Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
4,572.00 ft (1,393.55 m)
Trail type
30.60 mi (49.25 km)
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The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail spans nearly 3,100 miles across 5 states from Mexico to Canada, exploring 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 Colorado portion of the CDT features 800 miles of stunning and challenging high altitude hiking. Highlights include the South San Juans, Collegiate Peaks, 14,270 foot Grays Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at Colorado Section 1.

Colorado Section 1 is what northbound thru-hikers have been waiting for. The dry and desolate desert landscape of New Mexico is now a thing of the past, and the mighty San Juan Mountains lie ahead. With the change in landscape however come new challenges. The high altitude and big mountains will test your lungs, and early hikers may encounter lingering snow, perhaps enough to make carrying an ice axe and microspikes necessary.

The section starts at the New Mexico border, where it is a short jaunt to Cumbres Pass and Highway 17, where hikers can hitch down to Chama to resupply.

From the pass the trail begins climbing. You’ll pass a couple streams, with Wolf Creek being the best water source for a while. The trail continues to climb until coming to a high point above 12,000’ on the plateau. This is the start of the infamous South San Juan Wilderness. Hope you’re ready for some mountains!

The hiking is then relatively flat, until the trail descends off the plateau and down to the Dipping Lakes. You’ll then climb up to a second plateau. The terrain is rolling, with a couple small lakes nearby for water (including the largest, Trail Lake). After a high point you’ll gradually descend off the plateau. The trail is faint in areas and marked by cairns.

The terrain turns less rocky as you leave the plateau behind. You’ll soon come to the large Blue Lake which marks the end of Colorado Section 1.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Mountain views. Enters the South San Juan Wilderness.


High altitude.

Trailhead Elevation

10,387.00 ft (3,165.96 m)

Highest point

12,316.00 ft (3,753.92 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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