CDT towns & resupply advice

Continental Divide Trail Town Guide Advice

Here is a list of the towns along the way and how I would plan my thru hike if I was to do it again. Every town that has no information means there is a supermarket, restaurant, and places to stay. I included an asterisk* for places you should send a mail drop.

Navigation tip- Guthook’s App is well worth the money. You should also download Ley’s maps on the PDF App. First, download the PDF app then go the shopping cart and type in CDT Ley. These maps will explain all of the alternates and gives you valuable information. He does not charge anything to download them, but does encourage donations for the time and effort he puts into his maps. They are a wonderful and essential for bail options during bad weather. You can also order hard copies of the maps online.

New Mexico

Lordsburg

Silver City

* Doc Campbell’s- USPS Priority Mail send a week early to be sure it gets there on time. You can buy some food items here and things to microwave, but it is pricy. Highly recommend their homemade ice cream! I also recommend spending a night at the campground with the hot springs for the few dollars they charge it is well worth it.

– At this point, you can choose to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings or get back onto the trail. I walked to the dwellings and spent part of the day there exploring. You can spend two hours and see everything including the small educational building. From here, we took an alternate route which was one of my favorite adventures through a slot canyon that connected us back to the Gila River at a perfect campsite. (see Ley’s map)

* Pie Town- General Delivery to USPS

– I recommend a zero day here at Nita’s Toaster House. The town only has two restaurants and the famous Pie-oneer that only serves pie! Yum! So send yourself a few extra town snacks even though the Toaster House has plenty of food around that you could cook up. This stop was one of my favorites because both hikers and divide bikers congregate here.

– There are two routes into Pie Town (see Ley). I followed the official route which is a bit longer, but passes a general store on a paved road walk. The general store is a log building with a beautiful front porch where we relaxed for hours and you could resupply, but it would be expensive. Many of my friends took the dirt road instead of the paved highway right to Nita’s and enjoyed it.

Grants

*Ghost Ranch

– Maildrop- double check how they prefer mail sent to them. I sent mine USPS General Delivery with plenty of time in advance and had no problem. Others got stuck waiting a few days. You can buy a few snacks and drinks at their store, but it’s pricy. If you are lucky, you might be able to hitch a ride to the nearest gas station to resupply. It’s over a 20 minute ride through beautiful country.

-They have buffet style meals three times a day. In 2016, they had issues with hikers thinking it is an AYCE buffet which was my understanding at arrival. I worry they may not welcome hikers in the future due to multiple hikers not paying for a meal and loading their plates when other visitors were waiting for their first serving. My advice is to get a full plate not loaded to the top then go back for seconds when everyone has got their meal. I really enjoyed their meals and for the price it is well worth it.

-This being said everyone at the facility was welcoming to me and I enjoyed my two days spent here. The best place to visit is the library across from the dining hall. There is free wifi that works well in here and comfortable seating to relax. They offer tours for a small price during the day and the dinosaur museum is free and fun. Spend some time just walking the grounds and exploring.

Chama

-No maildrop needed, but this is where I picked up my ice axe, microspikes (if I was to do it again I would spend the extra money and invest in crampons), gaiters, and snow shoes. Be very careful if using Amazon to send packages. Many problems here in 2016 with Amazon. Call the post office and ask the best advice for how to address your package. They are wonderful there, but many of us got stuck waiting on lost packages. Or send your packages to the Y Motel.

Colorado

I did not take the Creede Cutoff so I will not give any information on the towns of Creede or Silverthorn. I did not go into Buena Vista or Leadville so I can’t share any information on these towns. I do not think it is necessary to resupply in either of them, but Leadville would allow you to carry less food out of Lake City especially if you are planning to summit Mt. Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado. I’m also told that the Leadville Hostel is amazing.

Pagosa Springs or South Fork

-I would choose South Fork after visiting Pagosa Springs, but it all depends on your interests. South Fork has a hiker friendly hotel which is the best hotel I stayed in along the trail, they offer free bikes to ride around town to do laundry, go shopping, and out to eat, the ice cream shop gives away a free shake or ice cream to thru hikers, and the Mexican restaurant gives away free desert to thru hikers with a meal. Pagosa Springs is full of tourists and lots of people! It was too much for me, but lots of other hikers enjoyed their experience here.

