View Full Version : Good planning articles for the CDT?

01-17-2012, 17:23
Completed my thru of the AT last year and am aiming to triple crown (eventually). Obviously WhiteBlaze had some amazing information/articles for me to help with planning my thru. Are there any good sites that focus mainly on the CDT that could give me similar information. I realize that the CDT is much more "remote" and not as well defined but I need something information to get me started on my planning. Any links to articles, websites, books, etc. would be much appreciated. Thanks!

01-17-2012, 17:39
For a planning guide book and town guide i highly recommend Yogi's CDT guide.
She has just this week updated the whole guidebook and town guide.
You can find the guide at PCThandbook.com (http://PCThandbook.com)
I know the link says PCT guide.. she sells a set for the PCT as well and they have also been completely updated.
The planning guide is composed of the opinions of 16 different hikers from different years and north and southbound directions.
It includes everything from gear, to maps, to food and resupply info, logistics to and from the trail.
The town guide contains all your resupply info for towns and drop points all along the CDT and the most popular alternate routes. This little book (scaled down pages to fit in your pocket) will make you seem like a local when you wander in to a trail town. You will know the layout of town, where to resupply, do laundry, eat a hot meal, get a shower or room. The town guide is worth it's weight in gold from the perspective of a hiker on the trail.
New for 2012 Yogi's has added a map matrix keyed to Jonathna Ley's maps as well as a town services matrix in the appendix of the town guide.
As a side note: I got her 2010 thru hiker guides and it came with a bandana with trail mileages listed on it. Some fellow hikers thought the info was so cool they copied all the data off my bandana before we had even set off on the trail!
Yogi's 2012 CDT planning guide is a great place to start with your planning and the package contains a town guide you'll use on your hike as well.

01-17-2012, 18:20

The above is a site I have been browsing and has a bunch of good info, but ia a bit dated.


Cookie and Paul's CDT hike is a great video to watch and will get you excided to do the trail (and to skip parts!) The site also has links to CDT resources like the first link above.

I found AMTRACK has a stop at East Glacier, MT, so I'm thinking of starting there mid July and hiking south and seeing how far I can get in about 6 weeks. I don't think I can quite make it to Yellowstone, but could get close.

01-17-2012, 21:21
There is a great site out of Durango,CO that uses high tech GPS units to plot waypoints on popular trails. The CDT is one, the Taho Rim trail is another plus several trails in the Colorodo and New Mexico areas. The accuracy of the GPS units they use are in the range of 5 to 6 feet. The also sell maps and preprogramed SD cards with waypoints and topo maps on them. The name of this outfit is called Bear Creek Survey Service. I followed several hikers on their trail logs during there CDT and not a one of them ever mention this service.

01-17-2012, 22:11
A plug for my own article.

A good overview to get you started.

(Has to be updated with the demise of CDTA and some other sources recently avail..all happened this month!)

01-17-2012, 22:47
I highly recommend OOO's CDT Journal: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=269069 It'll get you psyched for the trek.

01-17-2012, 22:48
I highly recommend OOO's CDT Journal: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=269069   It'll get you psyched for the trek.

01-18-2012, 01:30
Excellent! Thanks for the advice guys. Will definitely be buying Yogi's guide in the future. I remember reading her PCT guide at Kincora last year. Lots of solid information.

01-18-2012, 05:05
On the off chance that you haven't seen this suggestion before --- if you plan to do both trails anyway, I suggest that you do the PCT before you do the CDT.

01-18-2012, 19:59
BrianLe - Any reason to that suggestion?

01-18-2012, 21:17
BrianLe - Any reason to that suggestion? I know you're asking Gadget to respond, but I would also recommend doing the PCT ahead of the CDT if you plan to do both. Here's why. The PCT will probably offer you some experience in snow travel in the Sierras that will serve you well on the CDT where there will likely be a lot of snow travel. The PCT is well-defined; route-finding will probably not be a problem. The CDT is not well-defined; you can expect to be misplacing the trail on a daily basis. The PCT is 2650 miles and you can expect to complete it in 5 months (you can plan on daily miles about 50% greater than your AT average as the trail is graded for stock and generally easier than the AT). The CDT is, depending on the route you take---there are multiple start and finish options and multiple options in between, as much as 3000 miles long. The PCT has a few fords which can be challenging depending on snow levels and speed of melt. There's a good chance you'll be hiking with someone and you can look out for each other on the fords. The CDT, again depending on snow levels and speed of melt, has many challenging fords and it's most likely you'll be hiking solo.

