Hurricane Ridge runs east to west on the northern side of the Olympic peninsula. The mountains in the peninsula are not very high. The tallest, Mt. Olympus is only about 8000 ft. But since they are located so close to the Pacific coast, they block air masses that move in from the ocean resulting in heavy rain and snow.
Hundreds of miles of trails run inside the park. Trails that start from Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center offer magnificent views of the glacier-covered peaks of the mountains, the subalpine tundra meadows and the Pacific coastline.
Hurricane Hill Trail
The visitor center has several vantage points for superb views of Mt. Olympus (elev. 7965 ft.): Mt. Carrie (elev. 6995 ft.) and the snow-covered peaks in the Bailey range. Several short trails start from here. The Hurricane Hill trail is especially noteworthy since it offers spectacular views of the Olympics and the strait separating the U.S. and Canada.
This trail starts off on a paved pathway to the west of the visitor center. Steep dropoffs lead to enter grassy meadows. This region is called the montane life zone, which is colder than the lowland forests below. Cedars and Firs grow here in abundance.
Upon reaching the subalpine tundra zone, open meadows are wider and separated by remote islands of trees. In late spring and summer marigolds, buttercups and lupine carpet the area. The mountains to the left reflect a deeper shade of blue, with glaciers radiating out from their peaks. The ruggedly carved peaks of mountains in the lower elevations and deep valleys and canyons below create an awesome scene.
Straits of Juan de Fuca
A little higher up, sometimes above the clouds, the Little River Trail joins the Hurricane Hill Trail. A turnout at Hurricane Hill (elev. 5757 ft.), the highest elevation in this trail, overlooks the Straits of Juan de Fuca, which separates the Olympic Peninsula from Vancouver Island.
Deers and Marmots are frequent visitors, and often they can be seen during a our hike. There are isolated areas on top of this hill where trees provide shade for rest. Winds blow hard here, bringing with them a lot of moisture from the Pacific to be dropped off as snow and rain on the peninsula.
Hiking along the Hurricane Ridge is one of the best ways to discover the mysteries of this pristine wonderland.
Best time of year: Late spring, summer and early fall.
Maps: Free trail maps can be obtained from the visitor center in Port Angeles.
Access for people with special needs: Only 0.5 mile of the Hurricane Hill trail is paved and has wheelchair access. It is quite steep and has no guard rails. TDD access (360) 452-0306.
Getting there: From Seattle, I-5 south to Olympia and Route 101 toward Shelton and Sequim. Port Angeles can also be reached by private ferries that run from Seattle across the Puget Sound. For reservations call Washington State Ferries at (206) 464-6400. There is no public transportation inside the park. The park headquarters is in Port Angeles. A well paved road leads to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center (elev. 5230 ft.), about 17 miles away.
Entrance Fees: $5 per vehicle payable in the entrance to the national park.
Useful Phone Numbers: Olympic National Park Headquarters in Port Angeles (206) 452-4501. Olympic National Forest Headquarters in Olympia, WA (206) 956-2400.
Camping: About 100 campsites are available in the Heart O' Hills campground. $10 per night. Call (360) 956-2300 for reservations and information.
Caveats: During winter this trail might be closed. Heavy winds, rain or snow can cause hazardous conditions.