Lake City

-Hostel is great, but the grocery store is very pricy. I did not send a mail drop here, but I likely would send one to the hostel if I was to thru hike this trail again. Check out Poker Alice’s Restaurant and go for the pizza and pitcher of beer deal. I took a zero here and loved it!

Monarch Pass Store or Salida

-You have options! You can send a box to the Monarch Crest Store then continue hiking or hitch into Salida. I’d recommend Salida since the next trail town does not have cheap hotel rooms, laundry, cheap meals, or a large store.

* Twin Lakes

-USPS priority maildrop. They store all of the boxes outside in a locked container that you have access to during their store hours. It involves some digging to find your box and you will meet Colorado Trail hikers here as well. The store has enough to resupply, but it is pricy and limited options depending on when you visit. I ate lunch at the hotel and it was expensive, but delicious. There dinner prices are ridiculous. They had a food truck in town, but they were not serving that day.

Brekenridge, Frisco

-Wonderful free bus transport very close to the trailhead. I spent the night in Frisco, but either town is fine to resupply in. In Brekenridge, where the bus station is has a free ski lift you can ride in the summer.

Grand Lake

-The small grocery store will do, but it can be pretty picked over. The hostel is a beautiful, but    books up quickly. If you plan to hike the Rocky Mountain National Park loop, I would suggest it as a day hike and return to the hostel for the night. The RMNP is considered part of the official trail and you need to pay to stay at the campsites there or do the 26 mile loop in one day. I did      the loop starting early in the morning and made it back to town with plenty of time to enjoy a second night in town. Many people skip this loop and if you are worried about your mileage I would skip it. It is beautiful, but not even on my top ten favorite parts of the trail. I did it because I had never been to RMNP before and you are in peak shape by this point.

Steamboat Springs

Wyoming

 Encampment/ Riverside (about a mile from Encampment PO)

-Most hikers skip this town. There is not much here, but the Lazy Acres RV Park in Riverside was a nice rest spot for the night and the restaurant across the street was delicious.

Rawlins

-All you can eat Thai buffet for lunch!!

Atlantic City and South Pass City or hitch into Lander to resupply

– Go to Atlantic City for the stuffed burger at the Grubstake! Best meal of the trail! You can then walk back out of town to connect to the offical CDT or follow a dirt road into South Pass City. I choose to pick up a mail drop at South Pass City and tour the old mining community for half a day. It was worth it. Other hikers choose to skip over Atlantic City which is off trail, walk past South Pass City, then hitch into Lander to resupply, shower, and do laundry before entering the Wind River Range.

-Begin deciding your campsites for Yellowstone National Park. I waited until Dubois to do this and had to change plans due to the sites already being booked.

Pinedale

– I choose to skip over Pinedale and spent 6 full days in the Wind River Range! Many hikers loved Pinedale, but I wanted to experience a long wilderness section and the weather was beautiful. Yes my pack was heavy the first few days, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Dubois or Brooks Lake Lodge (free package hold as of 2016) or Togwotee Mountain Lodge ($10 fee)

– You can choose to send packages to various lodges instead of going into Dubois. I loved Dubois and even though it took a little while to get a hitch in and out I would visit this town again just to go to the Cowboy Grill! It is illegal to hitch in the city limitDubois. You can walk out of the town limits about a mile and throw out your thumb, or just pay attention that you aren’t sticking out your thumbs to a cop.

-Last chance to get your permit for Yellowstone National Park. I did get asked for my permit by a ranger which is sent in an email then saved to your phone.

Old Faithful Village

– You can resupply here and I did, but it was expensive. I sent a box here, but it was not addressed correctly and ended up on the other side of the park. Hit up the AYCE buffet for breakfast then hike out of the park that afternoon to avoid sending too much money here.

