canada. The book chronicles the first steps of the trailblazers (literally) who envisioned the CDT’s creation and describes the various organizations that have since kept it accessible to the heartiest of hiking enthusiasts. These pages are an ode to the trail’s beauty and travails, its glorious vistas and its history.

The Continental Divide Trail: Exploring America’s Ridgeline Trail
By Barney Scout Mann
288 pages, hardcover: $50.
Rizzoli New York, 2018.