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The Best Day Hikes on the Continental Divide Trail

Wildflowers along the Herman Gulch hike.
Wildflowers along the Herman Gulch hike.
Guthrie Alexander
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The Continental Divide Trail, which stretches 3,100 miles through five states from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada, is considered one of the toughest thru-hikes in the United States. The trail meanders through some of the most extreme, remote and weather-prone terrain in the Rocky Mountains, and although it rewards hikers with astoundingly beautiful views, it is considered the most difficult of the “Triple Crown” trails (the other two are the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail).

Fortunately, no one is pressuring you (or at least they shouldn’t) to do the entire thing, which involves quite a bit of logistical planning for re-supplies as well as careful timing because of weather.

Some facts about the CDT.EXPAND
Some facts about the CDT.
Continental Divide Trail Coalition

Instead, you can try out a few day hikes along the CDT and get a taste for the experience. Recently, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, a nonprofit based in Golden that supports and promotes the CDT, compiled a list of its favorite CDT day hikes.

Below is the list, along with the group's descriptions and drive times from the nonprofit’s headquarters in Golden to various trailheads.

Parkview Mountain:

A shelter at the top of Parkview Mountain.EXPAND
A shelter at the top of Parkview Mountain.
Mike Henrick

- 10 miles round trip, out and back hike
- 2,913 ft. of elevation gain
- AWESOME views!
- Pay attention to your maps and trail signs – old versions of maps will take you up and down a scree slope…don’t do that!

The Parkview Mountain Trail
The Parkview Mountain Trail
Courtesy CDTC
The Best Day Hikes on the Continental Divide Trail
Google Maps

Directions to Trailhead:
Access is from Willow Creek Pass on CO-125.
2 hour, 16 minute drive time from Golden.

Keep reading for more hikes.

On the way to Mt. Edwards, Grays and Torrey's in background.EXPAND
On the way to Mt. Edwards, Grays and Torrey's in background.
Mike Henrick

Mt. Edwards

- 7 miles round-trip, out and back hike
- 2,950 ft. of elevation gain
- All the beauty of a 14er, none of the crowds!

Feeling adventurous? Add Argentine Peak, +2 miles RT. There is no trail to the summit, but the ridge is nice and wide, and the route is obvious. Make sure you have good weather for this and are off the summit before afternoon storms.

Feeling extra adventurous? Make it a loop with Grays Peak (Grays Peak is the highest point on the CDT/the actual Divide/any National Scenic Trail). You can turn it into a loop by hiking across the ridge to Grays Peak and then hiking down the backside of Grays to your car. The ridge is a knife-edge, has a LOT of exposure and a good amount of scrambling. Do not do this if you have a fear of heights.

Note: pack in all your water — all the water in Horseshoe Basin tastes like blood, probably because it's contaminated with mining runoff.

The Mt. Edwards Trail
The Mt. Edwards Trail
Courtesy CDTC
The Best Day Hikes on the Continental Divide Trail
Google Maps

Directions to trailhead:
US-6 to Montezuma Road. Follow Montezuma Road 4.5 mi to the dirt road. Take the dirt road to Argentine Pass Trailhead (road is gated after the trailhead).

Herman Gulch

Views on the Herman Gulch hike.EXPAND
Views on the Herman Gulch hike.
Guthrie Alexander

- 7.5 mile round trip to Herman Lake, out and back hike
- 1919 feet of elevation gain
- Easy-to-moderate
- Best hike for wildflowers; It’s known as a “100 Wildflower” or “Century” hike because of all the wildflowers!

Herman Gulch trail
Herman Gulch trail
Courtesy CDTC
The Best Day Hikes on the Continental Divide Trail
Google Maps

Directions to Trailhead:
It's an easy, 45-mile drive up I-70.
Trailhead is right off the interstate. Get there early — it’s a popular hike!

Berthoud Pass to Stanley Mountain

Views on the way to Stanley Mountain.
Views on the way to Stanley Mountain.
Rachel Brown

- 6.9 miles
- 1,594 ft. elevation gain
- Only one short steep spot! (but it’s switchbacked!)
- Beautiful ridge-walking with great views and alpine flowers
- This is a great hike to take out-of-town friends/family to. It’s super close to Denver and not too strenuous. You pop out of the tree-line quickly — which means good views for relatively little effort

The Berthoud Pass Trail
The Berthoud Pass Trail
Courtesy CDTC
The Best Day Hikes on the Continental Divide Trail
Google Maps

Directions to Trailhead:

Take I-70 to US 40.
Trailhead at Berthoud Pass is roughly 17 miles after you've exited I-70 onto US-40.

Visit the website of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition for additional info.

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