In short, the PCT is good training for the CDT.

01-19-2012, 15:46
+1 on all the Handlebar said, plus I want to emphasize the point that the PCT has a lot more hikers on it, sort of a better "support system" for figuring out some of the things that will be dealt with. More people to potentially pair up with to, say, go through the Sierras together. I did most of the Sierras alone, so maybe not such a good example, but still. :-)

A sort of weird factor in terms of people is that if you do the PCT next, you'll know more people to potentially team up with on the CDT. I did the first 600 miles on the CDT with a guy I met on the PCT. No better potential trail partner than someone you know has already successfully dealt with similar stuff. And I met a number of CDT thru's that I had known on the PCT. Heck, Handlebar and I hiked the PCT the same year (ask him sometime about the wisdom of glissading in a kilt ...).

Since there are more people on trail, it's easier to get information about trail conditions, fire closures, whatever. Don't underrate this; I guess I'd say it's a combination of less issues to face plus more information available about those issues so you can more reliably take a smart approach to dealing with them. A good example of this is AsABat's water reports for the first ~700 miles of the PCT. Nothing like that in New Mexico on the CDT. We got bits and pieces of reports that varied in reliability.

There are more trail angels to help out along the way on the PCT. And there's just one clearly defined trail, no ambiguities about route, and on the PCT you can use Halfmile (or other) maps to pretty well nail down where you should be. On the CDT I carried Ley maps as well as (the now defunct?!?) CDTA maps for the southern half, and I stared at maps a lot more than I ever did on the PCT. I very rarely looked at the GPS built into my smartphone on the PCT, and that more often out of curiosity than need, but I used a standalone GPS on the CDT a lot. It's some big things but also a lot of little things.

Since you've done the AT already, I'm certainly not saying you can't succeed at the CDT next (!), just that all the problems along the way are magnified, it seems. I just think that you'll have better odds at finishing a triple crown with the least possible pain and suffering if you do the PCT before the CDT.

01-19-2012, 17:40
Hey, BrainLe, I have definitely seen this suggested a lot. And with good reason. Personally I just want to end on the PCT because of what you have said. Easier (planning wise, route wise, etc.). I sort of want this experience for my final trail. Ideally I would have done PCT then CDT then AT, but being on the east coast made it so easy to do the AT first. I have a potential partner for the CDT who I hiked over half of the AT with. The majority of my hiking is done with compass and map work and I feel confident in my orienteering skills although I would definitely need to strengthen them before heading out on the trail.

And certainly not to bash the AT or my experience on it by any means but the majority of the time I felt that it was a bit too easy to do. Obviously physically i was tired and pissed off sometimes, but I felt a complete lack of solitude or feeling "in the wild". This is really what i'm looking for on the CDT. I want that challenge of having to figure out where i'm going (or where I am for that matter). And I am also not trying to be overconfident here by saying "ahh the AT is too easy i need something harder" but I sort of have that desire to put myself through hell (if that makes sense haha) and the CDT sounds like quite an expedition. A potential start date for me is April/May of 2013 so I have plenty of time to plan and assess my skills. I am certainly not looking to put myself into a situation I cant safely handle, but I am looking to put myself into a more difficult/demanding situation that will require more than following blazes for 2100 miles. Really do appreciate the concern and advice though. If i feel i am in too far over my head I will certainly go for the PCT first! =)

01-19-2012, 17:45
Just to add to this. I will be discussing this with my potential hiking partner. If we feel the PCT should come first then we'll definitely do that. Thanks again!

01-19-2012, 17:48
Yea, I was mainly asking to get more perspective on the opinion/advice to do the PCT before the CDT, certainly makes sense.

