For a moment, imagine hiking from the dusty Mexican border near Lordsburg, New Mexico all the way up the snow-mantled Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana via the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), penetrating Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. At this point, you cross over into Canada and traverse the Canadian Rockies via the Great Divide Trail (GDT) straddling between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Next, you hike southern Alaska through Skagway, the Kenai peninsula, and Anchorage before heading north up to the historic Stampede Trail near Healy (think Chris McCandless), then onto Fairbanks. From Fairbanks, you push still further up the state until making it to the Yukon River at the Dalton Highway. From the Dalton Highway, you hang a sharp turn to the west, following the meandering Yukon for days on end, all while keeping eyes peeled for untamed Alaskan grizzlies! You journey through western Alaska all the way to the Seward Peninsula via the legendary Iditarod Trail (yes, the sled dog race!) on up to the Bering Strait at a place called Cape Prince of Wales—the northern terminus of Continental Divide. Sound pretty amazing? That’s 7,200 wild miles!
I’ll be attempting just such a hike and would be thrilled if you could follow along! No human being has ever hiked the CanAK Trail (my coinage) portion of the route in all of history. How do I know? Well, because it was the product of my dreamy hiker imagination! As with past hikes, I’ll be wearing my GPS tracker the whole time on this Mexico-to-Alaska route so anyone can drop in at any moment to view my current location or drop me a line.
Outback from Mexico to Alaska! Stay tuned for details.
(If there are any hikers out there with some thru-hiking experience who would care to join me, I’d love to team up! This will likely be a two-year escapade (over two back-to-back hiking seasons) due to harsh winter conditions/reduced daylight in northern Canada and Alaska).
From Where to Where?
Crazy Cook Monument (Near Hachita/Lordsburg, NM) to Cape Prince of Wales, AK
Continental Divide Trail (CDT)
Great Divide Trail (GDT)
Alaskan Highway along with numerous other Canadian and Alaskan trail systems and backcountry roads
Mileage Breakdown (Mexico to Alaska: 7,237.2 mi)
Continental Divide Trail (CDT): 2,957.1 mi
New Mexico: 785.3
Great Divide Trail (GDT): 648.9.1 mi
Canada/Alaska (CanAK): 3,631.2 mi
Section A: 127.8 Section B: 129.5 Section C: 236.0 Section D: 573.7 Section E: 81.2 Section F: 173.8 Section G: 291.5 Section H: 138.2 Section I: 137.5 Section J: 201.2 Section K: 182.1 Section L: 47.4 Section M: 206.6 Section N: 97.0 Section O: 106.6 Section P: 136.4 Section Q: 324.3 Section R: 290.4 Section S: 150.0
Purple = Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Red = Great Divide Trail (GDT) Blue = Canada Alaska Trail (CanAK)
The gear I’ll be taking from Mexico to Alaska may be broken down into three discrete pack setups:
1) Ultralight Rig (New Mexico to Colorado)
2) Mountain Rig (Colorado to Canadian Border)
3) Canadian Rig (Canadian Border to Alaska)
When hiking in isolated parts of Canada and Alaska, a typical ultralight gear arrangement could easily put a hiker’s life at risk. There are no predetermined trail angels, no water caches, and often no cell service. You may see a hunter but even that may be rare. When there are no towns for days or even weeks, hikers have to carry more life-sustaining gear to support themselves and also to protect from subzero temperature exposure sometimes nearing -40 degrees F! Specialized mountaineering gear will also be carried, including an alpine sleeping bag and tent, snow probe, snow shoes, microspikes, crampons, and even a roll-up pulk sled to tow gear!
Justin Outdoors has been a wonderful YouTube resource for learning the basics about gear needed in the remote Canadian Rockies. Justin is a Canadian hiker with a good sense of the weather extremes in Alberta and British Columbia.
Here are the snowshoes I’ll be using, perhaps the lightest pair on the market:
After much research, I finally found the pulk sled I’ll be taking through northern Canada and Alaska. It’s an ultralight version that can be rolled up and strapped to my pack. The sled was originally designed for hunters on foot to drag out their kill. The pulk would be used on extended flat terrain.