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Hiking the CDT: Does the Trail Require A Permit?

If you are looking to hike the continental divide trail, but aren’t sure if a permit is needed, we have all of the information for you. The Continental Divide Trail stretches from Mexico all the way up to Canada and covers roughly 3,100 miles.

There is no long-distance permit for the CDT unlike the PCT. There are four required permits along the trail you will need to acquire: New Mexico State Trust Lands Recreational Access Permit, a Blackfeet Nation Fish & Wildlife Recreation Permit, and backcountry camping permits for Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

Now that you know the four required permits we can explain more about what you need to do and where you can gain access to the permits while out on the trail.

Below I go over each required permit and also where you can apply and more information to mke your planning and preparing much simpler.

Glacier National Park Entrance Sign

CDT Permits

While there is no specific long-distance permit that covers the CDT itself you are still required to get specific permits to specific sections of the trail where you travel through.

While you may be able to hike a section and avoid many of these prts for a thru hike you will pass directly through these four so you will need to get them on the journey.

Some may not have the option to get ahead of travel and this will require some flexibility on your part to be prepared to make the changes and requests while out on the trail so knowing what towns and where to fill them in can be vital.

If you hike the entire length of the CDT, then you will need to plan ahead. You will have to get 4 permits: a New Mexico State Trust Lands Recreational Access Permit, a Blackfeet Nation Fish & Wildlife Recreation Permit, along with backcountry camping permits for Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

While these big four require actual permits there are many kiosk areas along the trail where you will need to complete self-service permit applications which are free but can only be completed right there on the trail.

New Mexico State Trust Lands Recreational Access Permit

The Continental Divide Trail runs through a large amount of state trust lands in New Mexico, any type of recreation on these lands requires a permit that costs $35.

The New Mexico State Lands Office has given the CDTC the authority to issue these permits on behalf of hikers hoping to complete the Continental Divide Trail through New Mexico.

Fill out the form and rules at the link above, and remember that camping and building campfires are banned on State Trust Lands.

Blackfeet Nation Fish & Wildlife Recreation Permit

The required permit for the Blackfeet Reservation is due to the fact that the CDT passes through many miles of the trail at the southern end of Glacier National Park which intersect.

Backcountry Permit Glacier National Park

To access Glacier National Park you need to have a backcountry permit, this permit is required as the park is incredibly popular to backpackers and hikers.

This permit costs $7 per person per night, so knowing the time it will take you to cover the ground will help you get the costs right.

You need to be flexible on your trip details around this area as you can’t get your permit until you reach the park area as you need to know the exact dates for when you will be there.

There are specific campsites while inside the park so you may have to travel much longer days or shorter days to finish at these spots, much of this is to help cut down on Grizzlies and other animla issues and disturb the environment the least.

For most Nobo hikers you will have only an approximate time that you will be to the park so you won’t be able to get a permit ahead of time, for Nobo you will need to obtain the permit as a walk-up or on the phone the day prior to entry.

The number to reach them is (406) 888-7801 to get their permit sorted.

A nobo wanting to get a walk-up permit can decide to instead hike the 10.5 miles to Two Medicine Campground. Here you will be able to camp permit-free and also do your request for permits at the ranger station.

Sobo hikers will basically start at the Visitor Center for Glacier and can get a permit there with little pain and suffering other than knowing the pace they will hve to maintain to exit the park on time.

Backcountry Permit Yellowstone National Park

You also require a backcountry camping permit when you enter into Yellowstone National Park, the cost for this permit is $3 per person per night and you need to obtain it in person.

This permit can’t be acquired in advance of your arrival as it can’t be purchased more than 48 hours before the start of your trip into the park, so you need to time the purchase based on your speed.

The only other thing you need to think about is when you can get your permit as the ranger stations and visitor center will be open seven days a week from June to August from 8 to 430pm.

If you are outside of these months you will want to contact the Central Backcountry Office at the phone listed, currently it is (307) 344-2160. They will then provide you more details on where you can obtain your permit to travel within the park.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Permits in the CDT

The Continental Divide Trail is a long trail that crosses many state trust lands and national parks, so it’s important to know the rules about permits before you start your journey.

Take time to folow the rules as being caught permitless is a serious offense and you could face fines or even jail time.

The most important thing to remember is that in many cases with permits, especially for the National Parks they are only good for the times you established with them prior to entry into their park lands.