Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
2,772.00 ft (844.91 m)
Trail type
17.80 mi (28.65 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 3.

Section 3 begins from Elwood Pass which, despite the remote access via gravel road, appears to be a somewhat popular destination. Elwood Pass is also a junction point for a couple of lower elevation alternate routes. The Great Divide Alternate can be joined here, as well as the Elwood Pass Alternate that later joins up with the Creede Cutoff. None of these are recommended as they miss much of the stunning San Juan Mountains.

Section 3 starts off a bit lackluster compared with Section 2. You’ll climb through some pastureland, over Summit Pass and Bonito Pass. You’ll want to be sure to fill up on water around Bonito Pass, as it is dry all the way until after Wolf Creek Pass (about 11 miles).

A bit of a climb leads to a solid viewpoint. From here the trail stays near the ridge, usually contouring just below it. As of 2023 there were still quite a few old blowdowns that are strewn across the trail, making progress a bit slow.

As you near Wolf Creek Ski Area the trail gets better. You’ll gain the ridge and leave the forest. The views during this stretch are quite fantastic. At one point there’s a cool rocky outcropping which you can take a metal staircase around. Shortly thereafter is Alberta Peak, an optional easy summit.

The trail continues along the ridge, eventually switchbacking its way down to Wolf Creek Pass and Highway 160. This busy road offers hikers the chance to hitch down to Pagosa Springs to resupply. It also marks the end of Section 3.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Stunning ridge walking and views above Wolf Creek Ski Area.


Starts off a bit lackluster. Blowdowns.

Trailhead Elevation

11,651.00 ft (3,551.22 m)

Highest point

11,948.00 ft (3,641.75 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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