Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,287.00 ft (1,001.88 m)
Trail type
27.80 mi (44.74 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 part 3 of the Gila River Alternate (from Snow Lake to Forest Road 3070).

From Snow Lake the Gila River Alternate follows a nice gravel road for a little while before veering off toward a rugged canyon. The trail is a bit easy to lose as you make your way to the canyon. You may see a handwritten sign hanging on the fence that says “Enjoy New Mexico’s Wildest Section.” While it’s certainly debatable whether or not this is the wildest section of trail in New Mexico, it is an enjoyable section.

The CDT follows the (dry) Middle Fork of the Gila River up the canyon and to a good size cow pond. Fill up on water here then climb steeply up out of the canyon. You’ll then follow dirt roads across an impressive and scenic wide open meadow.

Trees eventually come as you make your way across the open meadow. Turn right onto the well maintained gravel Bursum Road. Stay on this road. After a brief climb it drops down out of the forest and into more cow pasture flatlands. There is a solar well to the right of trail with good water.

Continue on Bursum Road until Cox Canyon Road which you’ll follow as it climbs back into the forest, passes Dutchman Spring and soon rejoins the CDT. This marks the end of the Gila River Alternate.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Scenic and rugged canyon. Beautiful large meadow.


Lots of gravel road walking.

Trailhead Elevation

7,365.00 ft (2,244.85 m)

Highest point

9,054.00 ft (2,759.66 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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