Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
1,570.00 ft (478.54 m)
Trail type
10.70 mi (17.22 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail spans nearly 3,100 miles across 5 states from Mexico to Canada, traversing a vast array of different environments and landscapes along the way. The CDT can be completed as a single thru-hike that will take 4 to 6 months, or by section-hiking smaller segments. The Montana-Idaho portion of the CDT features nearly 1,000 miles of diverse mountain terrain. You’ll pass alongside the lofty peaks of the Anaconda, Bitterroot and Beaverhead Mountains; walk through the rugged and remote Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex; and finally arrive at the “Crown of the Continent” that is Glacier National Park. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at the Ley Alternate Route along Montana-Idaho Section 20.

The alternate route is 10.7 miles with 1570’ of elevation gain, whereas the official CDT route is 14.4 miles with 2372’ of elevation gain. The primary reason why hikers may choose to take the alternate has to do with water however. The main route stays high and dry, while the alternate stays low through a valley with good water availability.

To begin, you’ll turn left on the gravel forest road at Mullan Pass instead of continuing straight on the CDT. Hike along Forest Road 571 heading generally west. Uncle George Creek is the first potential water source.

Continue along as the road curves northward and descends slightly to Dog Creek. This is a great water source. As you keep hiking northward the road will begin to gradually ascend.

You’ll turn left onto FR 571C, then quickly right onto FR 7081. Hope Creek and Polly Spring are the last potential water sources.

Turn right onto FR 1852C and follow this as it ascends all the way until you rejoin the official CDT.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Great water availability compared to the official route. Easy walking.


Gravel forest roads the entire way.

Trailhead Elevation

5,893.00 ft (1,796.19 m)

Highest point

6,679.00 ft (2,035.76 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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