THE 11 BEST STOPS ON THE CDT

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Everything about a hike, town experiences included, are unique and subjective. Most of the towns along the Continental Divide Trail are a ways from the trail, so it's tough not to stay a night most places. I had some favorites stays and town stops along the trail in 2017. I found part of the adventure to the CDT is having very little resources telling you where “the spot” to stay was, compared to the PCT where you have numerous guides. So here I go ruining that for you with some suggestions, because I want to support the people who provided me with the best experiences. 

These go in order North-South, as the direction a southbounder would walk. Granted, these are only places that I stayed and there may be other great ones out there. For a more comprehensive guide, Yogi’s opinions and research are part of her CDT guidebook, which I’ve never bought or carried on a thru-hike. I will admit though, I hiked alongside someone with her guide and it was helpful in at least having some town information for the divide, even if her tastes differ from mine. Things I took into account with this list: Hiker (& dog) friendliness, location, price, accommodations, comfort and unique experiences.

1. Travelers Rest Cabins & RV Park - Darby, Montana

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A long hitch down from the pass brings you into the town of Darby. The folks at the RV park there have an awesome and convenient setup with camping, shower & laundry rooms, tons of outlets, and cabins for rent. Camping & a shower (with towels!) was ~$10 and cabin rentals with kitchenettes reasonably priced too. The owners aren’t fans of hikers packing tons of people into the cabins, but aside from that bit, I only heard nice things about them. It was quiet, a bit past the center of town (but still close to PO and bars/restaurants) and the best part was the Montana Cafe directly across the street with one of the best budget-friendly breakfasts I’ve had on trail. Most of us ate there numerous times. Both the grocery store and Dollar General are a stones throw away too, which makes for swift resupply. 

2. Leadore Inn - Leadore, Idaho

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I thought Leadore was one of the most unique stops on the trail. A dirt road hitch down from the mountain onto the Idaho side leads to this little town (population ~100) that is not much more than a gas stop along Highway 28. There’s a general store, post office, mom & pop restaurant/bar and the Leadore Inn (consisting of 4 rooms). I arrived at the restaurant ravenous after running short on food on the home stretch, so their greasy diner foods and cold beer in a frosty mug hit the spot. The Inn owner, Sam, is a gem, and probably one of the few trail angels of the CDT. He picks up & drops off hikers and allows them to camp in his yard, shower and do laundry (donation based). He’s a super dog lover too which is always a factor during my stays. I stayed two nights with him, one in a $50 room with a full kitchen, and second camping. Sam has this way about him that sucks you in and makes you want to talk for hours. He sits on his porch swing everyday and waves to every car that passes by. If you stay here, do yourself a favor by grabbing a six pack and enjoying an afternoon listening to his stories of this unique little town in Idaho. 

3. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church - Pinedale, Wyoming 

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If you take your time going through the Wind River Range, which you 200% SHOULD DO BECAUSE IT’S UHMAZING, then you’ll find yourself in Pinedale to resupply. Despite what I’d heard, the hitch was easy because the trailhead is popular with hikers and equestrians. The generous people at St. Andrew’s allow CDT hikers, Divide riders, and wanderers alike to stay in the downstairs of the church (considering the cost of a room during the summer here, this is HUGE). There’s no beds or showers, so it’s comforts aren't wide spread. Pick up groceries on your way into the center of town and cook a real meal in the huge kitchen they give you access to. It was Luna’s birthday when we stayed here, so I was able to cook her a huge steak & egg breakfast. It’s got numerous outlets, a sunny yard for drying gear, bathrooms, and a great hiker box. The Wind River Brewery is a few doors down, and the Pool/Community Center has showers. This is how I imagine towns on the PCT used to treat hikers back when there were only a few of them, so please let's be grateful and kind to the communities on the CDT for their hospitality. 

4. Day’s Inn - Rawlins, Wyoming 

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Rawlins is a big-box retailer, ugly desert town along the highway. But it’s in the middle of perhaps the most brutal desert section of the CDT, the Great Basin. By the time I got to Rawlins I was dying for AC, a bed, all the food in the world, and a place to wash out my dust-hardened socks. The Day’s Inn was one of my favorite, most needed zero days. It’s right next door to Walmart and practically every food option you could think of: pizza, sandwiches, pasta, breakfast, Chinese, etc. The convenience of having everything within one tenth of a mile was INCREDIBLE after big miles in the basin. The people at the Day’s Inn are SUPER hiker-friendly and had the most comfortable, clean big rooms and amazing hot continental breakfast. Such a good breakfast. Also a pool (which was under reno) laundry, and computers. I took like 3 baths because the tub was so big and clean. They give out a $60 hiker/biker rate and had a massive hiker box to pick through. Unexpectedly, this is an amazing and necessary stop along the trail.

5. La Quinta Inn & Suites - Silverthorne, Colorado

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If you get forced on to the Silverthorne route due to weather, you’ll walk right into town. I hadn’t planned or expected to spend a zero day in Silverthorne, but got stuck repairing a phone battery and was exhausted after a long, grueling day of snow travel. Colorado towns can be pricey, especially in the summer, and at $80/night, this was my most expensive hotel stay. But, it was also the comfiest. There’s plenty of restaurants nearby, top notch breakfast, nice staff, and… a pool and SALT WATER HOTUB. By far the best hot tub of any the hotels I stayed. The rooms were squeaky clean and beds so incredibly comfortable you become slightly incapacitated. If you end up here, it’s a wonderful spot to rest tired bodies.

