Picnic at Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is part of a mountainous area in Washington’s Olympic National Park and part of the Olympic Mountains. At an elevation of 1,598 m, Hurricane Ridge is a year-round destination; in summer folks come for the views and the hiking and in winter they come for skiing and snow sports. Hurricane Ridge is shaped by the weather. Winds gusting over 75 miles an hour buffet the ridge, hence the name “Hurricane.” They have up to 10 metres snow fall annually that can linger into summer and at the visitor centre we read that it’s not uncommon to find snow on the trails even as late as July and they get over 3 metres of rainfall every year too!! But not today… today it was hot!I

Hiking Trails for All Abilities

There are a number of trails to follow; stop off at the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Centre and ask the Rangers for trail maps. They also have programs for children and Ranger led events through the day. The centre isn’t open all year so check the website to see when they are open. We had the day to explore so we opted to merge a few hikes in the morning and tackle the Hurricane Hill Trail in the afternoon.

From the Visitors Centre and parking (there was lots of parking when we arrived) we followed the Cirque Rim Trail. This is an easy flat trail with views down to Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island in the distance. The Park Ranger was there as we arrived and we listened to the chat he gave on the area. The trail is about 1.5kms if you complete the loop. We however continued on to the Big Meadow Trail. Another easy trail that crosses open meadows with fabulous views of the Olympic Mountains; this trail is less that 1km as a loop with very little elevation.

We walked onwards to the High Ridge Trail. The terrain became a little more rustic but never difficult, and there was a little more elevation that the previous two; but the views were majestic. This loop is less that 2kms and ends at Sunrise Point.  Lastly we continued along part of the Klahhane Ridge Trail. This trail is longer at 9kms and follows a ridge to a junction with the Klahhane Switchback trail. We never had time to finish this but it looked a great option for anyone with more time.

Heed the Bear Safety Warnings

We took a picnic and planned on eating it partway along the trail but after seeing all the bear warnings (and learning about their incredible sense of smell from the Ranger) we had second thoughts and decided we’d rather wait and eat back at the picnic area at the Visitors Centre; there are toilets, water refill stations and a snack bar there too.

Hurricane Hill Trail

From the Visitors Centre you can walk to the trailhead, indeed we started to walk but it’s along the road, which is narrow and busy and not a lot of fun… so we returned to the car and drove to the parking area.

From the car park the trail is well marked and relatively short at around 5kms and just about 200m elevation. On a clear day you get 360-degree views across the Straits of Juan de Fuca and beyond to Vancouver Island in Canada’s British Columbia, and in the other direction you’ll see the glacier clad Mount Olympus (although information boards will show you how fast the glaciers are shrinking!) In spring and early summer the meadows come alive with lupin, Indian Paintbrush and avalanche lilies and keep any eye out for marmots, deer and chipmunks and even bears and cougars!

The route was easy to navigate and there were information boards along the paths and additional route options that divert off on to longer trails, although we stayed on the path and just took in the fabulous views.  This trail lived up to all of our expectations and then some!  What a glorious day although unusually hot for September. Go spend a day at Hurricane Ridge, you wont regret it!

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