About the Trail

  • Go to management for trail route, history, and current planning efforts.

The Pacific Northwest Trail travels through some of the region's most spectacular and diverse terrain along its 1,200-mile journey from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean. The trail crosses through five primary geographic areas: the Rocky Mountains, Okanogan Highlands, North Cascades, Puget Sound, and Olympic Peninsula.

Rocky Mountains

239 Miles

Pacific Northwest Trail in Glacier National ParkThe Pacific Northwest Trail begins its westward journey high in the Rocky Mountains within sight of the Canadian border.

The trail’s eastern terminus is located at Chief Mountain Customs in Glacier National Park. The trail travels west through the park, crossing the Continental Divide Trail and passing Goat Haunt and Bowman Lake before leaving the park in the small community of Polebridge, Montana.

The trail enters the Flathead National Forest and travels up Hay Creek to the Whitefish Divide and then into the Kootenai National Forest and through the Ten Lakes Scenic Area before dropping down into the town of Eureka. From Eureka, the trail parallels Lake Koocanusa for several miles before climbing into the Purcell Mountains and passing near the town of Yaak. In the Northwest Peaks Scenic Area, the trail follows mountain ridgelines around the Northwest Peaks and then crosses the Montana-Idaho state line near Canuck Pass.

Once in Idaho, the trail drops down to cross the Kootenai River near Bonners Ferry before entering the Okanogan Highlands.

 

Okanogan Highlands

345 Miles

Pacific Northwest Trail at Whistler CanyonThe Okanogan Highlands is the largest geographic area along the Pacific Northwest Trail, and includes a mix of rugged mountain ranges interspersed with rolling hills and river valleys.

After crossing the Kootenai River, the trail climbs into the Selkirk Range and over the Selkirk Crest. As the trail crosses the crest of the Selkirk Mountains it leaves the Idaho Panhandle National Forests and crosses onto land managed by the Idaho Department of Lands. The trail climbs Lookout Mountain and then down to the Priest River valley, passing Upper Priest Lake before ascending back into the Idaho Panhandle National Forest and crossing into the Colville National Forest at the Idaho-Washington state line.

The trail passes through the Salmo-Priest Wilderness before entering the town of Metaline Falls. It crosses the Columbia River at Northport and then dips south along the Kettle Crest and the trail's first crossing of Highway 20 at Sherman Pass. While meandering along the Kettle Crest, the trail passes near the towns of Curlew, Kettle Falls, and Republic. The trail turns north again and makes its second crossing of Highway 20 near Clackamas Mountain before entering the Okanogan National Forest near Mt. Bonaparte.

The trail wanders the grassy hillsides of the Okanogan Highlands before dropping down Whistler Canyon to cross the Okanogan River in the town of Oroville. From Oroville, the trail follows the Similkameen River to Palmer Lake and into the North Cascades.

 

North Cascades

267 Miles

The Pacific Northwest Trail along Diablo Lake in North Cascades National ParkThe transition from the Okanogan Highlands to the North Cascades is subtle at first but soon reveals a much different character. The North Cascades geographic area is much more remote and difficult to access with a long section through the Pasayten Wilderness.

The transition begins as the Pacific Northwest Trail climbs from Palmer Lake into the Loomis State Forest, managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The trail then enters the Pasayten Wilderness and follows the Boundary Trail past Cathedral Peak and Sheep Mountain before crossing the Pasayten River. After crossing the Pasayten River, the Pacific Northwest Trail climbs through Frosty Pass to Castle Pass, where it turns south and shares ten miles of trail tread with the Pacific Crest Trail until the Pacific Northwest Trail continues west at Holman Pass before entering the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, a part of the North Cascades National Park Complex.

The trail wraps south around Ross Lake and crosses the Skagit River at Ross Dam. It resumes its journey around Ross Lake before turning west up Beaver Creek, eventually crossing Whatcom Pass and dropping down to the Chilliwack River. The trail climbs out of North Cascades National Park and into the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where it crosses Hannegan Pass and down Ruth Creek. Here a relatively long road-walk begins and the trail winds its way up the Mt. Baker Highway past the Mt. Baker Ski Area and Heather Meadows Visitor Center. The trail then leaves the road and drops down the Swift Creek drainage to wrap around Baker Lake before heading up to Schreiber’s Meadow below the summit of Mt. Baker.

From Schreiber’s Meadow, the trail meanders through miles of spectacular alpine meadows below Mt. Baker and passes next to the Park Butte Lookout before dropping down into the South Fork of the Nooksack River valley and entering the Puget Sound region.

 

Puget Sound

139 Miles

Pacific Northwest Trail along Puget SoundThis section, from Mt. Josephine to Whidbey Island, is the shortest and most easily accessible section of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Most of the trail in this area is at or near sea level and is hikeable year round.

The trail leaves the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and crosses onto land managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and then onto a couple of large section of private timber land. The owners of these private lands allow use of the Pacific Northwest Trail on their land; please respect any rules and regulations they may have. The trail crosses I-90 near Samish Lake and climbs the DNR-managed Blanchard Mountain on Puget Sound.

The trail passes through the small community of Edison and Bay View State Park before entering the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community along Highway 20 and the crossing of Fidalgo Bay on the Tommy Thompson Trestle leading to the town of Anacortes.

The trail winds through the Anacortes Community Forest Lands and down to its spectacular crossing of Deception Pass at Deception Pass State Park onto Whidbey Island.

The trail across Whidbey Island is unique – there are several miles of road walking in this developed area mixed in with remarkable walks in the coastal bluffs near Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve and Fort Ebey State Park.

After a walk through Fort Casey State Park, the trail verifies its unique nature with a ferry crossing of Puget Sound – the only ferry crossing in the National Trails System. Travelers disembark the ferry in the scenic seaside town of Port Townsend, and the trail begins its exploration of the Olympic Peninsula.

 

Olympic Peninsula

223 Miles

Hiker on the PNT along the Pacific Ocean in Olympic National ParkThe Olympic Peninsula section of the Pacific Northwest Trail is an experience of extremes – it begins and ends at sea level, a ferry on one end and pristine, rocky beach on the other. In the middle is some of the most remote country anywhere in the United States, deep within the heart of Olympic National Park.

From Port Townsend, the trail maintains a suburban character before entering the Olympic National Forest, ascending Mt. Zion, and entering the Buckhorn Wilderness. The trail soon begins its long, 140-mile journey through Olympic National Park. The trail follows the Dosewallips and Elwha Rivers, heads up to the Seven Lakes Basin and the High Divide, and then drops down into the Bogachiel River and out of the park. The trail passes near the town of Forks and across several miles of DNR land before reentering Olympic National Park and following the Hoh River to its mouth on the Pacific Ocean.

The trail turns north at the coast and walks the bluffs and beaches (bring a tide table to hike here) to the Quileute Nation and a crossing of the Quillayute River. The trail winds its last few miles to its western terminus at Cape Alava.

 

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