Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
1,702.00 ft (518.77 m)
Trail type
14.50 mi (23.34 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 New Mexico Section 26.

Section 26 begins at Highway 96. A fairly big (and hot & exposed) climb awaits. Make sure you packed enough water from the last source on Section 25 for this climb. You’ll eventually top out near Mesa del Camino.

The trail skirts to the right and near Fuertes Spring, but it is possible to take a shortcut using a faint old forest road that will avoid a PUD (pointless up and down) and connect again with the official trail by the next water source.

This next water source is a spring located just off trail in a cow pasture. You’ll then follow the forest road for a while, before getting back on singletrack trail.

The CDT then enters the Chama River Canyon Wilderness, where you’ll find a large informative sign. The trail switchbacks down into the river canyon and you can get a glimpse of the colorful canyon walls in the distance as you descend.

The switchbacks end when you reach a nice small stream. There is some great camping in this area too.

You’ll follow this stream down for about a mile, then begin to leave the forest behind and enter some sagebrush flats. Finally you’ll come to the impressive Rio Chama River. This marks the end of Section 26.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Chama River Canyon Wilderness.


A big climb to start the section.

Trailhead Elevation

7,488.00 ft (2,282.34 m)

Highest point

8,697.00 ft (2,650.85 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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