Getting to Lordsburg for the CDT

The adventure starts the moment you leave your house with a heavy pack and nervous energy for the journey ahead.

The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) starts in the southwestern corner of New Mexico. This area, known as the Bootheel (pronounced Heel), isn’t the easiest to access. But somehow, hundreds of hikers flock to this remote area each year to begin, or end, their walk of the Continental Divide.

In Buffalo, ready to start the journey ahead!

 In the last week of April 2024, I gathered my gear in Buffalo, New York, and headed to the airport with the objective of getting myself to the start of the CDT in the desert wilderness. So, what went well and what would I recommend changing? 

The Flight

Here’s my confession, that I’m not a huge fan of flying. But I do know that flying can be the most convenient way to reach a destination. So I got my nervous self onto a plane…and everything went great. Luck was with me on this evening of travel!

I took an evening flight from Buffalo Niagara International Airport to Chicago Midway. From there, a connecting flight brought me to Phoenix, arriving just before midnight.

Most CDT hikers will fly to airports in Phoenix, Tucson, or El Paso as those are the closest options to the CDT southern terminus. 

I found Phoenix to have the most convenient flight times in combination to other public transit options like Greyhound/Flixbus or Amtrak. Flying into Phoenix also had the lowest ticket prices.

What went well: 

  • I booked my tickets with Southwest Airlines using credit card points. If you can catch a deal with Southwest, this airline allows for one free carry-on bag and one free checked bag. This was a huge perk. In a large cardboard box, I packed all my gear that could be considered a weapon with TSA (trekking poles, sun umbrella, tent stakes, stove, and trowel) and food for the first 83.3 mile section of the CDT. I checked this box as my ‘checked bag’ and carried on my other gear in my hiking backpack.
  • On a Tuesday night during a non-peak week, both planes on a were basically one quarter full, meaning that no one had to share rows. The flights went very smooth! 

The Wait

A perk of carrying everything on your back is having a padded cushion ‘sit pad’ when needed… on trail and in bus stations.

Next came the wait. I had a four hour layover between my arrival in Phoenix and my scheduled bus for the next phase of the trip.

The Greyhound Bus Station is super close to the Phoenix Airport. It’s more than easy to walk from the airport to the Greyhound Station.

However, it does look closer on the map than in reality. It was midnight by the time I departed my plane and claimed my checked cardboard box of supplies. After a few minutes of repacking, Google showed the walk from Terminal 4 of the airport being 2.2 miles, or a 55min walk westbound to the bus station. Walkable, but not ideal. Instead, the PHX Sky Train runs every 5 minutes to the 24th Street Station. Combined with a quick walk and chat while waiting for the train, in 15 minutes I arrived at the station ready to wait for my bus. 

‘Weren’t you here a couple of weeks ago?’ 

Asked the security guard at the Greyhound Station as he checked my ticket time. Nope, not me. But obviously he’d seen my type before.

What didn’t go well: 

  • If you have a few hours between the plane and bus, I’d advise staying in the cushy airport chairs for as long as possible for a couple of reasons. The Phoenix Greyhound Station was wildly busy early on a Wednesday morning. The limited available metal seating was not great. I fully hiker trashed it up, pulling out my Tyvek groudsheet and foam sit pad to nap against a stained wall, rain jacket as a blanket, eyes half open, knowing that the on duty nighttime security guard would have my back if anyone came too close. On the other hand, I am glad I did the walk to the bus station when I did (earlier in the night than later), as it’s not recommended to wander about a new city in the dark of morning hours. 

The Bus

Greyhound is a common choice for CDT thru-hikers to connect into Lordsburg, NM.

‘Doing the walk, eh?’

Asked the cheerful bus driver as he scanned my ticket at 4:10am that morning. Obviously he’d seen my type before. 

The Greyhound from Phoenix was another smooth sailing experience, getting me to my final destination of Lordsburg, NM by 10am. There are multiple Greyhound routes per day from Los Angeles, CA, to El Paso, TX, with a stop in Lordsburg, NM along the way. 

What went well:

  • Watching the moon setting while riding through the mountains of Arizona, getting a hot cocoa at a small donut shop, and arrival to the Lordsburg McDonald’s only a few blocks away from the hiker paradise of the Econo Lodge Hotel where northbound hikers were gathering. Plus the surprise of meeting up with my friend Purple from the AT who took the same bus from Tucson to start his hike! 

The bright full moon setting behind the mountains of Arizona.

The Town Stay

All in all, after nine hours of travel getting to the Bootheel of New Mexico was easier than I expected. The next morning would be an early start to catch the terminus shuttle. In the meantime, Purple and I enjoyed the hours in town chatting with other hikers and loading up on town food calories before starting the CDT trek.


Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?