Annotated maps of the Continental Divide Trail. Updated annually.
When I was preparing for my hike of the CDT in 2001, I got frustrated by the lack of good, detailed, inexpensive, CDT-specific
maps. So, I created my own and have put them all on a CD-ROM that anyone can use to print their own copies.
The maps are digital images, intended to be
viewed on a computer screen, or printed on 8.5x11 sheets of paper. All it takes
to create a complete hard-copy set is:
- Access to a computer
- A standard color ink-jet or color laser printer
- ~150-300 sheets of good hi-res paper (depends if you print double-sided, and if you print all the maps)
- A couple ink cartridges (if you use an ink-jet)
The maps are based on the USGS 7.5 minute (1:24,000 scale) topographic
quads (spliced together, so the seams of the USGS maps aren't visible). The individual maps are set-up to be printed at 7in x 10in on an 8.5in x 11in sheet
of paper, which puts the prints at a scale of about 1:60,000, or 1mile
per inch. All of the information from the 1:24,000 original maps is
there, it's just shrunk into small fonts and tiny lines. Some people have printed
the maps on 11in x 17in sheets of paper. This will make some of the fine
detail a bit easier to read. Though, I rather like the 8.5in x 11in size -
folded in fourths, they fit perfectly in a pocket (and they're a bit lighter for all you lightweight folks).
I've drawn the trail with a red line &
a bunch of alternate routes in purple. I've added a bunch of notes to the maps based on feedback I've received from dozens of hikers through the years. I hope
the maps will get better and better with each passing year. If you have any
comments or notes you think should be added to the maps, let me know. It's easy
for me to edit the master copies.
Getting your own copy
Just e-mail me:
email@example.com (include your mailing address) & I'll send you a CD-ROM.
The maps are free of charge, but I do appreciate anything you can send back to me to cover my expenses &
encourage me to continue to do this. The material costs of the CDs, printing
& mailing is only a few dollars, but I have spent literally hundreds of
hours working on these maps, doing updates, burning CDs, printing labels, etc.
This hasn't been the most profitable activity in my life, but I have had some
fun doing it! My return address will be on the package you receive. Or, you can
use paypal.com to send something to:
If you want to download a sample copy, click
here. This is a map in southern Montana, the file size
About the Updates
generally update the entire set of maps over the winter, and try to be
done by the end of February. If you want the current year’s maps, just
ask for it. If you want me to put you on the list for the upcoming
year’s update, let me know. I usually have a long list… and will let
you know if there is any change in the release schedule planned.
do not keep a log of exactly what’s changed on each map each year. Sorry about this, it’d just be too much
work to deal with. I update the maps in a bit of a haphazard fashion
based on numerous (sometimes conflicting) inputs, so it’s just too much
However, I do have a list of which maps have changed from the previous year. The change might have been a complete overhaul, or just fixing a typo... Usually it's somewhere inbetween. Anyway, you can see the list here.
If you have
a set of maps from 1 year previous, you’ll probably be OK to use those.
Even a couple years back, and you’ll probably be OK, but you might
miss-out on some new routes and such
About the 2012 update
The 2012 update contains a lot of feedback from 2011 hikers and trail advocates.There are numerous updates up and down the length of the trail; everything from route updates to note changes to water conditions to everything else. Most of these changes are minor, but there are quite a few of them. In total, the 2012 update is probably one of the lighter updates I've done. Hopefully that's a sign that the trail is getting more mature, and seeing fewer radical changes from year to year.
- There are now a total of 301 maps: 85 for Montana, 56 for Wyoming, 51 for Colorado, 86 for New Mexico, and 23 Overview maps.
- If you have a copy of the 2011 maps, you'll probably be OK for 2012, (you shouldn't get lost or anything).
Though, the 2012 versions should be helpful throughout the trail, and
you might get jealous of other hikers who have newer maps. You might
want to get the 2012 CD and just look at the electronic files to see
what's new, and maybe print a few of the updates.
The Map Images
- The map images are all stored in .gif format,
they have 256 colors (also referred to as 8-bit color).
- I chose the .gif format because it is a relatively compact file format, and does not introduce any compression artifacts (like .jpg) which can make detail difficult to read. Plus, image files with this much detail don't compress well in .jpg format anyway. .gif is very limited in the range of colors it can display (so, it is not a good choice for things like photos), but that doesn't matter so much for these maps.
- Most of the maps are 2250 x 3000 pixels
(dots). There are a few exceptions (maybe 3 or 4 maps are other sizes, but all
smaller than 2250 x 3000). Note that at 300dpi, that comes out to 7.5in x 10in.
- Nearly all of the maps are based on the USGS 1:24,000 or 7.5 minute map data. A few maps in New Mexico are based on 1:100,000 USGS data. Those maps are labeled as such, and it should be obvious when you look at them.
- When printed, the maps have a scale of about
1mile/inch, or roughly 1:60,000 (all the 1:24,000 data will still be there, it'll
just be shrunk into fine print)
maps are numbered north to south generally. Some of the maps have
"letters" as well: (i.e. WY28a). These are instances where alternate routes
required extra maps, or they provide coverage of small "missing areas"
between some maps, or they are "zoomed-in" detail sections of some of
the 1:100,000-base maps. It should be easy to figure out what's what
when you're out on the trail.
