Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,034.00 ft (924.76 m)
Trail type
14.40 mi (23.17 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 some 3,100 miles across 5 states from Mexico to Canada. The trail travels through the Rocky Mountains, exploring a vast array of different environments and landscapes along the way. The New Mexico portion of the trail features 820 miles of diverse hiking from the desolate Chihuahuan Desert in the south, to the unique Canyons of the Gila River, to the Rocky Mountains in the north. Exploring the Continental Divide Trail can be done as a single thru hike that will take 4-6 months, or by section hiking smaller segments. In this guide we’ll look at the Mount Taylor Alternate.

The Mount Taylor Alternate is a popular option that many thru-hikers utilize instead of hiking the second portion of Section 21. The alternate takes hikers over the summit of 11,301’ Mount Taylor and offers stunning views. The added milage and vert are actually minimal as well.

You’ll split off from the official CDT at Forest Road 193. Follow this road gradually up until a junction, then follow a cattle trail up until you intersect the Gooseberry Trail. There should be some cattle troughs with good water before here. If not, there is a spring just below trail (to the left) with water.

Continue following the Gooseberry Trail all the way up to the summit of Mount Taylor. The ascent is steady, but never incredibly steep. A series of switchbacks starts just before the summit.

After enjoying the summit views, descend the north side of the mountain. The vegetation is very different and you’ll feel like you’re hiking in the Pacific Northwest through Douglas Firs covered with Old Man’s Beard.

Continue along the singletrack until it ends at Forest Road 453E. Follow this road for one last climb up toward a lookout tower and radio antennas.

Continue on the forest road as it follows near the ridge and eventually descends. The last good water of this alternate can be found just off trail at Upper American Spring.

Follow Forest Road 453 down all the way until you intersect with the official CDT. This marks the end of the Mount Taylor Alternate.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Summits Mount Taylor. Great views. A few good water sources.

Trailhead Elevation

8,947.00 ft (2,727.05 m)

Highest point

11,301.00 ft (3,444.54 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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