Exploring Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park
Hurricane Ridge is located in the Olympic National Park, just above the Port Angeles area. The drive up to the visitor’s center takes about a half an hour, not because of the distance, but because of the long windy scenic road.
A ways up you start getting the first overlooks, with stunning views of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca and the islands and mountains beyond. Then, after three mountain-carved tunnels, you start getting glimpses of the mountains themselves. Once you approach Hurricane Ridge, you get a sense of being near the top of the world as you reach an elevation just over 5200’ from the sea level below.
Hurricane Ridge is an area for all levels of hikers…and the views, especially on a clear day, are spectacular. Even on days when clouds hover over the regal landscape, you can still see wind-sculpted evergreen trees outlined against the sky like a canvas painting.
There are paved trails in the Big Meadow for those who want to experience the views the ridge has to offer, without the rigors of strenuous hiking. A number of trails begin from this area, and take visitors through the scenic majesty that Hurricane Ridge has to offer. The Visitor Center is located seventeen miles from Port Angeles.
The Visitor Center is open in the winter and also functions as a ski lodge. Even if travelers do not want to ski, the Visitor Center offers a gift shop, food concessions, a museum and restrooms. During the off season, visitors may still visit the Center and look at the museum displays, however be aware that during off seasons, the staff is limited. I learned of this as I was there during a shoulder season and wanted to do a long hike, but no trail maps or staff were available.
The visitor center has a series of large picturesque windows, so if you’re there during cold windy weather, you can stay cozy inside and enjoy the views of glaciers on Mount Carrie and the Bailey Range. The views to the north include Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Victoria onVancouver Island. The landscape is made up of subalpine fir, mountain hemlock, Alaska yellow cedar, Douglas fir and western white pine—there are more than 15 species of native conifers in Olympic National Park.
It’s easy for one to forget they’re only miles away from town when exploring Hurricane Ridge. Skiers are drawn to downhill and cross-country routes, hikers to the variety of trails past crystal lakes and through backcountry. Wildlife is abundant, as are the summit’s 360-degree views. While you’re there you might just run into a Marmot, blacktailed deer, a variety of birds to the occasional black bear. In mid-summer the peak of the ridge’s impressive wildflower display is not to be missed.
Drive south from Port Angeles on Race Street, which turns into Hurricane Ridge Road and in seventeen miles you’ll reach the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.