At this point, you enter Idaho and have two options. You can hike the Henry Lake Route or Mack’s Inn Cutoff. I choose the cutoff which meant I did not have to buy much food at Old Faithful Village.

Mack’s Inn/ Sawtelle Resort

– I sent a package to the post office in Mack’s Inn since I needed new shoes. You can resupply at Sawtelle Resort fairly cheaply. The resort offers showers and laundry to hikers at a good price as well without an overnight stay. We were able to relax on their back porch while doing laundry and resupplying. Check out the Chinese Restaurant across the street it is delicious!

Montana

*Lima

-USPS general delivery to the PO or the one hotel in town. The hotel was for sale last year so confirm they are accepting packages and offering rides. The owner of the hotel will pick you up and drop you off from the Interstate so you do not have to hitch hike. Lovely owners! You could resupply at the gas station, but it is so expensive with few options for dinners.

*Leadore

-USPS general delivery to the PO or the hotel in town. The hotel books up quickly especially during hunting season starting in September. They only have 4 rooms, but you can also camp across the street at an RV park for a fee. The store has few options, but possible to resupply.

Sula Country Store or Darby to resupply

-I choose the country store to avoid a bigger town. You can rent cabins at the country store and simply relax on the porch swing for hours. Many hikers loved their time spent in Darby it just includes a much longer hitch and you pass the country store anyway.

If you are not planning to do the Anaconda Cutoff, you will not walk thru town of Anaconda. So investigate the town Butte or Elliston. Everyone I know took the Anaconda Cutoff besides one SOBO I met. I heard Butte is a lovely town and the section is beautiful, but it will take many more days and if you in a rush you will need to do the cutoff.

Anaconda

Helena

Lincoln

-Figure out your reservations for campsites in Glacier National Park!

*Benchmark Ranch

– Send your package USPS over a week in advance and make sure they receive your $25 check before your box. The ranch offers a nice place to relax a bit before getting back on the trail. It is very expensive to spend the night there and not worth it in my opinion.

East Glacier

Many Glacier- It closes down in mid-September

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My last maildrop at Benchmark Ranch in Northern Montana.
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East Glacier to my Triple Crown!!

Sept 29

As soon as you wake up at Brownie’s Hostel, you can smell baked goods downstairs and I was eager for 7am to roll around. I grabbed two pastries and a cold coke to drink. We lounged on the couches realizing this is the last stretch. The two of us left first and walked down a few roads before finding the trail. We had a pet dog for a few minutes as he lead back to the trail before turning around. Our first pet together… didn’t last too long. We came to a Glacier National Park sign along with one reminding us we are in grizzly bear country! Trust me, I have not forgotten about our bear encounter a few days back. There were lots of reflections this morning about how far we have come together and all the epic views along the way. I have a difficult time comprehending how many miles I have hiked in the past three years and how my life came to this point. All it took was one crazy decision to attempt the Appalachian Trail. Little did I know that I would find a lifestyle full of wonder, adventure, and years of friendships. I am also fortunate to have reconnected with my AT hiking partner, Paperweight, and realize the friendship we had on that trail has only grown stronger. We created a strenuous schedule for ourselves with a deadline to finish since we have a ride booked. We followed the cairns up to an amazing pass with views that blew my mind. Some of the best hiking in the past three years certainly include Glacier National Park. At the top of the pass, we soaked in the views and waited for our friends to join us. Chipmunk and I joked about how we never thought we were going to make it, but here we are. Paperweight and I began the downhill towards Two Medicine campground and parking. We met a man out hiking that pointed out three big horned sheep! This is my first time seeing them in the wild. Another unforgettable experience! We made it to Two Medicine which had closed down a few days ago for the season and even the trash cans were locked. We found a huge herd of big horned sheep eating out of the campfire pits. We began the climb towards Pitamakan Pass. We met lots of people out for a day hike congratulating us on our hike and asking lots of questions. It is nice to meet people again on the CDT and share some stories. They all agreed with us that today is one of the best weather days in a long time in this area. I enjoyed the sun shine, warm weather, and clear views for miles. We passed a closed down campsite near a lake that is closed due to grizzly bear activity. As expected, the top of the pass rewarded us with more surreal views. We headed down the pass to a large lake where we enjoyed one last snack before pushing on to the Atlantic Creek campsite. I enjoy having a campsite reserved because you know there are cleared out spots for tents and room for everyone. In Glacier, the campsites all met a specific design. There is an eating spot near where the food is hung, a separate spot to camp, and a separate area for the privy. We enjoyed dinner getting to know Rodger from Wild (His real name is Greg, but he is “Rodger” from the book Wild. Meaning he was on the PCT the same year that Cheryl hiked it and wrote her now famous story of her experience on trail) and a lovely couple from Czech Republic. Crocs eventually showed up as it was getting dark and joined us. It was a nice evening followed up by a quick tent set up and off to bed. Only 3 more days and 2 more nights now of this lifestyle…

