The Ultimate Hike That No One Has Ever Attempted

Every year, the US government hands out a $1.4 million check to the International Boundary Commission, for one purpose, and one purpose alone. It’s called, “The Slash.”

You might think, of course, that the U.S.-Canada border is just an imaginary line. But incredibly, that’s not true at all! Across the entire land border between the two countries, a 20-foot-wide treeless zone is cut.


The longest segment of the US- Canada border that doesn’t follow a river (in other words, a land border) is actually quite long: over 1200 miles, from Lake of the Woods (northern Minnesota) all the way west to the Vancouver area (Pacific Coast). That means that for over 1200 miles, there is a treeless zone.

And my idea is to hike it.

The Plan

Look, this isn’t just a hike that no one has ever attempted…it’s a hike that no one has ever thought of. Try searching for another article like this online, and you’ll find nothing.

Well, of course, that’s to be expected. It would be a crazy idea. For one, in the forest the clearing of trees is pretty apparent, but in the farmland you would need a really good GPS. For two, you would have to cross hundreds of miles of farmland, sometimes with incredibly close proximity to the owners of the property…

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 5.19.40 PM.png

But then again, that’s the job of the International Boundary Commission, to do just that!… So, you know what I’m thinking the hiking outfits should look like?

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 6.19.56 PM.jpg

Of course, getting lost and passing farmland wouldn’t be the only issues. Hikers would also have to look out for rivers, lakes, mountains, and a variety of other obstacles…

List of Obstacles


Piney Pinecreek Border Airport. Has a runway in two countries. Looks flat enough to walk over, and that wouldn’t be abnormal, considering the farmer who works next door has probably done it too.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 4.13.27 PM.png


The Roseau River (Caribou, MN) is 6 feet deep and 200 feet wide. Must be forded three times, but shouldn’t be too difficult.

I think that with a change of clothes and a waterproof backpack, hypothermia can be prevented. Otherwise this hike would end quickly.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 10.45.40 PM.png


Some dirt field. Perhaps for lumber, judging by what look to be trees on the very top. Clearly crossable.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 4.28.31 PM.png


The Red River of the North is about 15 feet deep, and 850 feet wide. That’s a 5 minute swim. A challenge, surely, but feasible.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 9.17.28 PM.png


Pembina River. 5-10 feet deep, and less than 50 feet wide.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 9.32.56 PM.png


Car junkyard.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 9.34.17 PM.png

202-235 MILES IN:

33 miles of North Dakota’s northern border will present a real challenge: 13 lakes will need to be crossed. These will total out to 16,850 feet, the longest being Ross Lake, almost a mile wide at 4,640 feet (a half hour swim). None of this is impossible by any standard, but it would require an above average level of swimming.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.20.03 PM.png

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 9.37.27 PM.png

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 9.40.21 PM.png

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 9.49.08 PM.png

MILE 254:

Conundrum here. Which is better, swimming along the borderline and trying to cross whatever those two parallel lines are, or crossing at the maintenance road and fighting against whatever current the nearby dam creates? The choice is yours.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.23.50 PM.png

MILE 264:

The same gosh darn windy river crosses the border six times!

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.39.34 PM.png

MILE 310:

Riviere du Lacs. 500 feet wide.Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.41.10 PM.png

MILE 381:

Minnesota my ass. North Dakota is officially the land of Ten Thousand Lakes.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.43.57 PM.png

MILE 538:

Finally, some topography! Thanks Montana!

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.47.58 PM.png

MILE 688:

Holy cow! The Milk River! 430 feet across, 3 crossings (and scrambling down a hillside). Should be dairy easy!Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.54.32 PM.png


MILE 775:

Lakes like these can simply be walked around. No swimming necessary.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 6.00.39 PM.png

MILE 780:

Ah. My old friend, the Milk River. In a few miles, you’ll also have to ford the Boundary River and the Milk River’s northern fork.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 6.02.43 PM.png

MILE 830-901:

Passing through Glacier National Park took me two hours worth of testing different routes. To sum up, the 49th parallel (the border) goes through a series of unclimbable mountains, and to get around them you would have to walk through dense forest with no trail. In the end, I decided to take trails within the national park (including the Pacific Northwest Trail) instead of going off trail, and then take a border service road back to the borderline. This way, you’ll see some of the best lakes, peaks, and sights that Glacier offers, plus you return to the border in time for the last, unobstructed, 26 miles of border within the limits of the national park!

