ジェフ・キッシュのHIKER LIFE with PNT | #05 パシフィック・ノースウエスト・トレイルのスルーハイキング (その1)


Thru-Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail (part1)

In 2014, I set out on an adventure that would alter the course of my life forever. This is the story of my first few hundred miles.


For most thru-hikers, the adventure of the PNT begins before their first step on trail. For many, it involves a cross country train ride to get to Glacier National Park in Montana. In 2014, I was living in Portland, Oregon; the western end of the line for Amtrak’s Empire Builder. On a hot sunny mid-July day, I boarded that train and set off across the Northwest for the first time that season, riding the rails for the “Treasure State.” By the time the autumn chill arrived, I intended to walk back to the Pacific coast.

Early the next morning, as the first rays of sunlight began to filter through the rugged landscape of western Montana, the train rolled into Glacier National Park, and over the intercom I heard “Next stop: East Glacier.”

A backcountry bridge along the PNT in Glacier National Park. Structures like these are removed in the autumn so they wont be destroyed by winter snow. The start of thru-hiking season follows the snowmelt and reinstallation of these bridges, which usually occurs in late June or early July.

East Glacier, situated at the southwest corner of the park, is a small resort town, anchored by Glacier Park Lodge, a rustic lodge constructed in 1913 by the Great Northern Railroad. The design was modeled after the Forestry building in Portland, and just as its design came from the west, the massive douglas fir and western red cedar columns used in its construction had hauled east from the Cascade Range, since trees rarely grow so large in Montana.

The rest of the community consists of an eclectic mix of tourism driven businesses. There is a mexican restaurant with a hostel in the back, and a bakery with a hostel up above. I checked into the bakery hostel to give me time to get prepared for the hike ahead.

Most thru-hikers prefer to apply for a limited supply of walk-up permits, available on a first-come/first-served basis at a number of small ranger stations along the periphery of the park. Unfortunately, there is no permit office in East Glacier, but conveniently, the park does offer a limited shuttle service which made getting to the Two Medicine ranger station a simple task.

The start of the PNT follows the Belly River, which flows north into Canada from Glacier National Park. As I followed the river upstream into the heart of the park, I encountered beautiful lakes like these from which it flows.

To camp within backcountry areas in Glacier National Park, hikers must obtain permits for designated campsites along the PNT route. Dispersed camping is prohibited. I worked with the ranger to develop an itinerary that would suit my pace and timing, watched a mandatory bear safety video, and returned to East Glacier for the night.

The hostel was a wonderful place to begin an adventure. Much of the clientele consisted of young international travelers. I had a relaxing evening trading stories with them of the places we’d been and those we intended to go. The next day, my trek would begin.


Getting to the eastern terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail can involve some ingenuity. Shuttle service, in the years that it is available, can be sporadic. In recent years, the trailhead has not been serviced, and catching a ride with a friendly local or fellow traveler has been necessary. The ride between East Glacier and the start of the PNT crosses the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, a pertinent reminder of the human history of the lands we travel.

The eastern terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail.

There’s no better place to begin or end a long distance trek than Glacier. The landscape is absolutely stunning. Over the course of two and half days, I crossed the park. Highlights included breathtaking views of rugged snow capped peaks, alpine meadows lush with wildflowers and bear grass, an exhilarating descent over snowclad Stoney Indian Pass, and hiking common tread with the Continental Divide Trail. Camps were often situated near alpine lakes with waterfalls cascading down from high-altitude snowfields. Wildlife was abundant within the park, but although I did see grizzly bear tracks, fur and other sign, I never did see a bear.

A bear track I found along the Pacific Northwest Trail in Montana.

On my last day in the park, I hiked a considerable distance to reach the tiny mountain town of Polebridge, on the western edge of the park. The three primary businesses in town consist of a bar, a mercantile, and a hostel; all of which are popular with hikers and other visitors alike. The evening I arrived in this offgrid community, there was live music on the lawn in front of the bar, which I enjoyed with a fresh pizza and a cold pint of beer.

Life music on the lawn of the Northern Lights Saloon in Polebridge, Montana.

Between Polebridge and the next resupply point in Eureka, the PNT traverses Flathead National Forest, and continues on into neighboring Kootenai National Forest. In this stretch, hikers enjoy incredibly scenic vistas without the congestion of the National Park crowd. The trail feels wilder, but it’s also a little rougher around the edges. While there is extended trekking on narrow ribbons of high country tread along undulating ridgelines, these trail segments are often linked together using old forest service roads. While this condition is certainly not unique to the PNT, it is still especially prevalent in some areas due to the trail’s early stage of development.

A highlight of this section is walking Flathead National Forest’s Whitefish Divide, a trail segment that links together a series of peaks across the forest by walking the mountainous spine that connects them. A recent revision of the Flathead National Forest management plan protected a mile-wide corridor of land surrounding the PNT here (preserving 70 square kilometers), and recommended the northern viewshed for wilderness designation.

Wildflowers along the Whitefish Divide.

The views continue into Kootenai National Forest, where the trail visits Mount Wam, the site of a lookout tower constructed in 1931 for spotting wildfires in the surrounding forest. From there, additional highlights include a traverse of Bluebird Basin in the aptly named Ten Lakes Scenic Area.

On the ascent of Stoney Indian Pass, I turned around to enjoy this view of where I had come from. The PNT follows the flow of the water through this valley and out to the eastern terminus.

Leaving the high country behind, I descended down into the community of Eureka, Montana; my first major resupply point along the trail. I choose to stay in the Ksanka Motel, which is inexpensive, but on the north end of town, a long walk from other nearby attractions. PNT hikers are now also permitted to camp in a community park, closer to food, drinks and shopping.

I rested for two days in Eureka and resupplied at a well-stocked grocery store in town in preparation for the rugged section ahead. Over the next week, I’d cross some of the more remote sections of PNT, and cross into its second state: Idaho.

One of the first major physical challenges of the PNT can be a safe descent of the north face of Stoney Indian Pass, which often holds snow into the thru-hiking season. Stoney Indian Lake, shown here, is surrounded by steep slopes all around, and a slip on the snow and ice into the frigid lake could be treacherous.

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Jeff Kish

Jeff Kish

2012年にPCT(パシフィック・クレスト・トレイル)、2014年にPNT(パシフィック・ノースウエスト・トレイル)をスルーハイキングした、ロング・ディスタンス・ハイカー。アメリカのロング・ディスタンス・ハイキングのコミュニティに最も強くコミットしているハイカーのひとり。2017から2年間にわたり、アメリカで有名なハイキング関連の組織であるALDHA-West(American Long Distance Hiking Assosication-West)の理事に従事。また2014年からPNTの管理・運営組織(PNTA)の仕事に携わりはじめ、2016年にはPNTAのエグゼクティブ・ディレクター(現職)に就任。PNTは、アメリカにある11のNational Scenic Trailのなかで、もっとも最近(2009年)に認定されたトレイルゆえ発展途上であり、各方面の体制や組織づくり、運営に奔走中。現在は、PNTのトレイルタウンでもある、ワシントン州ベリンハム在住。