Traversing east to west, undulating right beneath the Canadian border is the newest National Scenic Trail in the US, the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT).
It begins on the east side of Glacier National Park, bisects the Northern Cascades, and ends on the Olympic Wilderness Coast where the Pacific Ocean meets the westernmost point of the 48 contiguous states. Though it is easily confused with Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which heads north to south for 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada, the PNT runs perpendicular for just over 1200 miles, crossing the PCT in the heart the North Cascades. Unlike many long distance trails, it does not run with the grain of the mountains, but against them, up and over every range, making for incredible amounts of elevation gain and loss over short distances. Though the trail is mapped out, because it is relatively new, not every section is complete. For now, the PNT is strung together with various sorts of trails, from single track, to old Forest Service roads, to paved highways, to overgrown cow paths, to dense vegetation and rocky ledges with no path at all. In this sense, one feels like they are simply walking across America, taking whatever path they find at their feet, to get them across expanses of wilderness, and through small towns and valleys. Additionally, trail alternates and endless fork-in-the-road options at trail junctions are present everywhere, making this trail much more of a “choose your own adventure” hike than a standard route to be followed footstep by footstep. There are very few PNT markers, and the best set of maps can only be acquired by emailing a stranger for the set he made out of a labor of love. Unlike the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail which all have hundreds or more attempting to thru hike each year, the PNT is quiet. Very quiet. In past years, there were fewer than a dozen attempts annually. This year saw a surge of PNT hikers, which tipped the scales to perhaps a couple dozen people completing the trail in one season.