Hiking Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
When we’re not lounging on a Florida beach in the hot sun or gallivanting the globe, we love to hike locally. Local, to us, is anything within a few hours’ drive of Seattle. One of our favorite local activities is hiking in Olympic National Park. It’s such an interesting place, with beaches, lowland rainforests, snow-capped peaks, and sweeping views from terrifying ridges. If you’re visiting Seattle hiking Hurricane Ridge is a great idea as it’s one of the closest access points to the Park.
I think most people in the Pacific Northwest will tell you that no visit to the Seattle area is complete without going hiking. There are tons and tons of options, but we truly prefer and will direct visitors to either Mt Rainier National Park or Olympic National Park. Both can be done as day trips or long weekends. Since we live closer, we more often go hiking in Olympic National Park and hiking at Hurricane Ridge is unforgettable every time.
What you'll find...
- Hiking Hurricane Ridge
Locale of Hurricane Ridge
As you’re driving on Highway 101 looping around the Olympic Peninsula, you must go through Sequim and Port Angeles. Although the towns themselves might not grab your eye immediately, they’re worth investing a day in…but we’re talking about hiking, not playing tourist.
So, you’re driving through downtown PA and you see a sign for Hurricane Ridge and you turn. You instantly start heading up hill. You’ll wind past the Port Angeles Olympic National Park Visitor Center, up through a few tunnels and keep going up out of the forest. All of the sudden you’re driving on the side of a mountain with little to no shelter and you keep going up. Eventually the road flattens out and you’re in a parking lot on the top of the mountain. Weird and beautiful.
Note: Hurricane Ridge is one of the areas of Olympic National Park that has a fee to access. If you have the National Parks Pass/Interagency Pass/Access you’ll be covered, otherwise it is $20+ to drive through the gate.
Getting to Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge is located about 3 hours northwest from Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula. You’ll need to take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry or the Seattle-Bainbridge Ferry and drive up the Peninsula to get to the park. You can also drive around Puget Sound to go up the Peninsula. Plan on traffic through Tacoma though and check traffic patterns before you hit the road. Even though it takes some time to get there, this is one of the best day trips from Seattle!
Tip: if you’re taking the ferry, be sure to look at return ferry times so that you don’t get stuck somewhere late at night or have to sit through several boats on busy weekend days.
Entry into Olympic National Park
Since the hikes are in Olympic National Park, you’ll need to bring money for the entrance fee. The entrance costs $30 for a private car, $10 for bicycles or walk-ins, and $25 for motorcycles. This fee lasts for seven days, so make the most of it if you plan on doing multiple hikes.
Tip: get a National Parks America the Beautiful annual pass to save on future visits. It only takes three National Park visits in a year to make up the value!
Once you enter the park, it’s smart to check in with a ranger at the information center. They can give you any essential updates you need to know on hikes, such as any closed trails or recent wildlife sightings. Rangers can also listen to your plan and let you know if that sounds realistic.
The park allows camping in designated areas, so you can stay overnight if you want to explore the park for a few days. Some campsites are reservation-only, while others are first-come, first-serve. You can check the website for further information and updates on closures. FYI, since there isn’t a campground at the top, if you want to go camping while hiking Hurricane Ridge, you’ll need to look for a spot at Heart O’ the Hills campground.
Hiking Hurricane Ridge
One of the most scenic hiking areas on the Olympic Peninsula may be Hurricane Ridge. Located on the north side of Olympic National Park, this area gets its name from the hurricane-type gusts that can happen (up to 75 miles an hour!). There are nearly a dozen different trails you can choose from for hiking Hurricane Ridge, depending on your skill level and the view you want. Here is some helpful information for choosing the best trails at Hurricane Ridge and making a great day trip of it!
Hiking Trails at Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge is the most popular hiking destination on the Olympic Peninsula. We recommend arriving as early as possible to get parking and beat the crowds. If you cannot arrive early, late afternoon (after 2pm) is also a good time if you are planning a shorter hike.
There are eight different hikes you can do at Hurricane Ridge. Here is a list of the trails from easiest to hardest:
- Big Meadow: Any skill level can go on this wheelchair-accessible trail, which has an elevation gain of 50 feet and is 1/2 mile round-trip. You’ll be able to get some good pictures of the mountains at the end of this trail.
