A fire lookout in the Northwest Peaks Scenic Area. Photo by Tyler Yates.
In the Purcell Mountains, the Pacific Northwest Trail stays off the beaten track. It visits some of the most remote and undiscovered portions of Northwestern Montana, like the sleepy Yaak Valley, and the rugged Northwest Peaks Scenic Area.
A patchwork of remote roadless areas and working landscapes demonstrates both our complex relationship to national forests, and the opportunities that remain to foster the wildness that makes them so special. Here, animals iconic of wilderness, like the grizzly bear and gray wolf, still roam. While these animals once ranged across much of the US, today their habitats in the contiguous US have retreated to our wildest northern mountain ranges. A night spent camping out with these incredible creatures offers an unforgettable and humbling experience.
Within this hundred mile span, the PNT visits more fire lookouts than any other section of trail. Most of these historic structures have been retired from use in firefighting, but they still offer panoramic views of emerald forests and craggy mountains that stretch as far as the eye can see. The Webb and Garver Mountain lookouts have been renovated by the Forest Service and can be reserved in advance. Other lookout towers in the area serve as rugged first-come, first served emergency shelters.
Webb Mountain Fire Lookout in the Kootenai National Forest. Photo by Michael Sawiel courtesy of Outdoor Project. All rights reserved.