Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
7,012.00 ft (2,137.26 m)
Trail type
37.60 mi (60.51 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, traversing 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 Montana-Idaho portion of the CDT features nearly 1,000 miles of diverse mountain terrain. You’ll pass alongside the lofty peaks of the Anaconda, Bitterroot and Beaverhead Mountains; walk through the rugged and remote Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex; and finally arrive at the “Crown of the Continent” that is Glacier National Park. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at Montana-Idaho Section 6.

Montana-Idaho Section 6 begins with a climb up a gravel/dirt road. The climb soon turns very steep! Things mellow out after this steep section, and the trail turns to nice singletrack. You’ll then switchback your way down to Deadman Lake, a surprisingly lovely body of water.

The trail then continues to the south of Deadman Lake, but many CDT thru hikers will opt to take an alternate route. This alternate route follows a steep 4x4 road as it ascends up from the lake. The steep portion only lasts a mile, then the road mellows out and is enjoyable walking.

Follow the road all the way down to the main Nicholia Creek Road and continue straight (right). You’ll then take a sharp left on the next 4x4 road and follow it all the way up to the Harkness Lakes. You’ll rejoin the official CDT at this point.

After the Harkness Lakes more climbing awaits. You’ll cross a creek then struggle to find where the trail goes (the path is very faint, seemingly nonexistent in areas). You’ll top out on a ridge at a fenceline. Again there is a popular alternate available here. Many hikers will choose to follow the fenceline, then take the path to the right which will ultimately reconnect with the official CDT. This saves a PUD (pointless up & down).

Once back on the CDT you’ll follow the cairns and wooden posts that mark the path as you meander above treeline on the exposed mountainside. At one point the trail is nonexistent and you’ll need to rely on your maps to figure out which way to go (while looking for cairns to help lead the way).

You’ll then descend, dropping into the forest for a minute and coming to a nice spring. There are some gentle ups and downs ahead as the trail mostly sticks to dirt roads. The CDT eventually comes to Morrison Lake (a popular spot, particularly on weekends) which marks the end of Section 6.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Some enjoyable, exposed hiking with views.


Areas with difficult to follow (or nonexistent) trail.

Trailhead Elevation

7,674.00 ft (2,339.04 m)

Highest point

9,899.00 ft (3,017.22 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.