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Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail


Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

Pacific Northwest Trail
The Pacific Northwest Trail
Length 1200 mi (1931 km)
Location Montana / Idaho / Washington, USA
Designation National Scenic Trail in 2009
Trailheads Glacier National Park, MT
Cape Alava, WA
Use Hiking
Mountain Biking
Highest point Tuchuck Mountain, MT
Lowest point Pacific Ocean
Hiking details
Trail difficulty Moderate to Strenuous
Season Year-round at lower elevations, Summer and Fall at higher elevations
Sights Rocky Mountains
Mount Baker
Pacific Ocean
Hazards Severe Weather
Grizzly Bear
Black Bear
Steep Grades
Limited Water

The Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT), now designated as the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, is a 1200 mile hiking trail running from the Continental Divide in Montana (connecting it with the Continental Divide Trail), through the northern panhandle of Idaho, to the Pacific coast of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. It traverses the Rocky Mountains, Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Olympic Mountains, and Wilderness Coast. The trail crosses three National Parks and seven National Forests. The trail was designated a national scenic trail in 2009. The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the trail.


The trails route was first conceived and explored by Ron Strickland in 1970. In 1977, Strickland founded the Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA), the organization that oversees education, maintenance, and fund-raising for the PNT.

The PNT struggled to gain recognition (and funding) as a National Scenic Trail for years. On March 30, 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law the bill H.R. 146 Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 which included the addition of the PNT as a national scenic trail, and named the Department of Agriculture as administrator of the trail.[1]

Description of the route

Beginning at Chief Mountain Customs on the United States-Canadian border in central Montana, the Pacific Northwest Trail traverses the high mountains and valleys of Glacier National Park, travels across the Flathead River, up the Whitefish Divide, and through the Ten Lakes Scenic Area. It then crosses Lake Koocanusa and wends its way through the Purcell Mountains, the Yaak River, Northwest Peaks Scenic Area and down to the Moyie River in Northeast Idaho.

As the PNT leaves the Moyie River Valley it winds its way through forestlands, dikes, and farmlands of the Kootenai River Valley, up Parker Creek to the Selkirk Crest, and down Lions Head into the Priest Lake State Forest. The trail continues over Lookout Mountain to Upper Priest Lake and through the Salmo-Priest Wilderness. It then travels over the Boundary Dam on the Pend Oreille River, and then continues over Abercrombie Mountain and into the bustling little town of Northport, Washington on the Columbia River.

Next the trail wanders along the Kettle Crest, through the mining and forested areas of North Central Washington and into the rangelands and orchards of the Okanogan River Valley. From the city of Oroville, Washington, and along the Similkameen River to Palmer Lake, the trail begins its ascent into a large wilderness area, the Pasayten Wilderness. The Pasayten, coupled with the adjacent North Cascades National Park, provides some of the most remote country available in the Lower 48 United States. The trail continues through the Mt. Baker Wilderness, then federal, state, and private timberlands and down to the shores of Puget Sound. Along the dikes and through the farmlands of Skagit County, the trail crosses Fidalgo Island across the bridge at Deception Pass State Park and over Whidbey Island to the Washington State Ferry Terminal at Keystone.

After a thirty minute ferry ride the trail picks up in the quaint seaside community of Port Townsend, Washington and the confluence of three trails: the Larry Scott Trail, the Olympic Discovery Trail, and the Pacific Northwest Trail. The trails circumnavigate the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula and Discovery Bay before going their separate directions, with the PNT turning southwest through the Olympic National Forest, Buckhorn Wilderness and into Olympic National Park. As the trail leaves the Park and travels along the Bogachiel River it finds its way through the northern end of the Hoh Rain Forest to the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Hoh River. The trail turns north and wanders along the Pacific Coast before entering the Quileute Indian Reservation at LaPush before completing its westward journey at Cape Alava.

Other protected areas through which the PNT passes

See also


  • History of the Pacific Northwest Trail Association
  • Pacific Northwest Trail

External links

  • Forest Service website
  • Pacific Northwest Trail Association
  • : Pacific Northwest Trail Guide: The Official Guidebook for Long Distance and Day Hikers
  • A Thru Hikers Trail Journal
  • A second Thru Hikers Trail Journal
  • The Pacific Northwest Trail description on Summit Post

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