- Cirque Rim: Another trail that allows wheelchairs, this is one-mile round-trip and has a 50-foot elevation gain. You’ll be able to see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the town of Port Angeles on a clear day.
- High Ridge: This one-mile round-trip hiking trail leads to Sunrise Point, where you’ll have a panoramic view of the area. This has approximately 220 feet of elevation gain.
- Hurricane Hill: This trail is popular, as it’s 700-foot elevation gain lets you see the ocean. At 3 miles round-trip, it’s still very doable for most people.
- Klahhane Ridge: You’ll gain over 250 feet in elevation within the first 3 miles on this trail and the last mile goes up to 800 feet. This is a moderately difficult hiking trail due to the steepness.
- Hurricane Hill/Elwha: You’ll take the Hurricane Hill trail and go down through the meadows to complete this 12-mile round-trip hike. There are many switchbacks and an elevation loss of 5,250-feet. Keep in mind that you have to come back up, so pace yourself accordingly.
- Wolf Creek: One of the more advanced trails, you’ll follow a dirt trail down through the Elwha Valley for a 3,772-foot elevation loss. This trail is 16-miles round-trip.
- Little River Dirt: Don’t let the “little” in this name trick you, as it’s another 16-mile round-trip hiking trail. You’ll experience an elevation loss of 4,073 feet.
Like with hiking anywhere else, remember to be wise and know your limits. Hiking Hurricane Ridge can be quite challenging and time seems to go by faster when you’re up in the Olympics. Keep an eye on the weather and amount of daylight left. Safety first!
Best Hiking at Hurricane Ridge: Klahhane Ridge trail
We like the Lake Angeles / Klahhane Ridge trail as our top pick for hiking at Hurricane Ridge. It starts off mellow, providing sweeping views through mountain valleys, down to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and across to Vancouver Island and Victoria. Hiking this path is a great way to hone your trail-chops. While you’re still early in the hike, it’s very kid friendly. The climbs aren’t too steep and the path is wide. There’s even an old ski hut and ancient chair lift to provide a bit of historical creepiness.
Once you’ve been hiking for a bit you do start to climb as you ascend to the Klahhane Ridge. You’re in a sub-alpine forest, which means that the trees are scarce and the ones that are there are grouped in stubby little stands. You’ll find that there’s not much shade from the sun or wind, so being prepared with hats and sunblock is a must.
Tip: When you think you need a little break, take one, because that sun and wind are out to get you and zap your energy and common sense. With a narrow trail, take advantage of the wider spots you come across.
The trail continues on and the hikers become fewer. The hillsides become steeper and the trail morphs into what we’d call not kid-friendly. Big kids are fine probably, but little kids that like to run or trip or not look where they’re going, yeah no. The views change too. Instead of looking north to Canada you’re taken around the ridge for a glance at the rest of Washington State: Hood Canal, Seattle, Mt Rainier, and the Cascade Mountains. It’s breathtaking.
If you go all of the way on the trail you’re looking at 3.5 miles to Lake Angeles and twice that to the Klahhane Ridge. Just like with any hiking, be prepared and know what lies ahead.
Wildlife on Hurricane Ridge
There are several trails to choose from that all leave from the same spot. This is one of those times that we’ll tell you to go into the ranger station and see what’s up. Sometimes there are mountain goats or cougar warnings, so trails may be closed. Sometimes there’s been a wash out far down the trail and you won’t be able to hike to where you want.
The ranger can make a recommendation on how far is safe to go or just tell you “No, you can’t hike there today.”
The big thing though it to listen to the rangers and DO NOT go seeking out wildlife. The animals you might encounter at Hurricane Ridge are dangerous, even if they don’t seem it. These ones aren’t as docile as what you encounter in Yellowstone (which are still dangerous) and you don’t want to be a headline. There are also bears in the Park, so following all food storage and safety precautions pertaining to black bears is also a must.
Note: the mountain goats in Olympic National Park aren’t endemic, but we brought in for hunting purposes in the 1920s and are still around today. They’ve taken a toll on the Ridge and surrounding areas, so be wary of loose soil on and around trails from their pawing and such.
