Continental Divide Trail in Colorado

Estes Park Colorado
> Trails
> Continental Divide Trail

Continental Divide Trail

The Continental Divide Trail goes through Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. It offers a challenging trek through high alpine terrain, wildlife spotting, and magnificent views of the Rocky Mountains.

  • Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is also known as Continental Divide Trail 
  • Stretches 30 miles through Rocky Mountain National Park 
  • Offers a strenuous and beautiful climb through alpine terrain 
  • Elevation range of 8,000-11,500 feet 
  • Continental Divide Trail doesn’t follow the Continental Divide, but intersects it

Why should I hike Continental Divide Trail?

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) is a tremendous conservation effort. It’s still being built!

Once finished, it will stretch north along the United States for 3,100 miles, from Mexico to Canada.

In Rocky Mountain National Park, the Colorado Continental Divide National Scenic Trail intersects the Continental Divide, but doesn’t follow it.

Discover breathtaking views above tree line, alpine tundra, and sharp peaks on a traverse that goes above 11,000 feet. Hike part of it, or all of it!

CDNST is often referred to as Continental Divide Trail (CDT), but is not to be confused with the actual trail along the Continental Divide.

The Continental Divide enters Rocky Mountain National Park on the north side, intersects Trail Ridge Road, and continues south through the park.

Where is the trailhead?

A great place to start hiking CDNST is at Green Mountain Trailhead, where the trail enters the park from the west and intersects Trail Ridge Road.

Or start your journey of the Continental Divide at Milner Pass trailhead.

For either trailhead, drive west on US 36 to the Beaver Meadows Entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. Go left at US 34, which becomes Trail Ridge Road. Go past the Alpine Visitor Center.

You’ll see Milner Pass Trailhead after Poudre Lake.

Continue south along the west side of the Park to reach Green Mountain Trailhead.

What can I expect? 

  • Distance: About 30 miles of CDNST goes through Rocky Mountain National Park. Hikers like to explore different sections of the trail. You can head east on CDNST from Green Mountain Trailhead to Flattop Mountain (23.2 miles out-and-back). Or, hike along the Continental Divide from Milner Pass Trailhead to Mt. Ida (10 miles out-and-back). 
  • Average Time of Hike: A few hours or several days 
  • Elevation Gain: Varies from 8,000 feet to over 13,000 feet 
  • Difficulty: Difficult, high altitude hiking 
  • Trail Type: Out-and-backs, one-ways, and there is even a loop from Grand Lake to Flattop Mountain

Any suggestions on planning and preparing for this trail?

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is beautiful and extremely dangerous.

You should prepare for your trek carefully. High-energy food, bear-proof containers, water treatment system, waterproof jacket, shelter, and a low-temperature sleeping bag are all necessities.

Wool socks are great, and it’s smart to bring a back-up pair!

Pick up a topographical map to plan your route.

Campsites within Rocky Mountain National Park require a backcountry permit. Call the backcountry office at (970) 586-1242.

Keep in mind: 

  • Air is thin at high altitudes (10,500-13,000 feet). To prepare, go on some shorter high altitude hikes.
  • Hike above tree line early in the day, to avoid afternoon thunderstorms 
  • Winter lasts longer up high, usually Sep-May. The alpine winter conditions can be treacherous. 
  • Treat all of your water, or boil it before drinking! 
  • Dress in layers. Wear aesthetic material (not cotton).

For more information call Rocky Mountain National Park Visitor Information (970) 586-1206.