– Report #1: “Trailhead To Eureka”
– Report #2: “Eureka to Bonners Ferry”
– Report #3: “Idaho’s Panhandle And The Selkirk Mountain Range”
– Report #4: “Alone With Lions”
– Gear Report: “Ultra-Light ‘Yama’ Tent”
THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST TRAIL RUNS 1,200 MILES from Glacier National Park in Montana to the westernmost point of the contiguous United States on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
It crosses three states, three national parks, seven national forests, and countless wilderness areas while traversing the Rocky Mountains, Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Olympic Mountains, and the Wilderness Coast.
This week, I’ll take my first step on a through-hike of the trail. It is a step that has been a long time in the making.
In 1970, a man named Ron Strickland had a dream. It was two years after the National Trails System Act had designated the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail as the country’s two first national scenic trails, and the popularity of backpacking was booming.
Strickland envisioned a new trail. It would start like a drop of rain on the flanks of the Continental Divide and wind its way west like a river that flows to the Pacific Ocean. It would traverse some of the most scenic and wild lands in the country, and it would showcase the splendor of the Northwest.
It took a lot to grow that dream into reality. The Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) was first thru-hiked in 1977 — the same year that Strickland founded the Pacific Northwest Trail Association. He would then hike the PNT himself in 1983, leading to the creation of the first full guidebook for the trail.
It would be another 25 years, however, before the PNT would officially join the ranks of the National Scenic Trails in 2009.
Today, 44 years after its conception, the PNT is still only 70% complete. The remaining 30% ranges from cross country bushwhacks to road walks, and it even includes a ferry ride across the Puget Sound.
The route is largely unmarked, notoriously difficult to navigate, and it has a reputation for being the most challenging of the national scenic trails among the few who have hiked all the contenders.
I’m excited to embark on my own thru-hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Along the way, I’ll be testing a ton of new gear, writing reviews, and documenting my experiences. I’m happy to be sharing it all on GearJunkie, and I hope you’ll follow along. See you on the trail! —Jeff Kish is a contributing writer.