The New Northwest Passage

Purcell Mountains
By Ronald Strickland, Pacific Northwest Trail Founder

Backpackers have yet to discover the Purcell Mountains. This off-the-beaten-track region includes superb backcountry east and west of the Moyie River. The PNT takes maximum advantage of Canuck Pass, Ruby Ridge, the Moyie River Valley, Bussard Mountain, Bethlehem Mountain, Brush Lake, and the Purcell Trench.

Recommended Trip

Montana/Idaho state line to the Kootenai River : 31.7 miles.

This crossing of Idaho's Purcell Mountains is divided by the Moyie River Valley. The east half begins at Kounkel Pass on Spread Creek Road #435. Go 3.1 miles via Alpine Ridge Trail No. 42 and Ruby Ridge Trail Extension. You will come out at Canuck Pass and Deer Creek Road #435. (Plan your water supply carefully because this country has few water sources.)

Go 10.3 miles to the Moyie River crossing via Ruby Ridge Trail No. 35; Snyder Creek Trail No. 205; Moyie River Road #34; and Road #34B. Cross the Moyie River on the wooden bridge.

Go 18.3 miles across Bussard and Bethlehem mountains via Bussard Mountain Trail No. 32; Tilly Mine Jeep Road; Danquist Trail No. 225; Rock Creek Trail/Road No. 23; Camp Nine Road #397; a 0.9-mile bushwhack to Brush Lake; Brush Lake Road #1004; US Highway #95; State Highway #1; and Wallen Road. From the Montana border high country you have crossed the Purcell Mountains to the agricultural fields of the Kootenai River Valley. From here the PNT continues west across the fabulous Selkirk Mountains.

Getting There

Bonners Ferry, Idaho, is the jumping off place for this section. At the eastern end, Spread Creek Road #435 is a rocky, poorly maintained track that can be reached north from Moyie Springs, Idaho, via Road #72. The mid-section is accessible via the Moyie River Road #34. Visit the western end on US Highway #95.

Permit Information

No permits or reservations are required to use this section of the Pacific Northwest Trail. If, however, you wish to stay in the Moyie River's historic Snyder Guard Station (with electric heat and hot showers), you must pay $25/night. Contact the Bonners Ferry ranger district for more information.

Maps and Guidebooks

The best maps are the 7 1/2' USGS maps of Canuck Peak, Idaho/Montana; Eastport, Idaho; Hall Mountain; and Copeland. Also refer to the Pacific Northwest Trail guidebook.

Who to Contact

Bonners Ferry Ranger District
Kaniksu National Forest
Rte. 4, Box 4860
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805-9764
(208) 267-5561


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