6. Simple Lodge & Hostel - Salida, Colorado

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Mel & Justin have managed to think of everything hikers passing through may need. They’ve got laundry, showers, full kitchen, bunk and private rooms, outdoor space, hiker boxes, and even a scale so you can justify eating whatever you please. I appreciated all the little details. It’s located in the center of town, just a few blocks from the grocery and gear stores. Salida is one of my favorite towns in Colorado because of it’s vibes, people, and beer. I thought the Simple Lodge was a little bit pricey for a hostel, but you certainly get what you pay for. The house itself is beautifully crafted with tons of recycled materials and gives off a great feel to all of friendly characters who stay there. Salida is also home to many well-known hikers who had, to our great timing, stocked the fridge with beer for hikers. 

7. Raven’s Rest Hostel - Lake City, Colorado

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Partway through the challenging San Juan Route, I found myself here after an 8hr blizzard sufferfest. By early October, Lake City is quiet, but if you arrive earlier it’s buzzing with tourists, Colorado Trail hikers and seasonal residents. It’s beautifully nestled between big mountains, and Raven's Rest has all the amenities you might need. Lucky is a hiker- turned- local after deciding to stay in Lake City during his CDT thru-hike over a decade ago. His hostel is simple and efficient, but thoughtful in the details: loaner bikes, trail journals, fantastic book collection, full hiker boxes, dog paradise, outdoor space and two showers. The grocery selection is fine, and the hostel’s kitchen great for cooking. Dingo and I had the place to ourselves during our stay, and I imagine it might be different midst the CT season. But the vibes and Lucky’s company were especially comforting after mostly staying in hotels and missing that hiker conversation. 

8. Y Motel - Chama, New Mexico

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If you’re into the full spectrum of lodging experiences, this place is a must. It may look like a brothel from the outside, but inside has got everything you need. The woman who owns it prides herself in being a mother to hikers, and offers arguably the best rate on the trail at nearly $40/night. She was friendly and super helpful getting dog food shipped to her place too. The comfort and cleanliness meets most hiker standards and Chama is usually a crucial stop for changing out gear or shipping boxes ahead. The best part of this place is that the grocery store is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. Couldn’t be more convenient for resupply and maximizing rest time. Laundry is also across the street, and Dollar General halfway between the motel and Post Office (which was a little bit of a walk). In a town with dozens of lodging options, this was a great pick. 

9. Super 8 - Grants, New Mexico

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Grants was an unplanned zero day for us during a hot, dry stretch of New Mexico with lots of paved road walking. Although this stretch looks easy in terms of terrain and elevation... the sun exposure, asphalt surface, and long water carries take their toll. The Mumms live here, who maintain crucial water caches on the stretch south of town, and are reliable trail angels for rides and packages. The Super 8 was had such comfortable beds, big fridges, AC, a pool and hot tub, breakfast, and prime location. It’s only a few hundred yards off the official route through town and located in a plaza with Walmart and tons of hiker-portion meal options. Resupply was swift and easy, and I walked numerous times to the store to indulge my food cravings. They were friendly and accommodating, and offered an awesome hiker rate. Dingo stayed a record 24 lazy-ass hours in bed because it was so relaxing and wonderful there. 

10. Nita’s Toaster House - Pie Town, New Mexico

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Nita is a true trail angel. The Toaster House used to be her family’s home, but now it’s open (for free) to hikers, bikers, and anyone else who happens to wander through this tiny town. There’s no close resupply options, so most people will send a box here. I had the privilege of coming to Pie Town in 2015 on the Ride the Divide Mtn. Bike route and was so excited to return back. The house has some extra food for meals, and the Pie-O-Neer around the corner serves the best homemade pie you can find in New Mexico. There’s a few bedrooms, loft, laundry, big deck, shower and full kitchen to use. The RV Park next door has wifi (no cell service in town) to use. The only downside may be that Nita prefers not to have animals in the house, so Luna slept on the porch (which she prefers when it’s cooler, but I miss her). It’s one of the few places on the trail where you feel a community that rallies around the wanderer-lifestyle and conversations don’t involve questions like “Why on earth would you wanna walk that far?” Nita and the folks in Pie Town are so generous and understanding of hiker’s lifestyles, so please leave a donation and kind words for her logbook. 

11. Gila Hot Springs Campground - Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico

This is such a special place I almost feel guilty writing about it. The Gila River Alternate Route is insanely beautiful and challenging. We opted for the high (above the canyon) to low (in the river) route, which takes you to the worthwhile side hike to the Cliff Dwellings Monument. Then you follow the road to Doc Campbell’s Post for resupply. Nearby there is a magical campground with natural hot springs baths. There’s no real accommodations like electricity or showers, but there is cold drinking water and plenty of quiet and relaxation along the river. The owner, Jimmy, is laid back and friendly to hikers and dogs alike. Doc’s has outlets, wifi, and a few food options to get you by, but there’s not much else here. It's so affordable, I considered moving in full-time. A beautiful, healing soak before a grueling stretch through the river and to the finish line. *I guess I was so entranced, there are no pictures from this stay.