I was recently let-go from my job, and I must say the very first thing I did was check the bank accounts and start doing some math if I could afford a long distance hiking break. It would be nice, but realistically it won't happen this time; unless I did the AT, I am confident I could make that happen again if I committed to it very soon, but I've hiked that trail - and as amazing as the experience was, there are other trails I want to do. So instead of looking to hike, I'm looking for the next job to keep paying bills so eventually I can hike. "wooo"

01-19-2012, 23:02
...I have a potential partner for the CDT who I hiked over half of the AT with.. ...but I felt a complete lack of solitude or feeling "in the wild". This is really what i'm looking for on the CDT. I want that challenge of having to figure out where i'm going (or where I am for that matter). ...but I sort of have that desire to put myself through hell (if that makes sense haha) and the CDT sounds like quite an expedition.

Maybe the CDT is the next thru hike for you. Having a potential partner who you're already comfortable with is a plus. That will eliminate a major challenge of a CDT thru hike---solitude. Except for that partner, you will see very few people outside of town and relish any human interaction you do have. You'll certainly have a "feeling of being in the wild".

If you decide on the CDT next, do hone your map/compass skills and do plan to carry a GPS. Also, I strongly recommend somehow getting some practice using an ice axe. There's a youtube video showing the technique, but you need to practice so that it becomes automatic. There'll be not time to think how to do it when you're careening down a steep snow slope toward huge boulders. A good place to practice near you might be Seven Springs (the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail goes right through the ski area) where you can practice self-arrest on some steep, icy ski slopes. There weren't a lot of places I used my ice ax, although there were a few places where I really should have had it in my hands instead of strapped to my pack, the aforementioned unscheduled glissade in a kilt being a notable example.:)

Finally, if you haven't experienced fording mid-thigh deep, ice cold streams with a fast current, it would be good to get some practice of that. The Middle Gila in NM offered about 35 mid-thigh fords, though the water wasn't too cold. The fords of Pole Creek in the Winds and of South Buffalo Fork, Soda Creek and North Buffalo Fork in the Teton Wilderness were challenging: swift, cold, deep, and wide. Fording some fairly swift, somewhat deep streams in WV in the summer will do----no use taking unnecessary risk while training. There's a spot along the Allegheny Trail in WV on Glady Fork about 3 miles trail-north of the little town of Glady, WV where you could practice some fords. When I got there last March, I didn't realize a bridge had been built about 100 yards upstream (south) from the "should be an easy ford" described in the trail guide. I gave up on the ford, and did a long bushwhack to a woods road detour. I didn't want to risk hypothermia (it was about 40 degrees and dropping) and/or drowning (the stream was in flood after nearly 24 hours of steady rain) then, but in less challenging weather it would be a good stream on which to practice fording. Another possible practice site along the ALT is the ford of a fork of the Greenbrier River N of Durbin WV. Incidentally, a thru-hike of the 300 mile ALT would be a good warmup for the CDT. Although a lot of it is on county roads, it was rare to see more than one or two vehicles on those roads. Plus, there was some challenging navigation on Shavers Mountain north of Durbin.

01-20-2012, 01:13
Thanks for the response handlebar! I think you're right some ice axe and perhaps crampon (?) training would make me feel more comfortable before heading out. (Keep in mind when I made this post I was looking for info as I lack the knowledge of exactly what to expect out there, so things like this, and even the weather/water situation I will be new to before reading the articles.) Fording is one aspect I actually do feel fairly comfortable with, even fast moving and FREEZING cold ones. You seem familiar with the WV/PA area, I do a lot of my backpacking in the Dolly Sods Wilderness and if you have crossed lower Red Creek in winter/spring (I have) it can be pretty rough. Although I am sure I will have LOTS of fords like this as opposed to just 1 going out and 1 back like usual for me. Actually, my training trip for the AT (in Feb 2011) turned out to have 2 fords in Dolly Sods that were MUCH higher (upper thigh) and swifter than I had ever seen before, taking me a bit out of my comfort zone (was solo). But was smart and made it across safely...although with fully numb legs/feet. I expect to be out of my comfort zone like this (farily?) often on the CDT. Thanks again for the response! Oh and btw I also hiked the Laurel Highlands Trail quite a few years ago and went over 7 Springs like you mentioned, but it was in the summer. Currently the snow is coming down outside so maybe I can get some ice axe/crampon practice in =P

Spirit Walker
01-20-2012, 01:47
Ghost - my husband and I did the CDT as our second trail. In our case, I had been thinking about doing the PCT but Jim just wasn't that enthusiastic. Then one day we were at REI and saw a poster of the trail with a beautiful Colorado photo (by Fielder). Jim looked at that poster with lust in his eyes, so I said to him, "We could do that trail next." So we did.