- The route I've traced on these maps is a
continuous "CDT route". I've also included a number of alternate routes.
In many places, there's some debate about which the "best" route is, particularly in
southern New Mexico. Nobody can tell you which to do - just hike your own hike!
- Some routes not included (but which I might include in the future) are mostly in Colorado, such as:
- Independence Pass alternate (which I don't have much info on, and the existing route is pretty good anyway)
cutoff (of which there are dozens of possible ways to go - if you do
the Creede Cutoff, I'd recommend getting the Trails Illustrated maps for
- The red lines show what I can best describe
as "the main route". Usually it's the designated CDT route, and usually it's
the route I prefer. In a few cases, it's neither of those things. Away, it's a continuous route.
If you find a map with two red lines…
just hike either one (do not hike in a circle... unless you want to hike in a circle).
- The purple lines show alternate routes.
Usually, I've included notes in the margins to describe or criticize the
- There are a couple maps with grey lines.
These are roads or trails that were not clearly visible on the USGS maps, but I wanted
to show them as reference points. I have only done this in very selected
instances. There are plenty of roads & trails crossing the CDT not marked on the maps. These are often described in the notes.
- Any dashed line indicates that there is no
tread on the ground in that section (so, it's cross-country). Keep in mind
that many parts of the CDT have occasional cairns or signposts
or very faint tread or nothing at all… I apologize if they're not consistently marked on the maps. If you
hike the trail, hopefully you'll understand why it's very difficult to decide if a
particular route is technically cross-country or not.
- The mileages on the maps show the estimated
distance between any two "stars". I added the mileages to make it easier to
plan your day. I measured the mileages by "rolling" the distances on a printed
set of maps with an electronic distance measuring tool (and in some places, just eye-balling it). It's kind of difficult
to get an accurate measure when there are lots of twists and turns in the
trail... especially at a scale of ~1:60,000! So, the mileages might be a little
"off"... usually short if anything (but consistently short I hope). I can
almost guarantee that my mileages won't exactly match-up with mileages in the
guidebooks or other maps. But in the end, they should help you
out. There are some places without mileages marked - it's just a lot of work to keep all these updated... You get to have fun "eyeballing it" in those places!
- The numbered notes should be
self-explanatory. The numbers are
generally "very near" to whatever I'm referring.
- In most places, I've indicated for which
hiking direction the notes are intended. If a note doesn't specify, assume it's
intended to make sense primarily for southbound hikers (because I hiked the trail N->S, and some of the notes are from my original hike)... or more often, either direction.
- Since 2001, the maps have
been pretty extensively overhauled. Special thanks to everyone who has
given me feedback - there are too many of you to list. The CDT-ROM
works because of YOU!
- I've made some notes regarding road numbers
and private property in many places, but not "everywhere".
- The map labels in the upper left hand corner
of each map are there to help you keep the maps organized in case you print a
set. All the labels are in the NW corner of the map. All writing on the maps is
such that geographic north is "straight up".
- The missing areas, or "white spaces" on the
edges of many maps are there to save ink in the event that you want to print a
set. I've tried not to erase anything that is vital.
The Overview Maps
of the overview maps covers approx 6-10 of the smaller maps. The
detailed maps covered by the overview maps are drawn-out with labeled
boxes. (Although, I've missed a few, and just didn't get around to
including references to the new maps for 2007 on these overview maps.)
- Although all the roads and trails on the
overview maps are not labeled, I hope that you can figure out which is which by
looking at the respective detail map... and make reasonable guesses about the
identity of roads or trails outside the coverage area of the detail
- Many of the overview maps indicate a
"Continental Divide Scenic Trail" on them. This label was automatically created
by the software I used to generate the maps. The software simply labels the
divide itself as the CDT... it is rarely accurate (except in areas where
the CDT is located on the divide!).
Using GPS and the Compass Rose
- Click here for more information about using GPS
with the maps.
- You don't need a GPS to navigate the CDT, and I was a little reluctant to add
GPS data. But, people were asking about it, and thanks to a suggestion I
received for a clever method of incorporating GPS data, I went ahead and did
it. This was added in 2004.
Viewing the Maps
have included a "navigation" web page on the CD that's written in html. It's
accessible via the link on the "CDT Maps" page & should be
self-explanatory. This should work on Apple systems as well.
- If you don't have any graphic viewing or printing program, I'd suggest downloading the free viewer - Irfanview, available at: www.irfanview.com
- Or, you can use any other software that
displays the .gif format, such as the built in viewers in some operating
systems, Photoshop, Photopaint, Paint Shop Pro, GIMP, or some similar
Understanding Resolution... for the Technical
- All digital images (including these maps) are
made from a mosaic of colored points called "pixels" or "dots". Look really
closely at your computer screen, and you'll see the pixels.
- The size of an individual pixel is arbitrary
- if you look at the same image on different computers it will sometimes appear
to be a different physical size. This is because different monitors and video cards have
different capabilities to create small/fine pixels.
