A little known National Scenic Trail that passes through the Tri-County area is gaining in popularity and it’s a trend that local businesses can benefit from, according to Tri-County Economic Development District intern Courtney Pal.
Pal, an intern from Stanford, is working with local communities along the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) to get their feedback and help share information and ideas about how they can gear their businesses towards the coming tourism.
Pal is enthusiastic about the East-West, 1,200 mile trail that she said “literally follows the path of a raindrop from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean.” The trail goes through or nearby the towns of Metaline Falls, Republic and Northport.
“The PNT is one of only eleven Congressionally-designated National Scenic Trails (NST) in the United States– a designation given because of its particular natural beauty and cultural value,” Pal related. “Because NSTs have the reputation of being the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to recreation, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts preferentially visit these trails.”
The PNT was designated as a NST in 2009 and joins other popular trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Pal said as word gets out about the PNT, the numbers of tourists will grow.
“Right now most of the trail-based tourism comes from thru-hikers (people hiking the entire length of the trail), but we expect growing numbers of section-hikers and day hikers in future years,” Pal said. “These types of casual recreational users inject the most money into the local economies when they come visit. State-wide hiking is a $2.7 billion dollar economy, so the money is there.”
At present, Pal said there are about 40 to 50 thru-hikers hiking the entire distance of the trail. Estimates on day hikers number in the hundreds during the weekends.
Pal said the PNT is worth exploring for many reasons.
“There are so many things that make the PNT unique. First, you’ve got a much wider variety of landscapes and experiences. Of course, you have the traditional wilderness experience in areas like Glacier National Park and North Cascades National Park. But the trail also tells a story. You get to travel past old homesteads and spend days in historic towns like Republic,” Pal explained. “It’s the only NST to include a ferry ride as part of the Congressionally designated route. Your spend your last two or three days on the trail walking and camping on the beach– which is sure to be so different than where you started in the Rockies.”
In order to tap into the influx of new tourists, Pal recommends local business owners consider the unique needs of hikers.
“When hikers come into town, they’re looking for places to eat, sleep, shower, do laundry and resupply,” she said. “While guidebooks might point them towards some of those resources, they’re really dependent on what they see. So, putting signs in your businesses’ window advertising things that hikers might want is a really easy way to draw in trail-side business. There is also the opportunity for certain types of businesses to stock new items that hikers are particularly interested in, especially stove fuel canisters, boot repair kits, and general outdoor gear. In many cases, the benefit will come simply by being close to the trail, being informed about hikers’ needs and local recreation trails, and providing friendly service.”
To contact Pal, call the Tri County Economic Development office at 684-4571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the PNT, visit the trail website: www.pnt.org.
By Jamie Henneman/The Independent Staff