Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
5,886.00 ft (1,794.05 m)
Trail type
37.70 mi (60.67 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 some 3,100 miles across 5 states from Mexico to Canada. The trail travels through the Rocky Mountains, exploring a vast array of different environments and landscapes along the way. The New Mexico portion of the trail features 820 miles of diverse hiking from the desolate Chihuahuan Desert in the south, to the unique Canyons of the Gila River, to the Rocky Mountains in the north. Exploring the Continental Divide Trail can be done as a single thru hike that will take 4-6 months, or by section hiking smaller segments. In this guide we’ll look at part 1 of the Gila River Alternate (from North Fork Walnut Creek Rd to Doc Campbell’s Post).

The Gila River Alternate begins by splitting off the official CDT and following a gravel road. Continue along this road until taking a right on FR 506 (this turn can be easy to miss!). From here its a bit of a roller coaster with many ups and downs. Continue on this seldom traveled road until Bear Creek. If flowing this is great water. Follow along the creek until a single track trail leads off to the left. The trail will ascend and lead to amazing views of some rock pinnacle formations in the distance. A guy named “Doug the Hermit” has lived in the forest here for years. There is a trail register nearby and he enjoys reading comments left by CDT hikers.

The trail follows Sycamore Creek then climbs very steeply. Along the climb there is a nice small spring right beside the trail. Eventually the climb tops out at a saddle. Then it’s all downhill - single track to start, then the trail joins a dirt road. Continue until the end of the road. You’ll then have a steep, rocky descent down about 3 miles to Sapillo Creek. There are some good campsites and shade here.

Just a short distance from here you’ll finally reach the Gila River. It’s such a welcome sight. Turn right, and follow the river upstream. The trail here constantly crosses the Gila, so trying to keep your shoes dry is pointless. Some sections of the trail are obvious and easy to follow, others not so much. If in doubt just keep walking upstream.

A lovely hot spring is located just off trail along this stretch.

You’ll finally come out to a bridge. Find your way up and walk the paved road until you arrive at Doc Campbell’s Post - your next resupply point and the end of part 1 of the Gila River Alternate.


Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required

Open Year-round



Lovely hiking through the Gila River. Scenic views. Hot spring.


The first stretch features unexciting gravel road walking.

Trailhead Elevation

6,647.00 ft (2,026.01 m)

Highest point

7,984.00 ft (2,433.52 m)


Near lake or river
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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