A New National Scenic Trail?

House votes later this week to officially declare the Pacific Northwest Trail a National Scenic Trail
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House votes later this week to officially declare the Pacific Northwest Trail a National Scenic Trail

Long-distance trampers, speed hikers, and thru-hikers, lace up your trusty boots and get stretchin', because next week, a new challenge will likely lie in wait. Congress is expected to pass legislation to make the Pacific Northwest Trail America's newest National Scenic Trail.

The 1,200-mile trail begins in Glacier National Park and stretches all the way to Cape Alava on the Pacific Coast of Washington, snaking through Olympic National Park, North Cascades, and seven national forests along the way. While you could always hike the Pacific Northwest Trail before, it never enjoyed National Scenic Trail status, which, if passed, will allow for better maintenance, funding, signage, visibility, and 1,000-foot-wide protected corridor of wilderness where development of any kind will be prohibited.

The Pacific Northwest Trail came bundled with the Omnibus Wilderness Act that the House unexpectedly defeated a few weeks ago. Now, it's packaged with another lands bill that passed the Senate 77-20, and it's expected to enjoy widespread support from the House (keep your fingers crossed, though).

Trail boosters are excited and hopeful, but nervous given the trail's tumultuous and long road toward legitimacy.

Jon Knechtel, acting executive director for the Pacific Northwest Trail Association, has been squirming during the legislative machinations, hoping for approval. "The trail is probably the most scenic trail in the U.S. The whole philosophy in building it was to stay high for the views, and when you walk up to a ridge, you are just in awe."

Way back in 2000, BACKPACKER profiled one of the Pacific Northwest Trail's biggest advocates in "The Prophet of the PNT." And for backpackers who'd like to hike the PNT without committing to the whole thing can find all the highlights with "Short Hikes on the Pacific Northwest Trail."

Have you hiked portions of the Pacific Northwest Trail? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

—Ted Alvarez

National scenic Designation Likely for Pacific Northwest Trail (Seattle Times)

Image Credit: The Pacific Northwest Trail Association