Above: Glenns Lake in Glacier National Park. Photo by Tyler Yates.
Rocky Mountains, Section 1
The Belly River Valley in Glacier National Park is home to the Eastern terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Here in the Rocky Mountains, the trail explores some of the most remote areas of the park and offers a truly wild backcountry experience – visitors share rugged trails with grizzly bears, moose, and mountain goats.
In the National Park, the PNT climbs high into the Rocky Mountains to make a dramatic crossing of the continental divide, the “crown of the continent.” Summer arrives late in these mountains and westbound thru-hikers typically begin their 1,200-mile journeys in early July after stubborn snow has retreated from high mountain passes. The melting snow feeds rushing streams and high-country meadows begin to explode with fragrant wildflowers, like ivory bear grass and golden glacier lily.
East of Eureka, the Pacific Northwest Trail explores more hidden treasures in Northern Montana: the “off-grid” mountain town of Polebridge, the less traveled trails of the Whitefish Divide, high peaks, topped with historic fire lookouts, and the glacially carved cirques of the Ten Lakes Scenic Area.
Glacier National Park to Eureka, Montana
149 mi (240 km)
Highest Point: 7,205’ primary route
Highest Point: 7,745′ alternate route
Elevation Gain/ Loss: +13,204’ / -16,394’
- Glacier National Park (55 miles)
- Cross four sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains
- Hike two National Scenic Trails at the same time
- The Ten Lakes Scenic Area, Kootenai NF
- Historic Fire Lookouts
- Tuchuck Mtn – the highest point on the PNT*
- Rare wildlife viewing: grizzlies, moose, and wolves
- Off-grid, Polebridge, Montana
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.