With a route that traverses some of the snowiest mountain ranges in the lower ‘48, seasonality is one of the defining characteristics of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Full access to the trail corridor is only possible between July and September, which makes for a short and exciting season for hikers and trail builders alike.
When milder weather finally arrives, a flurry of activity comes with it. Visitors flock to the PNT in places like Glacier National Park while scores of trail crews “hitch out” to begin another busy season working to restore the PNT in the Pasayten Wilderness and dozens of other cherished destinations along the trail corridor.
Traditionally, when the PNT is still buried under feet of snow, winter months provide the perfect time to plan and prepare to make the most of the season to come. Yet with the prime season still months away, uncertainty over the Covid-19 pandemic has made planning for the 2021 season tougher on all of us.
Here’s what we know about the unprecedented season ahead:
- 2021 will not be a return to normal on the PNT. Although we’ve all made progress in the fight against Covid-19, the pandemic will still continue to affect the trail. Visitors and trail workers will need to be flexible and continue to work together to keep the trail open and to save lives. You can stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 updates here.
- While some parts of the Inland Northwest have relaxed restrictions, many communities are still exercising caution and some areas along the PNT could remain closed this year. Many services will likely operate in a limited capacity. If you are considering a trip on the PNT, please read our guidance for visiting the PNT in 2021 before you go.
- In times like these, we may need trails more than ever, but we still need to play it safe. We recommend postponing challenging or new activities, especially in remote parts of the trail system while first responders, parks, and communities continue to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.
- During the first year of the pandemic, PNTA implemented several temporary changes that let our Performance Trail Crews work safely and near 100% capacity. This year, we will increase the number of trail crews working on the PNT, thanks to your support. Getting our crews in the field is so important because many areas along the trail, especially those in temperate rainforests, need regular trail work to stay open and safe for visitors.
- In our 2020 season, the PNTA’s volunteer program was impacted by local restrictions and operated in a limited capacity. This year, you can help by signing up for a trail work party. Just one day of service can make a big difference in the future of the PNT! Look for fun volunteer opportunities on our new events calendar.
- The PNT is a famously rugged trail and visitors to the backcountry should always be prepared for unmarked hazards. Some areas may not have received recent maintenance at the time of your visit. Check conditions before you go and consider postponing your trip if you are not prepared to encounter abnormally rugged conditions during the pandemic.
- We truly appreciate the uncommon patience, understanding and support shown by our trail community throughout these unprecedented seasons on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Working together, we can continue to protect the trail, our trailside communities and save lives.