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Sept 30

We got an early start this morning looking forward to exploring more of Glacier National Park. We spooked a mama and baby moose out of the dense trees onto the trail then deep into the woods. The landscape was stunning as expected as we gradually climbed uphill to our next pass. This section is far enough from the parking lots so the only people I see on the trail are 6 other thru hikers nearing the end of a long journey. We made it to Triple Divide Pass with Rodger from Wild and a nice couple from Czech Republic as everyone took a snack break and savored the view. Triple Divide Pass is near where the two divides meet forming a peak where water runs off to the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian Ocean. It was relaxing to just stare at the peak and chat with fellow hikers. Paperweight and I spent the day reflecting and dreaming of future trips together. We came to the spot where the trail follows along Saint Mary’s Lake. Across from the lake, you can see the famous Going to the Sun road. That is certainly on my list of roads to travel. The trail was easy walking and full of beauty every around turn. We found lots of waterfalls as he realized he had been here before. I am a sucker for waterfalls, but we couldn’t spend too long needing to get to camp before it gets too dark. Walking in grizzly bear country at night is not on my favorites list. As we got to a trial junction, there was no mention of Reynolds Creek Campsite as we noticed someone had carved into the sign and it pointed across the bridge. But instead of a bridge, the suspension bridge was taken out and we followed the trail down to the “horse ford” route. We both took off our shoes and I slipped on my crocs. The water was freezing cold and my feet went numb during the last few steps. We dropped all of our food and smelly items off at the food area, but setting up our tent for the night. We cooked dinner resting on the ideal long in front of a fire pit which we were too tired to build. We heard people on the other side of the creek and he went to the river to guide them across in the dark. It was another night of wonderful company and lots of calories. We headed back to our tent first to relax and check our maps as our routine has been for months. Trail life is beautiful and full of so many emotions.

