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Skagit County, along with Whatcom County to the north, is one of only a few counties in all of the United States that has two of our country's eleven major scenic trails running directly through it. Most hikers have heard of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, totaling 2,650 miles, switchbacking the mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington. Have you heard of the Pacific Northwest Trail?
The Pacific Northwest Trail, or PNT as it is known, crosses East to West though Montana, Idaho, and Washington and is a total of 1,200 miles. It travels across three National Parks and seven National Forests. With plenty of places to day hike along the trail, it is finished by some people in one year as a through hike. It takes most “thru” hikers 60-70 days to complete the hike in one season. Although a hiker can start at either end, most of the thru hikers start on the Chief Mountain International Highway (17) near the Canadian border in Glacier National Park, Montana. The opposite end of the hike is Cape Alava near Ozette, Washington.
"The Pacific Northwest Trail flows like a drop of water dropped at the Continental Divide and finds its way to the sea," says Jeff Kish, who wrote a great article on the PNT website here.
Very little of the PNT is a regular trail built specifically for the east to west scenic route. It uses mostly trails and old backroads that were already established. One of the neatest points of the trail, that sets it apart from any of the other major trails, is the ferry ride from Port Townsend to Keystone. From Keystone through Skagit County the trail is in its most urban section. There are quite a few places in this area you may see some hikers on the trail:
The PNT headquarters is located in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, just one mile off of the trail. There is also a group in the Skagit Valley area named SWITMO (Skagit-Whatcom-Island-Trail-Maintaining-Organization). They have taken on the task of maintaining the PNT within their area. They do a great job and are always looking for more volunteers. They also have a vast youth program helping the trail stay in top condition.
Guide books are available, as well as printable TOPO maps at the official website: www.pnt.org
For Skagit area volunteering check out: www.switmo.org