The Easiest (and Hardest) Places to Cross the Continental Divide
A road trip that crosses the Continental Divide of the Americas will create memories that last a lifetime. You’re sure to encounter breathtaking views, wildlife, and winding mountain roads.
But not every path crossing the Continental Divide is easy to navigate. Today we’ll explore which crossings are easy and which are challenging to find the path for you.
What Is the Continental Divide?
According to National Geographic, “A continental divide is an area of raised terrain that separates a continent’s river systems. Each river system feeds into a distinct ocean, bay, or sea.”
Every continent has a divide. North America has three to five continental divides. The Continental Divide of the Americas, or Great Divide, is the most noteworthy divide in the U.S. It runs through much of North and South America and divides the water that runs into the Pacific Ocean on one side and water that goes into the Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico on the other side.
The Easiest Places to Cross the Continental Divide (with Epic Scenery)
The Continental Divide of the Americas stretches from Cape Prince of Wales in Western Alaska to the Andes Mountains in South America. In the United States, it runs through Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. There are three places where you can cross the divide with ease in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.
Keep in mind: There are places in the USA where you don’t even know you’re crossing the continental divide, like on I-10 in New Mexico. We’re not including the “super easy” places to cross it. Rather, we’re talking about the “relatively” easy places to cross it. For some, these easy places may still be too much for folks with amaxophobia.
Craig Pass, Yellowstone National Park
Craig Pass in Wyoming is one of the easiest places to cross the Continental Divide. The pass is located inside Yellowstone National Park on U.S. 191, east of Old Faithful. This paved mountain pass rises a little more than 8,000 feet above sea level.
Pro Tip: As you’re passing through, stop at the Divide Lookout Trail to hike or take photos. It sits right off U.S. 191.
Marias Pass, Montana
Marias Pass in Montana rises 5,213 feet above sea level when it crosses the Divide. It’s located in Glacier National Park on U.S. Highway 2. You can pull off to take in the views of the Lewis Mountain Range.
Many people like to watch trains cross the divide here. You can also stop to enjoy the Autumn Creek Trailhead.
Loveland Pass, Colorado
Loveland Pass in Colorado is one of the most photographed Continental Divide crossings as well as easiest. It climbs a massive 11,990 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains. It’s located about 60 miles west of Denver on U.S. Highway 6. And it’s the highest road in the country that’s open year-round.
If you’re driving over the mountain pass, there are plenty of breathtaking views to enjoy. There’s also hiking in the area for those acclimated to the high altitude.
The Hardest Places to Cross the Divide
The crossing isn’t always as easy as Craig Pass, Marias Pass, and Loveland Pass. These two crossings will put up a fight.
Logan Pass, Glacier National Park
Logan Pass sits 6,646 feet above sea level. It’s the highest point reachable by car in Glacier National Park. This is one of the most challenging places to cross the Continental Divide because it’s only accessible when there isn’t snow. The road is extremely difficult to plow.
Therefore, it’s only open from June to mid-October.
Independence Pass, Colorado
Independence Pass in Colorado also closes for the winter months. The road to the 12,095-foot high pass typically stays open from Memorial Day to November. But there’s another reason it’s a difficult place to cross. The two-lane road is very busy when it’s open. It has sneaky curves that are tough to see around. Rockfalls are also a concern.
What Makes the Continental Divide So Hard to Cross?
Crossing the Continental Divide means encountering some steep elevations. Whether you’re crossing in a vehicle with road dangers or hiking in mountainous conditions, you’ll face some challenges crossing the divide.
Cross the Continental Divide Off Your Bucket List
So why do so many travelers flock to cross over the Continental Divide of the Americas anyway? It’s a significant geographical bucket list item for sure. But perhaps it’s due more to the breathtaking views and landscapes all along the divide. Photos can’t do the divide justice. Have you ever crossed it?
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