Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
876.00 ft (267.00 m)
Trail type
8.30 mi (13.36 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 Straight Creek Alternate.

This alternate route is popular with CDT hikers as it saves a bit of milage, a climb up Elbow Pass, and provides easier access to Benchmark Road where one can either hitch to Augusta, or pick up a previously mailed package at Benchmark Wilderness Ranch.

The alternate route itself is very straightforward. Northbound hikers will have already been following Straight Creek for a while. Instead of turning left, crossing the creek and ascending Elbow Pass, just continue straight on the Straight Creek Trail.

You’ll continue to follow Straight Creek downstream for most of this alternate. You’ll soon leave the burn area you’ve been hiking through and enjoy some nice forest. The walking is easy and fast.

You’ll leave the Scapegoat Wilderness. Shortly after this is the junction to Patrol Mountain. Ignore it and continue straight.

The trail eventually comes out to a gravel road and small trailhead. Follow this road out to the main Benchmark Road. From here turn left (unless going to Augusta or Benchmark WR) and continue to the end of the road past a campground and popular trailhead.

A short trail then leads across the South Fork Sun River and rejoins the official CDT as it enters the infamous Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Saves milage and vert. Nice forest and creek. Easy hiking.

Trailhead Elevation

5,778.00 ft (1,761.13 m)

Highest point

5,799.00 ft (1,767.54 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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