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Oct 1

The morning started out with a drizzly and a ford. I really didn’t need to take off my shoes because it would rain most of the morning, but I did. We plunged into the cold water of the creek moving fast over the chilly water. It was only a light drizzle, but it quickly changed as a put on my rain gear. We crossed a paved road of no cars before joining the trail and beginning the climb up to Piegan Pass. The trees sheltered us from the rain for a bit before we reached tree line. It was another pleasant uphill especially after 5 ½ months of hiking my mind is a well-oiled hiking machine. The clouds passed over the mountains tops and glaciers at the top stole my breath. I am so fortunate to explore Glacier for the first time by foot. We made it to the top of the pass before began the downhill. As we turned the corner, we were rewarded with epic views, waterfalls, and the possibility of clearing skies. I got ahead by just a few seconds. Suddenly, I noticed two animals way off moving in the distance. As I pointed to them with my hiking poles, I saw Crocs under a rock in front of me. We agreed it was likely grizzly bears as Paperweight joined us. We did what we were told and began shouting at them. I was getting cold waiting for the bears to move. We debated a scree downhill for only a few seconds because it was way too risky. We inched closer and closer yelling at the bears and they could care less. It was a big mama grizzly and a baby. The baby was curious about us, but the mother continued digging up roots. We all had our bear spray read as we lost sight of them from our vantage point. We moved slowly as I was in between the two fellows this time as we saw them less than 100 feet up above the trail. The mother continued eating and I got a lovely glimpse at the baby bear. The most adorable and cuddly looking creature that I have ever seen, but that cute little critter will soon be a huge grizzly. I do not have a photo to post because we would not wait around or waste any time. You do not want to spook or anger a grizzly bear. We zoomed down the hill as we lost sight of them eventually. I warmed up due to the fast walking, adrenaline rush, and lower elevation. We walked near the waterfalls and analyzed the stunning landscape. Many moments this year felt like I was in a different world or a dream. The four of us took a break at a stream after a quick ford for lunch. We watched mountain goats walk along rocky cliffs through Chipmunk’s binoculars. What an extraordinary animal to watch. You can see white specks on the side of the cliffs with your bare eyes. Then using the binoculars you realize how steep the cliff is usually up to 60 degree slope they are maneuvering and watch them eating. We all took off and headed farther downhill towards Many Glacier. It was clear most of the way and then the sky began to darken. We made it to the closed down restaurant, ranger station, and warm food. This is the negative aspect of finishing late in the season. We took refuge under different shelters as the wind and rain was intense for a while. The four of us ended up together again sitting under a roof watching and listening to the storm pass. This is the reality of thru hiking. An hour plus later we took one of the two choices to the border. Ptarmigan Tunnel closed down a few days earlier solidifying the route we would take. We walked along the road for a bit before dipping to the left onto the trail. The sun was beginning to set and we rushed wanting to get to camp before it was too dark. We choose to camp at Poia Lake Campsite. We ventured off to grab water out of the lake as my foot slipped into the lake as I used my headlamp to light up my water source. We found a canopy set up over the fire ring so we sat down, cooked, hung our bear bags and found a tent site. It was chilly in the high 30s as we moved quickly and got cozy one last night. I am ready for the indoors for a bit. It has been a wild few months.

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Oct 2

It is the last time this season of packing up a damp tent and eating a cold breakfast. It has been an exciting, exhausting, and beautiful 5 ½ months. But winter is right around the corner and we just made it in time to complete our thru hike. The morning light allowed us to see the beauty of Poia Lake and look ahead towards our last pass to Canada. There are lots of emotions today and mixed feelings about finishing the trail. I was so unsure if I would complete the trail after the snow in the San Juans and getting into the month of October, but we did it. The support of my family and friends encouraging me to stay strong and earn that Triple Crown reassured me. Luckily, I have the ideal hiking partner that knows how to motivate, reassure, and push me to be a stronger woman. Without Paperweight this sure would have been a lonely trail and I’m fortunate to have in my life. We began the gradual climb towards Red Gap Pass. We passed icy covered streams and warmed up one more time. The view from the pass did not disappoint as I have fallen madly in love with Glacier National Park. We headed downhill where it was a bit warmer and took a break on the trail reflecting, discussing previous fears, and looking forward to the future. It was then one last march towards the border. We made our way to the Belly River Ranger Station to take one last break and Chipmunk joined us as well. Chocolate Chipmunk is one of the best thru hikers I have had the privilege of sharing my journey with. As we left that last break stop, I kept looking back at the mountains and the pass I had just been on top of. I understand how far away I stood from the Mexican Border back on April 22nd. Also, a year ago today I finished my thru hike of the PCT. I walked in awe of my accomplishments, dedication, and experiences over the past three seasons of hiking. I have been blessed to see so many parts of the country you can only visit by feet. The hospitality of small towns along the way, the generosity of rides as we hitched hiked, and the beauty of this country make thru hiking the best way to travel in my opinion. Before I knew it, I was standing at a marker for the trail as everyone was cheering. The four of us shared congratulations before walking the road towards the border crossing. It has closed down for the season, but we still took our photo in Canada at an old marker. It was a surreal moment as I tried to comprehend the past few months. We took the usual photos and I placed on my crown that Crocs made me. I have earned the triple crown on thru hiking in three years and became a better person seeing new places, meeting people from across the globe, and evolving as a woman. Take that risk and live out your dreams!

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