Best American Adventures: Backpack the Pacific Northwest Trail

We've just updated our popular America's
Best Adventures
feature with 50 new trips, bringing our grand total to 100 iconic escapes (see the map, state-by-state list, and photo gallery, too). So no matter what your pleasure—hiking,
heli-skiing, surfing, climbing, biking, or paddling—we've got the perfect adventure
for you. Check in each day for a new, out-the-backdoor adventure highlighted here on our blog.

By Doug Schnitzspahn; Photograph by Melissa Farlow, National Geographic

Forty years ago, conservationist Ron Strickland
had a dream of connecting the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The
Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) would allow a hiker to make her way, like
water, from the top of the Continental Divide all the way to the sea.
Unlike other famed long-hiking trails, the PNT wouldn't just follow the
backbone of a range of mountains—instead, it would cut a cross section
through the varied topography and ecosystems of a whole region.

Running
along the Canadian border, Strickland’s trail would pass through
Montana’s Glacier National Park; across Idaho in the Purcell and
Selkirk Mountains; into Washington and the Okanogan National Forest and
the Salmon-Priest and Pasayten Wilderness areas; through North Cascades
National Park; across Puget Sound; and finally end up on the wild
beaches of Olympic National Park.

That dream
became an official reality in 2009 with the passage of the Omnibus
Public Land Management Act, which designated Strickland’s route as a
National Scenic Trail to be maintained by the Department of
Agriculture. For Strickland, the trail is a type of new Northwest
Passage, but one concerned with celebrating the American landscape
instead of exploiting it. Hiking the entire 1,200 miles (1,931
kilometers) of the PNT is not as easy as conquering more established
long-distance trails—one section requires bushwhacking, encounters with
grizzlies are possible, and there are few fellow thru-hikers. But those
difficulties are what make the PNT so enticing.

Need to Know: Get more info from the Pacific Northwest Trail Association (www.pnt.org).

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