It took Todd and I a while to understand what the Great Divide Trail is. I’ll try to fill you in on it here.
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT)
There is a Continental Divide that runs through the US from North to South. It follows the Rocky Mountain range, and all water that falls on the West side of the Continental Divide will eventually flow to the Pacific Ocean, and all water that falls on the East side will eventually flow to the Atlantic Ocean. This Continental Divide makes up borders between states, and in many cases where we saw there is a fence along the Divide, which probably means there are different land owners on each side. There is a hiking trail that follows the Continental Divide exactly. It goes to the peak of every mountain, and even in the valleys, the Continental Divide Trail will be following the highest point. This rugged terrain cuts through some of the least inhabited land in the US. People take years to hike this trail, in part or in total, and I’m sure the rewards are great. This trail is open to foot traffic only.
The Great Divide Trail
Somewhere along the way, The Great Divide Trail was born. This is for traffic with wheels, and the route was probably made by bicyclists. The Great Divide trail is made up of paved roads, dirt roads, fire roads, unmaintained cattle roads, and back country trails. It is very close to the actual Continental Divide most of the time, and it criss crosses the Continental Divide over 20 times. It travels very scenic land, many times at the expense of a faster route. In some cases, the faster route is less than 100 feet away, and running in the same direction. The Great Divide Trail could probably be done by a vehicle with 4WD, but it would not be easy, or comfortable. There are a set of maps that can be bought that show this Great Divide Trail exactly (and little else), and as we found out, even with the maps, the route is almost impossible to follow exactly. Even though it seems the map makers work hard to update them regularly, the route is always changing slightly. Roads get washed out, farmers close their land to the public, and gated get locked. So, you have to improvise quite a bit along the way. And that is fine. Some of the most scenic things we saw were when we lost the Trail.