Expect and Prepare
High altitude terrain, watch the weather and hike safely.
Forest fires are a major concern as summer drags on.
Grizzly bears live in the panhandle, take all necessary precautions.
Not officially designated as wilderness area, the northern half of Idaho is almost as wild as its remote interior. The trail stays inside dense conifer forest and makes it above the treeline for sweeping views.
Sections straddle the border of Montana and walking the ridgeline affords some of the best western scenery on the hike.
Being this high, water can become scarce. It is a good idea to refill as frequently as possible. The low population density of this region also means that towns are far away. Resupplying should be planned accordingly.
As the trail nears Canada, it follows the shoreline of Priest Lake. Idaho’s panhandle is wet and moist, enjoying a temperate climate influenced by the Pacific Ocean.
Grizzly bears do live in the northern forests of the panhandle. Carrying a bear cannister is recommended, as is bear spray.
The Pacific Northwest Trail crosses the ICT 27 miles south of Canada. It is here that the trail turns eastward toward Montana.
North Idaho History
In 1876, 96% of Idaho citizens living in the panhandle voted to join the state of Washington. It was only a pocket veto by the president, Grover Cleveland, that denied it from happening. This is one of the reasons Northern Idaho has its own University, in Moscow.
The isolation of the region from Boise is due to the mountain ranges of the interior. Even to this day, North Idaho has more in common economically with Spokane than Boise.