Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,977.00 ft (1,212.19 m)
Trail type
24.50 mi (39.43 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 20.

Section 20 begins from MacDonald Pass and Highway 12. From here most thru hikers will hitch into the large town of Helena to resupply and enjoy some town food and a rest.

One challenge of Section 20 is how dry it is. Be sure to plan out where you are going to fill up and how much water you’ll need to carry.

From the pass you’ll climb, then descend again to Priest Pass. After this are some interesting old remains of a railroad. You’ll see some old wooden trusses falling into disrepair near the trail. The CDT even follows the old railway bed for a short distance.

At Mullan Pass there is an option for an alternate route. Instead of following the official CDT which stays on the ridge, one can take forest roads through the valley and pastureland. The trail is likely more scenic, but the gravel roads save some mileage, vert, and most importantly, pass by some good water sources (something that is very lacking on the official route).

Whichever route you choose, they’ll rejoin around Meyers Hill. Dana Spring is just beyond and should be a reliable source of water. This also marks the end of the section.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Old railroad remains. Some decent ridge views.


Very limited water sources.

Trailhead Elevation

6,316.00 ft (1,925.12 m)

Highest point

7,176.00 ft (2,187.24 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.