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.07.38 PM.png

MILE 933:

Kootenay River. Almost a mile wide. We can handle this.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.34.36 PM.png

MILE 989:

Foothills by Porthill, Idaho. Could be steep, probably walkable, considering someone had to cut those trees down.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.33.23 PM.png

MILE 1011-1013:

Avoid Snowy Top with 3 mile detour. Off trail, but avoids dense forest and sharp inclines.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.40.13 PM.png

MILE 1030:

Pend Oreille River. 450 foot swim.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.42.09 PM.png

MILE 1043:

Columbia River. 1430 foot swim (less than 9 minutes).

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.45.43 PM.png

MILE 1068:

Kettle River. 210 foot swim.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.47.30 PM.png

MILES 1069-1072:

You would have to climb a sheer cliff to continue on, so stand by me and take the train tracks until the border is on even ground…then cut through the trees to the borderline again. 4 mile detour.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.53.39 PM.png

MILE 1124:

Osoyoos Lake. Our longest swim yet, at 1.27 miles.Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.59.47 PM.png

MILE 1157:

The deacon? Ah, live a little. Looks climbable.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.02.26 PM.png

MILE 1183-1184:

One mile detour. Tries to avoid dense trees and the steepest ascensions.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.10.30 PM.png

MILE 1198:

Swim across Ross Lake. 1.09 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.15.08 PM.png

MILE 1203-1205:

Not necessarily a professional method to get by Mt. Rahm, basically eyeballing it. 2.5 mile detour. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any online guidebook for this summit in particular…there was no Rahm e-Manual.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.21.20 PM.png

MILE 1216-1220:

Again, just eyeballing this 5.2 mile detour.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.26.47 PM.png

MILE 1221-1232:

Avoiding the Northern Cascades like a boss.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.30.26 PM.png

MILE 1280:

We finally finish, in Peace Arch State Park, on the Pacific Coast.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.34.30 PM.png

The Point of It All

Yeah. Pretty crazy isn’t it? The point of all of that “obstacle analysis” wasn’t really to be informational or to provide solid logistics…in the end, I only shared those obstacles and their potential reroutes to prove that this is feasibly possible to do. I mean, you could start in Minnesota and hike in the straightest line possible to Washington, for 1200 miles, on something that was never intended for hiking! And really, wouldn’t the scrambling and improvising (if done responsibly) be part of the fun?

At an average of 20 miles per day, this hike would barely take 2 months. And you know what? You’d be the first to do it.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 9.01.18 PM.png




5 thoughts on “The Ultimate Hike That No One Has Ever Attempted

  1. We recently completed a voyage that three of us took us to the northern, southern, eastern and western most point in the continental US. We also included the highest and lowest point in the lower 48 states – and chugged a beer while standing on our head at each of the six points. Now that we are done with that we have been thinking about hiking the entire 49th parallel along the border from Washington St. to Northern Angle. Saw your article and glad to see someone else is thinking about it.

    We first thought about doing this about five years ago when we were at the Northern Angle which is the northern most point in lower 48. We could see the cut out in tree line in the distance while we were in the middle of the lake looking south.

    Our plan would be to just hike as close to border as possible. We aren’t much for swimming so we plan on taking a canoe/kayak or some other meant to get across the lakes and rivers as necessary. We would plan to go west to east. We are hoping that once we get a couple hundred miles into the trip we may get some social media pr that we can parlay into making it a bit easier to go through some of the areas that are right along private property. We shall see. the journey is what its all about so won’t know until we start it.

    Have you completed your hike yet.


    1. Thanks for reaching out Tom! I actually have no personal experience doing such off trail hikes. These were just my best guesses as to how the logistics would work out. Please don’t take this as a comprehensive guide – make sure to be safe and do your own research first!

      It’s absolutely awesome that you all are attempting this, and best of luck!!! Send me some photos / an article when you’re done!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s