Cumbres Pass/CDT North Hike – 08/12/2021

This hike was during a 5 day camping trip to Northern New Mexico. We set up the R-Pod at Heron Lake for 4 nights. While Pat attended a 3 day workshop in Chama on dyeing wool, I drove up to Cumbres Pass for a hike on the Continental Divide Trail.

The Drive In

NM 17 from Heron Lake goes through Chama, the southern terminus of the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad, a vintage narrow gauge rail line that offers rides from Chama over Cumbres Pass to Antonito, CO. Continuing north on NM 17, the tracks are never far from the highway, and if one’s timing is right one will see a steam locomotive with passenger cars (and sometimes utility cars) climbing up the 2,000 foot grade (or coasting down). Or maybe see a train pause at the small railyard at the summit of Cumbres Pass.

The drive up on the highway is scenic, especially because sufficient moisture has made the forest, pastures, even the roadside a very healthy green. At the summit, I found a parking lot on the south side of the highway with a sign introducing the CDT southbound, Crossing the highway and going under a railroad overpass, I found the trailhead for the CDT northbound.

The Hike

I was fortunate – the passenger unit of the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad just happened to reach Cumbres Pass as I was gathering up my pack for the hike.

On to the hike: Crossing to the north side of CO 17, then going under the railroad trestle, signs pointed the way to Trail 813, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The forest hereabouts was so healthy, everything was green, and flowers were in profusion (I dedicate a photo gallery to them below). And the view, once up on a ridge, was a pretty sight, down CO 17 towards Chama.

As one might anticipate, the trail is well used (it is the CDT). The trail surface was smooth, following along the hillside, looping uphill a bit when crossing valleys coming from the right. In a couple of those places there was water flowing, in one case even a small waterfall. The trail ascends in spurts, never very steep; happily I can tolerate the elevation of 10,000 feet, since I live at 5,000 feet and hike regularly at elevations above that.

I encountered some wildlife as I approached the trailhead. And to finish the hike, I added my name to the logbook at the trailhead.



‘Tis a beautiful trail, with a bit of adventure thrown in by the fact it is the CDT. (I did encounter another hiker, a woman setting out for Wolf Creek Pass, expecting to get there in 8 days.)


Total Distance:  7.6 miles
Elevation: start  9,990 ft, maximum  10,543 ft,  minimum 9,964 ft
Gross gain: 579 ft.  Aggregate ascending 1,596 ft, descending 1,606 ft
Maximum slope: 21% ascending, 23% descending, 6.5% average
Duration: 4:40

GPS Track Files for Download
If you haven’t explored these hiking tracks with Google Earth, I urge you to try it. With the virtual 3-dimensional presentation, achieved by panning and tilting the view, you can get a much better idea of the hikes and terrain than you can get from the screenshot above. For some ideas, check out  Using Google Earth Track Files.

Related Posts

Cumbres Pass/CDT South Hike – 08/13/2021

References and Resources

USDA Forest Service: CDNST – Cumbres Pass North Trailhead #813
GAIA GPS: Cumbres Pass via Continental Divide Trail
                     Continental Divide NST
Continental Divide Trail Coalition: Cumbres Pass Summit
Border to Back Yard: Colorado/New Mexico Border to Wolf Creek Pass
Jennifer Journeys: CDT 2021 Days 43-47 Cumbres Pass to Wolf Creek Pass
We met Jennifer (trail name NoNo) at the top of Mount Taylor this spring. We learned that she was publishing a Video BLOG. Pat & I began watching it then, and followed her through hike all the way to Canada. The first part of this episode covers the part of the CDT that I hiked.
Taos News: Hiking in Southern Colorado: Cumbres Pass North …

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