Since the deservedly successful novel Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, was published and adapted to the big screen, thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail has moved to the top of every Tom, Dick, and Sally's bucket list. For those of us interested in the challenge and fulfillment a thru-hike offers, but seeking less of a time commitment and a lot more solitude, there are a number of viable options.
Pacific Northwest Trail
This 1,200-mile trail passes through some of the most awe-inspiring scenery this nation has to offer. Beginning at the Montana-Canada border, this path passes through Glacier National Park, the pristine Flathead National Forest, through the panhandle of Idaho, across North Cascades National Park and the Mt. Baker National Forest, down through the San Juan Islands over Deception Pass, into Olympic National Park, through the Hoh River Rainforest, and up the Olympic coastline, terminating at Cape Alava. Thru-hiking usually moves westbound and begins in June. Best of all, this trail only sees, on average, 20 thru-hikers a year. pnt.org
Oregon Desert Trail
Only three years old, this trail allows folks to explore the oft-underappreciated beauty of the lonesome, arid west. Situated right here in our own back yard, the 800-mile trail runs through Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Steens Mountain and the Owyhee Canyonlands. The good folks at Oregon Natural Desert Association have put together a trail guide, available on their website. Read more about the trail on p. 28. onda.org
Portland to Coast Trail
For a trail so new it doesn't officially exist yet, check out the Salmonberry Corridor trail. This path, staked out over the course of many years by Portlander Jim Thayer, makes use of discontinued rail lines paralleling the Salmonberry River. Technically the trail runs from Banks, just west of Portland proper, to the coast, and follows the coastline down to Tillamook. Follow developments on the trails progression to legitimacy and check out the map on the Salmonberry Corridor Coalition's website. salmonberrycorridor.wordpress.com