Visitors from across the world travel to the Northwest to explore the Pacific Northwest Trail. Whether you are planning a day trip, a section hike, or a Crown-to-Coast adventure, getting to this remote trail, with necessary permits, could be considered part of the PNT adventure.
Some trailside communities along the PNT are serviced by transit–an excellent option for those traveling without personal transportation, such as international visitors and long-distance hikers. Bus and train are both popular ways to reach trailheads from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and other metropolitan areas. This guide will discuss transit options on the PNT and how to reach major destinations along the trail corridor.
Getting to the Eastern Terminus
The eastern terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail is located at the Chief Mountain customs parking area, (just north of the Chief Mountain trailhead) in the northeast corner of Glacier National Park in Montana. The terminus can be reached via the Chief Mountain International Highway, just south of the US–Canada Border.
The majority of thru-hikers start here in Section 1 and travel westbound.
Getting to Glacier National Park By Train
AMTRAK’s historic Empire Builder route has service between Portland, Seattle, Glacier National Park, and Chicago. The AMTRAK station in East Glacier is the closest to the Pacific Northwest Trail.
Getting Backcountry Permits
Backcountry permits are not available at East Glacier. The closest Ranger Station, for those without a vehicle is the Two Medicine Ranger Station, an eleven mile walk from East Glacier. It is open daily from late-May to mid-September. You can read more about permits needed for the PNT, here.
The Saint Mary Visitor Center may be a more convenient location to collect a permit for those traveling by car. It is open daily from late-May to mid-September.
Getting to the Chief Mountain Trailhead
The easiest option is to arrange a ride with a friend or private taxi and simply get dropped off at the trailhead to begin your trip.
Those arriving in East Glacier by train will need to find private transportation–the Park and its partners do not offer shuttle service to this area at this time. Note that hitchhiking is illegal in our National Parks.
Another option is to hike 97 miles north along the Continental Divide Trail, in Glacier National Park from the Two Medicine Ranger Station (where you will need to pick up your backcountry permit). By trail, Many Glacier is 71 miles away from this point, and it is possible to purchase resupply items, or to mail a resupply box here, and then resume your trip north to the eastern terminus.
Getting to the Western Terminus
Getting to Ozette by Car
The easiest option to reach Ozette is to arrange a ride with a private taxi and simply get dropped off at the Ranger Station. The Ozette campground is located here, and a friend or family member providing a ride might also be interested in joining you on a camping or backpacking trip in the Park.
Getting to Ozette by Transit
Public transportation services many areas on the Olympic Peninsula, but does not access Ozette.
From the Seattle / SeaTac Airport, it is possible to get to Clallam Bay (30 miles north of Ozette) via a series of buses and a ferry. You can find the Jefferson Transit and Clallam Transit schedules online, or via Google Maps, using the ‘transit’ filter. Using transit, you will need to find private transportation between Clallam Bay and Ozette. Note that hitchhiking is illegal in our National Parks.
Getting Wilderness Camping Permits
Wilderness Camping Permits are required for all overnight stays in Olympic National Park wilderness (backcountry) year-round. Visit Olympic National Park’s website and our Permits and Fees page, for more information.
Wilderness Camping Permits may be obtained at:
Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center. 3002 Mt Angeles Rd., Port Angeles, WA 98362. For questions call: (360) 565-3100.
Quinault Wilderness Information Center at the Pacific Ranger District – Quinault office. 353 South Shore Rd., Quinault, WA 98575. Phone: (360) 288-0232 (closed in winter)
Staircase Ranger Station in Olympic National Park at the end of the Staircase Road (USFS 24) on the western end of Lake Cushman near Hoodsport, 98548.
If you are not passing by a park wilderness office on your way to Ozette, or if you plan to arrive early or late, call the WIC to find out the best way to get your permit.
Getting to the Midpoint of the PNT
Transit Between Sections 8 & 9
Whether you are traveling between Whidbey Island (995P) and Port Townsend (1000P) on foot or by vehicle, the Keystone Ferry is a convenient option. The Washington State Department of Transportation is the best source of information for sailing schedules and for making advance reservations (recommended for vehicles).
For PNT thru-hikers, this scenic route is the most popular way to travel between Section 8 and 9. For those dedicated to an entirely muscle-powered adventure, a small number of PNT’ers have kayaked across the Sound.
Transit on the Olympic Peninsula,
Sections 9 & 10
On the Olympic Peninsula, Jefferson Transit and Clallam Transit provide service between the trail towns of Port Townsend–Port Angeles–Forks and beyond. Public transit can be used to connect these areas to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Jefferson Transit also has service along the Olympic Coast between the trail town of Forks and Queets.