Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
4,355.00 ft (1,327.40 m)
Trail type
23.80 mi (38.30 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 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 5.

Section 5 begins high in the mountains near the summit of South River Peak. There’s no trailhead here, if you’re looking to section hike this segment you’ll have to hike in.

From the starting point you’ll have absolutely stunning views as the San Juans seem to go on endlessly. The trail then steadily descends to Piedra Pass.

From the pass you’ll contour and ascend gradually. Sometimes the trail is faint. You’ll eventually gain a ridge and continue climbing. The ridge becomes more exposed as you climb, offering stunning views and enjoyable hiking.

You’ll then drop off the ridge and contour beneath some high mountains walls. The Knife Edge is next. Here the trail makes a nearly 180 degree turn around the sharp rocky outcropping. After the turn the trail contours along the mountainside, with a steep slope down to the valley below. This is a section that can be very sketchy during early summer if there is lingering snow (one slip could prove disastrous).

From here the trail continues until eventually climbing to a high point near Chief Mountain. Afterward you’ll have a big descent to Squaw Creek Pass and a trail junction. This marks the end of Section 5.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Beautiful views. Great ridge walk. Knife Edge.


The Knife Edge can be treacherous if there is still snow.

Trailhead Elevation

12,696.00 ft (3,869.74 m)

Highest point

12,696.00 ft (3,869.74 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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