Hurricane Ridge, a destination in the Olympic National Park system, is great option for any time of year. A few things to keep in mind before you go:
- Make sure you tell someone where you’re going.
- Take the 10 essentials. If you don’t know what this means, plan for shorter, less difficult hikes until you get some experience and have done some research.
- There is a fee to enter the park, unless you have a pass.
- There are fee-free days at all US National Parks including Veteran’s Day Weekend and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Check the National Parks website for exact dates.
- Snow can close the road during the winter – check the website or call before you head out.
- There is food at the Visitor’s Center, but budget hikers will want to bring their own.
- There are many, many more hikes available from this parking area, or a few more just a mile or two away.
There’s plenty of parking, with a well supplied visitor center that has maps, brochures, and very well informed park rangers. They take great care of the park, and try to address problems as they occur. I’m sure there are comment forms available, but when I returned from my hike I was asked if I had seen any trail problems, or bothersome wildlife. (As a side note, wildlife can become ‘bothersome’ if they grow too accustomed to people. Removing the fear-factor can turn a shy mountain goat into a battering ram. Please protect yourself and others; do NOT feed or otherwise try to interact with the wildlife. They are just as cute from a distance.) You are at 5242 feet (1.6 m) and you need to be aware that there is less oxygen in the air. Remember this as you plan your hike.
Numerous trails can be accessed from the visitor’s center including a paved loop with plenty of signs describing the flowers, trees and grasses. Before you start on any of them, sign into the trail book in the visitor’s center. They want to know where to look for you if you don’t return.
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let's start our day. An extension off the paved loop will take you up a steep hill to an amazing view.
Head back down from the viewpoint and take a left instead of returning to the visitor’s center. You’re on the first steps of an amazing trail to the Klahhane Ridge. You actually passed a shorter, but steeper route to the ridge on the road to the visitor’s center, on the right. If you take the trail you’re on, in about three miles, your path will connect with the steep switchback trail that we avoided. Much of our path, the Mount Angeles Trail, isn’t too difficult, and you can, of course, turn back any time.
After leaving the high point, you ascend another ridge with a slightly different view, continue over this for a lovely walk through a mountain meadow. Be prepared; the meadow path is on the side of a mountain, and although it’s very safe, it can be a bit unnerving.
Once you pass the meadow, the trail gets a little more difficult as it enters into a forested area and begins to have more peaks and valleys. The trail dips down as it approaches the switchback trail, and once it intersects it really starts to get steep. You’ll continue to climb through the forested area until, at last, you break free from the trees. Turn around.
That green peak in the foreground? Yep, that’s how far we’ve come. You can just see the road to the visitor’s center on the left and we came over the peak to the right of the road. The big one.
If you’ve made it this far, you may as well keep going; the peak is just up ahead. Emphasis on the up. You have about a mile to go, and about 500 feet of elevation to gain, but no one says you can’t stop every 15 feet and take a breather. You are more than a mile above sea level and your body is not used to the thinner air; respect this, it will make your hike a lot more enjoyable. Once you reach the top, sit for a bit, take some pictures, have a snack – you have earned every bit of it. I won’t post a picture of the view from the top; you’ll need to see that for yourself. Welcome to Klahhane Ridge, a Chinook word meaning outdoors”, and she will show you a lot of it. While you’re enjoying your well-earned break, marvel at the die-hards that are continuing on the trail to Lake Angeles, a 2000 foot drop. Wow.
You’re now at 6064 feet – more than 800 feet higher than where you left your car but the good news is that much of the return journey is downhill. Wander around the ridge a bit to warm up before your trek back to the visitor’s center. Follow the same trail you just came in on, taking plenty of breaks to enjoy the amazing panorama. You’re on top of the world!
Once back at the visitor’s center, check in with a ranger if you saw anything that you think should be reported. Sign yourself out of the trail book, and pick a comfortable spot to sit and people watch for a bit. You’ve just hiked almost eight miles. Enjoy it.
In addition to hiking, the area has facilities for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. The weather can change quickly and the wind is always blowing; dress in layers, whichever time of year you go. Snow can be found in patches all year round, and the flora has had an amazing adaptive response to the harshness of the climate. Check out the skirted trees, I’ve never seen that anywhere else.
Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park System
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