Comprehensive Management Plan Released for the Pacific Northwest Trail
Fourteen years after being designated a National Scenic Trail, land managers finally have a blueprint for the completion and management of the Pacific Northwest Trail.
Of the eleven National Scenic Trails, the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) is the newest. A 1,200-mile continuous path from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean, the PNT was first proposed and completed in the 1970s, but it wasn’t officially designated a National Scenic Trail until 2009.
Ranking among the most scenic and rugged long-distance trails in the world, the PNT spans across the Continental Divide, traverses Glacier National Park, and continues along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, traveling through some of the most spectacular terrain in the United States. While it is an incredibly beautiful trail, its remoteness makes it less popular than many of the other National Scenic Trails, with fewer than 100 thru-hike attempts each year.
“The PNT is still being developed,” notes the Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA). “It is mostly unmarked, receives light use, and may not have been recently maintained in some remote areas… in some locations, the route of the PNT requires bushwhacking through dense forest, following climber’s scrambling routes, and sometimes follows networks of unsigned and confusing forest roads.”
Just a few weeks ago, however, the PNT reached a major milestone in development that will enable substantial change in 2024.
On December 12, 2023, the U.S. Forest Service announced the release of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Comprehensive Plan, which outlines a vision for the trail and provides guidance for its future management, protection, and use.
With the plan, the PNTA can begin the work of the Optimal Location Review process, which will enable them to begin moving the PNT off of roads, and Land Acquisition and Protection Planning, which will help them secure permanent public access to the trail.
“The plan is not only a blueprint for the trail’s completion, but also a tool for conservation across the region,” says the Forest Service in their release. “It will provide new protections for the landscape and support shared stewardship, ensuring that the trail experience it provides will receive proper protections. The plan will define the future vision for administration and management of the trail, ensuring consistent management and protection from one end to the other.”
To learn more about the trail and how you can get involved with the mission, visit the Pacific Northwest Trail Association at www.pnt.org.
Featured image: Lisa Slutsken
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Trail documentary by Alex Maier. “A sense of direction.” Phenomenal regarding the PNT, filmed a handful of years ago. Definitely check it out.