- When you display an image on a screen, each
pixel of the image will take up one pixel on your screen. The map images are
comprised of (portrait) 2250 columns of pixels by 3000 rows of pixels, or
2250 x 3000. If, for example, your computer screen displays 1024 pixels columns x
768 pixels rows (1024 x 768), you'll only see a portion of a map & you'll
have to scroll to view the whole thing.
- Many software "viewing" programs include a
feature that allows you to look at only a certain percentage of an image's
total pixels (some web browsers do this automatically). This has the affect of shrinking the displayed image so you can
see the entire image on your screen. When a software program does this, you'll
lose some of the fine detail in the original image. There are advantages to
viewing a map either way.
- When you want to print an image, you often
have to tell your printer how big to make the printed pixels (or "dots"). This is done is by
specifying how many pixels are contained in a linear inch (as if the pixels
were stacked end-to-end). This measure is called "dpi" or "dots per inch"
(where a pixel = a dot)
- When you open a .gif file, some software will
assume the file should be printed at 72dpi. The software may make this
assumption because most computer monitors display graphics on the screen at
approx 72dpi. (There are about 72pixels per every linear inch on most
older monitors). The .gif file format is most often used to display computer graphic
images that are never printed.
maps are intended to be printed at 300dpi, so that they will come out
to 7.5 inches x 10 inches. Depending on the software you use to print,
you may have to "tell" your computer the image is a "300dpi image". How
to do this will depend on the software you use. Some printing software
will allow you to "fit the image to a page" or "reduce" the image. If
you're not getting the results you want (if the image prints too large
or the edges of the image are cropped), play around with the settings
used in your software.
Printing the maps
people use ink-jet printers to print the maps. I recommend using
high-resolution ink-jet paper. This paper typically costs $10 for 100
sheets (you may find a better deal somewhere). There are a variety of brands. The advantage of using good paper is that the fine
detailed writing in the maps will be clear. With normal paper, the ink
will "bleed" just a little, which blurs details… no matter how good
your printer is. There is a LOT of fine detail on these maps. You can
find high resolution paper at any office supply or computer store.
laser printers have gotten a lot better in the past couple years, and in my opinion are now the best choice for printing the maps. While you can get slightly finer detail with an inkjet & good paper, the color laser printers have a number of advantages. These printers might cost more up-front,
but the color toner lasts for thousands of prints (saving you money in the
long run). Color laser prints are also much more durable wrt/ wetness, and you can probably get away with slightly cheaper paper.
The laser printer ink might flake-off at folds in the paper,
but the maps should hold up well enough for the amount of time you need
them. If you're going through 2/day, they don't need to last long.
- High resolution paper also holds up
reasonably well when it gets wet. Inkjet ink will bleed profusely on regular paper with
the slightest moisture. This is a very important consideration out on the
- Waterproof paper is now available, but it is
expensive. On a typical hike you'll go through about 2 maps a day. I wouldn't
bother with the waterproof paper unless you intend to keep the maps for a long
time, use them again, or pass them along to future hikers.
- The where's and how's of printing will depend
on your printer and printer set-up & the software you use to print. In
order to see the detail on the images, you will need a printer that prints at
least 300dpi. Nearly every ink-jet printer sold in the last 7 years will
print at this resolution. Color laser printers sold in the last 3-4 years should be ok too. If you have an old or extremely low-end ink-jet that
cannot print at 300dpi, the printouts will not be clear.
printing: This is something you'll want to do. You can set up your
system to print the maps in batches of "many at a time", so you don't
have to baby-sit the process.
- If you have Windows XP/Vista/7, the easiest way to
print the maps is to navigate to the appropriate map directory, and print them directly from the operating system. Just use the "fit to page" function.
- The next easiest option is to use other software, such as the free "Irfanview" software, available at: www.irfanview.com. Refer the Irfanview help for any questions.
- Tip: If you have double-sided high-resolution
paper, you may want to just print odd-numbered maps first, then run the paper
through again & print the even maps, etc...
- Important: If you use other printing software
and it has a "fit to page" option, you may want to use that. If it doesn't, try
to reduce the image to 25% to get it to fit on a normal piece of paper.
If you don't do this, the printing software may crop the edges of the map, and
just print one small section, frustrating you beyond belief.
- Print time will depend on your printer and
computer. With a fast setup, a map may print at less than 10 seconds per
page… or faster. On a slow one…???
- I went through about 2-2.5 ink-jet cartridges
to print a whole set of maps in 2001. Your mileage may vary… There are
sources on the internet for cheap ink jet cartridges… look for them! I got
mine for $5 each. The color in cheap ink will usually fade more rapidly than other ink, but that's not really important with these maps.
don't recommend using black-and-white laser printers. There is a lot of
information on the maps that can only be seen in color.
people have taken the maps to their local copy-shop to have them
printed. This can work fine, but is usually quite costly. The results
you'll get won't be any better than home-printing. If you're just not
comfortable with computers and printing, etc... Printing the maps is a
great way to learn!... or ask a friend, neighbor or family member. Surely someone you know would be willing to help!