Work being done to perfect the Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest Trail is meant to showcase pristine wilderness, but the portion that passes through Skagit County, Washington isn’t living up to the rugged nature of the majority of the trail’s 1,200 miles.

Hikers who walk the length of the trail spend months climbing mountains, scrambling over brush and dodging high tides along the coast as they make their way through Montana, Idaho and Washington. Along the majority of the trail in Skagit County, however, they find themselves walking along many miles of roadways.

After winding through Washington’s Okanogan National Forest, North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the portion of the trail that runs through Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties is largely on forest roads and state highways.

Having hikers on those roads poses safety risks and goes against the grain of the National Scenic Trail concept, which is to connect trails across the country that showcase America’s wilderness.

The problem is that it is difficult to stitch together a trail between the North Cascades and the Olympics using only public lands.

“It’s this matrix of private and state Department of Natural Resources land in Skagit County,” PNTA president Jeff Kish said. “We’re trying to replace what we have right now because most of it is just roads.”

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