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  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Lakewood, WA

    Default Pacific Northwest Trail


    I haven't posted much here since I moved out West, but thought some of you might be looking for that "What next?" project. During the summer of 2008 I hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail, or more properly followed a corridor formed by the PNT. I finally finished writing about my experience, which you can find at:

    By "corridor" I mean that I followed my own path when it seemed like I had a better idea than the guidebook author, which was frequent. Here are some basic facts about the trail.

    1) It runs from Glacier National Park in the east to Cape Alava, on the Pacific Ocean, in the west.

    2) The "official" length is about 1100 miles.

    3) The prime hiking season is roughly July 1 to September 1, though you can extend it in either direction.

    4) Most people will need about 2 months to hike it.

    5) The "official" trail is probably close to 30% roads, though most of these are rarely traveled forest service and logging roads.

    6) You need to be able to bushwhack and navigate if you want to follow the official trail. It isn't a good first trail or first post-AT trail, unless you have a really healthy sense of adventure and don't mind suffering.

    7) You can resupply as you go the whole way and mail drops are not needed. There is one 220 mile resupply run which you can shorten to 175 if you send a mail drop to a resort.

    8) You need a permit to camp for one night in Glacier NP and theoretically need one in the Pasayten, Ross Lake NRA, North Cascades NP, and Olympic NP. The Glacier one is easy, but the rest are a pain and I wouldn't bother. The Olympic one is the only slightly important one, but you can self permit most of the park and can get one for the coastal section easily.

    9) Transit to the eastern terminus is easy: Take Amtrak to East Glacier Park and then the hotel shuttle into Waterton Park. Hike a short trail back across the border and clear immigration at Goat Haunt ranger station. If you don't have a passport, are not from Canada or the US, or can't enter Canada due to legal issues, then instead get off the shuttle at the Chief Mountain border crossing and hike the alternate CDT route along the Belly River, over Stoney Indian Pass, and down to Goat Haunt. The western terminus is harder to get to without a car. However, you can take a bus from Seattle to Port Angeles (about $30) and then take a county bus ($1.25, I think) to Clallam Bat. Get off and hitch along the Hoh-Ozette Road. If you don't want to hitch, there are lots of retirees in the area who run pay-shuttles to Ozette (where you walk out to Cape Alava.

    10) There is one guidebook written by Ron Strickland. The maps inside are mostly sufficient for navigation on the route, however you will want larger overview maps, like those out of the Delorme Gazetteer. You do not need a GPS but people wanting to follow the "official" route might want one.

    11) There are usually 1-3 hikers who hike the PNT. I was the only one that I know of in 2008. In 2007 there was one (Mule) who finished and one (Apple Pie) who hiked about 400 miles of it. In 2006 I think there were four hikers (Roni, Trippin Ant, and Dylan and his girlfriend/wife(?)) that I know of. In 2010 I know of one person planning to hike. So, plan on being alone and having little company.

    12) A few people every year follow the PNT west from the PCT to extend their hike a bit. This is a distance of about 550 miles if you take the official route, though you can shorten this alot by choosing not to hike the logging lands south of Mount Baker. Personally I wouldn't do so: The Olympics are great, but most of the route from the PNT/PCT junction (Holman Pass) isn't stellar.

    13) There isn't much information out there. Sam "Mule" Haraldson has photos, a gear list, and some updates on his website:

    The website of the PNTA is:

    It is very much not thruhiker oriented and there isn't a lot of useful information here. It is rarely updated. There is a bulletin board, but only a few people monitor it and it may take a while to get an answer. I've got a town guide on my site and may write up a short description of some of the alternates that I followed. Other than that, there isn't a lot out there. That's part of the fun!

    Personally, I thought the official route made very little sense in a lot of places. I saw exactly one trail sign the entire summer and it was clear that the trail route was laid out by weekend hikers. So, it went to a lot of obscure attractions even if they required hiking up long abandoned trails, or bushwhacking through a viewless forest for four or seven miles. That being said, with an overview map it is easy to route yourself around most of these bad areas. The land doesn't see a lot of use by hikers and so trails are not maintained, brushy, and pretty obscure. There is a lot of public land in the West and so you can normally find something that works.

    All that being said, I had a really good time on the PNT precisely because I didn't try to follow the official route. There is at least one very famous, though completely un-self publicizing triple crowner who had said they would never hike the PNT again. I liked it, though. Remember that, as of today, there is no official PNT. It isn't a NST and has no official designation like the AT or PCT or CDT. So, make up your own journey. If you have questions about it, please ask me.

  2. #2

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Golden CO


    Yes, thanks Suge. Pickle and I are thinking of giving it a shot this summer.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  4. #4


    nice post Suge.. we spend about 10 weeks or so in Curlew about 30 miles North of Republic.. practically a trail Metaline falls ... well that little business up there shut this winter and that very interesting and funky old town will soon be just a memory. I am so glad I got to see that place. ya know, if you are ever back up there that border crossing into BC is EASY and Nelson BC is a great town. Pnt would be a great trail to hike some day.

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