Volunteers take on historic effort to sign the Continental Divide Trail

By Amanda Wheelock
Special to The PREVIEW
It can be hard to find your way along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT), which runs from Mexico to Canada along the spine of the Rocky Mountains. The trail is completely unmarked in some sections and, in others, blown-down trees and bleaching from the sun have made the existing trail markers, or “blazes,” difficult to spot. But, this year, in honor of the trail’s 40th anniversary, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) is trying to change that.
“The CDT is an incredible natural and recreational resource owned by all Americans,” said Teresa Martinez, executive director of the CDTC. “By making sure the trail is well-signed, we hope to encourage more people to explore the CDT and the beautiful Rocky Mountain landscapes it traverses.”
Blazing a trail that is 3,100 miles in length is an enormous undertaking and while the CDT has been marked in various ways throughout its 40-year history, it has never been completely and consistently signed from end to end.
To tackle this historic project, the CDTC is recruiting volunteers from across the country to take part in a project called “Blaze the CDT.” Throughout 2018, these volunteers will install thousands of blue-and-white signs along approximately 750 miles of trail. Thanks to efforts by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, youth conservation corps and volunteer trail adopters, over 2,000 miles have already been properly signed.
Less well-known than its bicoastal cousins, the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, the CDT was designated by Congress as a National Scenic Trail in 1978. As it winds its way along the crest of the Continental Divide, the CDT passes through alpine meadows, desert canyons, quaking aspen forests and imposing mountain ranges, making for a truly beautiful journey through some of America’s most dramatic and rugged terrain.
Despite decades of work by dedicated volunteers, land management agencies and other trail supporters, the CDT is still incomplete. Over 180 miles of the trail are still in need of federal protection and hundreds more are in need of critical maintenance. That’s just one reason why the CDT was named as one of 15 national priority areas by the U.S. Forest Service earlier this year.
2018 is not only an important year for the CDT, but for all of America’s trails, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act. The National Trails System provides outdoor recreation opportunities, promotes natural resource preservation and public access, and encourages the appreciation of America’s history and cultural diversity. Since its creation in 1968, over 81,000 miles of trails have been included in the National Trails System.
To learn more about Blaze the CDT and the CDT, visit www.continentaldividetrail.org/blaze-the-CDT/.
About the CDT
The CDT is one of the world’s premiere long-distance trails, stretching 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada along the Continental Divide. Designated by Congress in 1978, the CDT is the highest, most challenging and most remote of the 11 National Scenic Trails.
It provides recreational opportunities ranging from hiking to horseback riding to hunting for thousands of visitors each year. About the CDTC
The CDTC was founded in 2012 by volunteers and recreationists hoping to provide a unified voice for the trail. Working hand in hand with the Forest Service and other federal land management agencies, the CDTC is a nonprofit organization supporting stewardship of the CDT.
The mission of the CDTC is to complete, promote and protect the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, a world-class national resource. For more information, please visit continentaldividetrail.org.

This story was posted on April 6, 2018.