The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is one of three long trails that run the length of the USA from south to north. The Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail are the other two. In the thru-hiking community, the three are known as the “Triple Crown”. Sometimes people ask me if I might ever hike one of them, and my standard response is, “probably not, although I reserve the right to change my mind”. I like to have a hot shower and sleep in a real bed after a long hike, so for now I’m content to enjoy small sections of the CDT close to home.
A second look.
From Helena, the closest access to the CDT is at MacDonald Pass, only 15 miles west of town. However, I’ve spent more time hiking and snow-shoeing on the sections a little farther north, around Stemple and Flesher Passes. This past August I followed the CDT from Flesher Pass to Roger’s Pass for the first time. This section stays fairly close to the actual Continental Divide as it passes through big open areas that would normally provide outstanding views of the Rocky Mountain Front and the Scapegoat Wilderness. As much as I enjoyed the walk, smoke from distant fires limited my views, so I’d been waiting for a chance to do it again.
Earlier this month a storm dumped over a foot of snow on that part of the CDT, so it looked like my Flesher to Rogers hike might have to wait until next summer. However, nine consecutive days of warm sunny weather took care of the early season snow. So, this past Wednesday (10/24/18) my daughter (Amy) and I made the 37-mile drive to Flesher Pass, and then hiked the CDT for 13.5 miles to Rogers Pass where my wife (Mardi) picked us up that afternoon (52-mile drive from Helena). (Photo Tour)
A section to remember.
What a difference clear skies make! It was a very windy at times, but we were dressed appropriately, and the views more than made up for it. It was all good, but my favorite section was a 5-mile stretch that started six miles into our walk, and ended where we started switch-backing down to Rogers Pass. From there, our views of the Scapegoat, the Front, and the prairie were outstanding. We did end up walking through about a mile of shallow snow from mile 3.5 to mile 4.5, but not enough that we needed to put our gaiters on. We started at 9 am and finished at 4 pm. In mid-afternoon we realized that we were ahead of schedule (Mardi was meeting us at 4:30), so we slowed down and took a couple side trips to explore the area around that especially scenic segment. During the hike we ascended 3,268 ft. and descended 3,817 ft. – with much of the elevation change coming at the beginning and end of the hike (see link to interactive graphic below).
Definitely do the whole Flesher to Rogers section if you can. But, if you can’t make arrangements to be picked up, I recommend an out and back hike from Rogers Pass*. Starting at Highway 200, follow the trail (long switch-backs!) for 2 miles up to that big open area we liked so much. Then from there it’s 5 miles of world-class views as you walk within a stone’s throw of the Divide. Hike as far south as you want, take a break for lunch, walk back to Rogers Pass, drive home, take a hot shower, and sleep in a real bed – My kinda day.
*Anaconda Hill would be a good destination for this out and back hike – You will find a good description of this hike (and many others) in 100 Classic Hikes: Montana, a new guide book by Douglas Lorain. I highly recommend it.
- Photo Tour of our hike from Flesher Pass to Rogers Pass.
On the Continental Divide Trail.
- Map of the Rogers Pass area.
Zoom out to see the Rogers to Flesher section.
- Flesher to Rogers Interactive Graphic.
Shows elevation profile – We did it in the opposite direction.
- Map of the CDT in Montana.
Courtesy of the CDT Society.
- The Continental Divide Trail Coalition.
All sorts of information.
- The Triple Crown of Hiking.
The CDT, the PCT, and the AT.
Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.
This was an outstanding article, with great photos and explanation. It makes me want to hike the trail. Thanks for sharing!