Above: A Fire Lookout in the Kootenai National Forest. Photo by Tyler Yates.
Purcell Mountains, Section 2
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.
Eureka, Montana to Bonners Ferry, Idaho
99 mi (159 km)
Highest Point: 7,038’ primary route
Elevation Gain/ Loss: +23,215’ / -23,296’
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
- Proper food storage for grizzly bear habitat is required
- Fire Restrictions may prohibit campfires or certain camp stoves
- Bear spray is recommended, bear precautions are required
- Four Historic Fire Lookouts
- Webb and Garver Mountain LOs may be reserved
- Rare wildlife viewing: grizzlies, moose, and wolves
- Hike across the Montana-Idaho state line
- Northwest Peaks Scenic Area
- Lake Koocanusa
- Yaak Valley
The PNT travels through some of our wildest public lands. These special places are home to animals iconic of wilderness, and species found nowhere else. By following the regulations of our National Parks and National Forests, you can help keep wildlife wild and the backcountry safe on the PNT.
Getting to and from the Pacific Northwest Trail is part of the adventure – America’s wildest National Scenic trail is located in some of the most remote mountain ranges of the Northwest and logistics are part of the challenge.
A visit to the undiscovered communities of the Northwest is a fun part of any trip on the PNT. From rugged mountain towns, to historic seaside cities, the diverse communities visited by the trail provide a peek into the lifestyles unique to the Northwest.
Today, the PNT offers an experience that may be more challenging and rugged than it will be a generation from now. Until then, making the effort to be fully prepared for an adventure on the PNT is key to having a safe and enjoyable trip.
The weather and climate across the trail corridor can vary greatly by geographic area, elevation, and season. The major mountain ranges of the PNT create rain shadows. This effect creates drier and warmer east sides, that can approach desert-like climates, and much cooler and wetter west sides that include rain forests.
“Against the Grain” is the unofficial slogan of the PNT, with good reason. This rugged, 1,200 mile route climbs over seven mountain ranges and it presents some unique challenges along the way. For those uncomfortable with hazardous situations, there are many trails on the PNT that are accessible to a wide range of visitors.
The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail travels through many different public and private lands. You can help to protect our natural resources, and the quality of the experience. Respect private property and learn the regulations of the area you are visiting.