One other fun species to look out for up on Hurricane Ridge is the sooty grouse. You’ll be walking along and hear this low thumping sound, like a cartoon rabbit in a log. That’s one of the interesting sounds the grouse makes. And we’ve seen then several times up on the Ridge.
Picnics at Hurricane Ridge
Of course we’ll tell you about where to have a picnic. It’s us. We picnic everywhere. After hiking at Hurricane Ridge you have three great options. If it’s cold, windy or rainy, you can use the tables inside the ranger station lounge. It’s got picture windows all around and a grand fireplace. Outside of the building are picnic tables too, all with the same amazing view looking across the Olympic Mountains.
Tip: the ranger station also is a Visitor Center, but its displays and information for perusing are minimal. There is a gift shop and snack shop if you need as well, say for perhaps a dandy sweatshirt when it’s windy, but it’s not the full Visitors Center facilities you may be used to in other National Parks.
For a more secluded lunch, you can pack in your picnic to the top of the ski lift area or hop in your car and head northwest away from the lot to the picnic areas just a few minutes away and down the hill a tad. There are TONS of actual picnic sites, all located within the stubby forest, and there are restroom facilities for when nature calls. Know that we’re directing you past the Visitors Center and NOT back down the hill towards the Park exit.
Hurricane Ridge in the winter
If you happen to be on the Olympic Peninsula during the winter and spring months, there is still hiking at Hurricane Ridge… in a manner of speaking. When the Olympics get covered in snow, they still do have clear days and the Visitors Center up on the Ridge is manned. During those winter months you can use designated areas for cross country skiing or sledding. It’s always best to plan for some super cold moments if you’re head up into the mountains in the winter, so be sure you’ve got your warmest coats, hats and gloves. Oh, and don’t forget your toboggan or sled.
Note: You will need to have chains available in your car even if you don’t see snow down in Port Angeles. If you’re comfortable with it, studded tires may also be approved.
Post-hiking Craft Beers: Barhop Brewing in Port Angeles
After all that hiking, you’re bound to be hungry (and a little thirsty). Many people in the Pacific Northwest knows that nothing goes better with a hike than a cold beer after, so head up to Barhop Brewing. This brewery is about 40 minutes north of the park in Port Angeles.
They have an impressive selection of beer, such as the Patio Pale, Heart of the Hills Pils, and Winterhop Imperial Stout. While there’s a handful you’ll always find on tap, they also offer rotating taps so so you can try something new each time you visit. These include the Respect Your Cranny Cranberry Blonde, Summerhop Stout, and Man Sized El Dorado Milkshake IPA.
When you’re ready for food, check out their wood-fired pizza selection. Whether you’re in the mood for a veggie pesto pizza or a meat-lover pizza, you’ll find it’s just what you need after hiking. The brewery also has appetizers such as a meat and cheese plate, mac ‘n’ cheese, and stuffed jalapenos.
Where to stay to visit Hurricane Ridge
Since we live close we usually make hiking at Hurricane Ridge a day trip, but sometimes we add it to longer weekends. There is camping in this part of Olympic National Park at the Heart O’ the Hills campground. The sites are not the biggest you’ll find in a National Park, but the campground is quite mossy and beautiful. As of 2017 it is fully on a first-come-first-served basis so you cannot make a reservation.
Another great option for lodging is staying either in Port Townsend or Port Angeles. Fort Worden in Port Townsend has some really cool accommodations in the old barracks that have been remodeled. We have also enjoyed staying at a really nice bed and breakfast in Port Angeles called Domaine Madeleine. Both are cool spots for a few night and both are very family friendly.
As you can see, we really enjoy hiking at Hurricane Ridge and taking advantage of all of the beautiful spots around the Olympic Peninsula. Olympic National Park is best experienced on a weekday in the summer, as our fall storms here in the PNW can be just gross and, well, there’s a reason Hurricane Ridge is called that: it’s crazy windy up there. Plan your trip wisely and you’ll have a great time hiking at Hurricane Ridge and seeing why we love to call this place home.
We hope you enjoy your time hiking Hurricane Ridge. If you have any questions or addition suggestions for the Hurricane Ridge entrance to Olympic National Park, please leave a comment or contact us. We love to share complete information and feature others’ recommendations as well!
Want to pin this for later when you’re planning your summer hiking? Go for it!