I agree that the PCT is much easier than the CDT in many ways. But the CDT isn't as bad as you've heard either. It's hard, but it's doable.

Re: rivers - they aren't always that bad. On our SOBO hike we hit the Bob Marshall during spring melt, so the rivers there were really high. We had to do a couple of detours to avoid crossings. Those same rivers were ankle deep when we crossed them on our NOBO hike. The Gila has about 200 river crossings, but for us none was knee deep - either NOBO or SOBO. But our NOBO hike was during a bad drought year. We never had any dangerous crossings during our NOBO hike, just some really really cold ones in Colorado. Wyoming wasn't a problem for us on either thruhike. So, as is usual on the CDT - everybody's hike is different.

As to GPS - they can be useful, but aren't a necessity if you know how to read a map. We never used one on any of our long hikes and the only trail I'd say they are really necessary is the Great Divide Trail (or probably the Hayduke - but we haven't done that one.) The times we got really lost were mostly when wandering through deadfall in a burn area - and there the question wasn't "Where are we?" but "How do we get through this mess?"

01-20-2012, 05:19
Hey, BrainLe, I have definitely seen this suggested a lot. And with good reason.

For the same reasons, many people say hike the AT before the PCT, yet Brian did the PCT first. The only way the AT prepares you for the PCT is it's a long distance trail. It seems that most AT hikers that start the PCT have little experience with desert, snow or formidable fords, yet seem to manage. Any argument about having more trail angels is completely misleading, as they're only a luxury, and have no bearing on a hikes success, unless you're ill-prepared mentally or financially.

As long as do your homework and you're somewhat familiar with map and compass, the CDT shouldn't pose any problem that can't be over come.

01-20-2012, 16:27
I think the logic that folks use about hiking the AT before the PCT is that there is potentially better support for the less experienced hiker. I don't really see it, however. It's true that NOBO on the AT you can get the gear shakedown 30 or so miles in, and there's a hostel right at the start to help you get on trail. But the ADZPCTKO event on the PCT is a pretty supportive start too, and one can certainly start hiking with a lot of people on either trail. I guess if a person is concerned about "the desert", then having already done a long hike reduces the issues to deal with up front, so I do think that adequate planning and prep is a little more important on the PCT. In particular, having some experience ahead of time at doing relatively long mileage days can help.

Bottom line is that I don't have as strong an opinion on hiking the AT before the PCT or vice versa, and in fact I'd tend to suggest doing the PCT first for a person that is willing to do a little more before-trip prep of body, mind, and gear. Before trying it out, no one can know for sure that thru-hiking is for them, so why not do the best trail first and leave the green tunnel as a later option? :-)

My personal experience might certainly skew this, however. I started on the AT in late Feb in a relatively high snow year for the south, and I started in snow right away in Glacier N.P. last year on the CDT, so none of the trails seemed particularly kind and gentle at the start --- if anything, the PCT was the easiest to get going on for me.

01-20-2012, 17:24
Thanks again for the responses guys. Seems to me the logical thing is simply to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Just plan and prepare well and attack what is thrown at you in smart and safe way. Also it seems from what Spirit Walker said that conditions vary significantly from year to year (be it snow, water levels, drinking water etc.) so two different hikers on two separate years may have completely different experiences/opinions on certain aspects of the trail. Similar with the AT where i was told to expect cold and snow through the Smokys but personally had 60s and sunny the entire way through. And PA having a lack of water was the exact opposite for me as it rained 10 days straight and the trail was literally a flowing stream =P. Ive still got a lot of planning and preparing to do but have plenty of time to do it in. If there are any other good reference/planning articles for the CDT send em this way. Thanks!

01-22-2012, 16:09
Seems like you've got the gnarly ford situation under control.

I don't think anyone's mentioned Yogi's CDT Guide and it would be a good reference to start your planning. Yogi has just updated the guide and it is currently available through her web site at: www.pcthandbook.com. This will be a good starting point. You'll also certainly want to get Jonathan Ley's updated map CD when it comes out. (Just google Jonathan Ley).

05-13-2012, 17:39

Are you on the cdt yet? I might be able to help you get to traihead. PM me if you want to explore that.