CDT – Final Impressions

Information: I used Ley’s Maps and Yogi’s guide book pages for the town stops. Jim Wolf’s books contain lots of interesting info on flora, fauna and background history relating to the trail, however, I wouldn’t say they were necessary for navigation purposes. I saw some other hiker’s using maps by Jerry Brown……….who would have thought the Governor of CA had enough spare time to create a mapset for the CDT.

Navigation: Not as tough as many people make out. Is a GPS necessary? No, not if your map/compass/route finding skills are good. That being said, more than 90% of CDT thru hikers carry one and use it on a regular basis.

Route Choices: The CDT has a lot of different routes you can take. I would highly recommend the following as ‘not-to-be-missed’ (assuming weather conditions allow): Highline Trail (Glacier NP), Knapsack Col (Winds) and the San Juan’s.

Weather: Depends on where and when you start, how fast or slow you walk and how many days you decide to take off. The CDT has a slightly smaller hiking window than the PCT. The main areas to look at when planning a CDT hike are Glacier and the San Juan’s. In regards to the former, in an average snow year SoBo’s won’t want to start too much before late June, or in the case of NoBo’s, finish long after early October. Concerning the San Juan’s, SoBo’s should try to make it through by the end of September and NoBo’s may not want to arrive much earlier than late May.

Resupply: Similar to the PCT. Rarely should you need to carry more than 5 or 6 days food. Maybe some of the hitches into towns might be a little longer than on the PCT.

Water: A little trickier than on the PCT…….but not by much. A few long dry stretches in Wyoming and New Mexico. Definitely bring something for water treatment down south; New Mexico is cattle country and some of the sources are sketchy.

Scenery: Glacier NP and the Wind River Range were the highlights. The San Juan’s would have been up there as well, except for a stretch of bad weather I encountered in late September.

Wildlife: Definitely the best of the Triple Crown trails. During my hike I saw 8 grizzlies, 5 moose, a wolf and a coyote.

Favourite Town Stops: Lake City, Salida and Pagosa Springs.

CDT Vs PCT: The CDT is definitely the tougher hike, although not by as much as many people think. Quantitatively speaking, maybe 15% harder. The main differences being that the terrain is a little tougher and you need to have your act together in regards to navigation skills.

What Next?: For many US hikers, the CDT represents the completion of their Triple Crown. So what next? Hikes such as the Pacific Northwest, Hayduke, Grand Enchantment and Great Divide Trails, along with the Sierra High Route, are all more technically challenging than the Triple Crown trails. There is very little in the way of signage, trailess terrain is common and you often have as much chance of spotting a unicorn as another thru hiker. All that being said, if your backcountry skills are good and you don’t mind the solitude, then all of the above mentioned trips will provide rewarding experiences far from the maddening crowds. If you have managed to finish the CDT then chances are you’ll be fine………maybe………actually, better not quote me on that one.


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