Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
715.00 ft (217.93 m)
Trail type
28.30 mi (45.54 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 New Mexico Section 20.

New Mexico Section 20 is definitely not one of the most exciting sections of the CDT. You’ll be walking paved roads the entire way, nearly 30 miles.

The section begins at the Acoma-Zuni Trailhead. From here, follow Highway 117 (El Malpais Road) generally north. The road passes besides the “Little Narrows” which are one of the only highlights of this section.

A BLM campground (Joe Skeen) is located a bit further up the road on the right, and makes a good (free) place to camp for the night. The next stop is the El Malpais Ranger Station and Visitor Center. This is an important place for hikers as there is a water spigot to fill up at. Even if the visitor center is closed, hikers can hop the gate and fill up anytime.

Continue following the road until you cross over Interstate 40 and come to a gas station and Subway (a favorite stop for thru hikers).

Continue straight on the road. It will eventually curve and head west into the town of Grants. Here thru-hikers can resupply and likely take a rest day.

You’ll then head northeast out of town following Highway 547. Walk past a prison, then continue until coming to a trailhead where you’ll finally leave the road behind and start on singletrack trail again. This marks the end of Section 20.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



There aren't many pros to this section.


Many. Paved road walking for nearly 30 miles, with few highlights.

Trailhead Elevation

6,878.00 ft (2,096.41 m)

Highest point

6,878.00 ft (2,096.41 m)


Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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