Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
4,474.00 ft (1,363.68 m)
Trail type
20.10 mi (32.35 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 21.

Section 21 begins from Dana Spring. This should be a reliable water source, although it is possible it may begin to dry up in the fall. Be sure to fill up here. You’ll enjoy some mellow trail for a short while, but Section 21 soon turns intense with many big ups and downs, and loose rocky trail. Water is also limited.

The CDT passes beside the summits of Black Mountain and Nevada Mountain, staying on or near a ridge with stellar views. After the tough ridge hiking you’ll descend to a lovely meadow and trail junction.

You’ll follow singletrack which eventually turns to doubletrack. The hiking is much easier than the challenging ridge before, but the views are not quite as stunning.

As you near Granite Butte there’s an option for an alternate route that continues to follow the gravel road. The official trail gains the ridge with undoubtedly better views (and also a fire tower lookout), but the low road saves a bit of mileage and vert. Additionally there is a potential water source just off the road at the South Fork Poor Man’s Road.

Whichever route you choose, you’ll want to be sure to make the side trip to Dave’s Outfitter just before Stemple Pass. Dave has an incredible selection of ultralight backpacking gear (literally everything you could possibly want) crammed into his small house. He is happy to help hikers out with any gear needs, as well as offering water and a place to relax for a few hours.

Section 21 then ends at Stemple Pass.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Great views from ridge.


Tough ridge hiking with lots of vert and loose, rocky tread. Lack of water.

Trailhead Elevation

6,986.00 ft (2,129.33 m)

Highest point

8,172.00 ft (2,490.83 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.