Hurricane Ridge is the easiest place in Olympic National Park for most people to visit. This is because it is located about eighteen miles south of Port Angeles. Port Angeles has an airport and most of the hotels in the area.
Olympic National Park is divided and separated into two sections. There is the main park and the coastline. Both are part of the Olympic National Park. The main part of the park is the mountainous region (including Mount Olympus) and there is an extensive coastline section to the west of some private property. The biggest part of the main section of Olympic National Park is only accessible by trail.
There are only a few roads that go into the Olympic National Park. U.S. Highway 101 goes around the park on the north and west side. Hurricane Ridge Road on the north side and Hoh Rainforest Road on the west side are the major roads that go into the main part of the park.
We wanted to visit every section of the park. For us, this meant visiting both the main section of the park and the coastline. Our first trip into the park was to Hurricane Ridge. We made our visit on a day trip while staying in the Dungeness Recreation area north of Sequim.
I mentioned Sequim in my previous post about the Olympic Rainshadow. Hurricane Ridge also benefits from the Olympic Rain Shadow although not nearly as much as Sequim. Here is a link to that article. Olympic Rain Shadow
From Port Angeles
Hurricane Ridge is the area of the park closest to Port Angeles. The directions are easy but for some reason, the name of the road changes three times. From Highway 101 in Port Angeles, turn south on Race Street. As you pass Park Avenue the name changes to Mt. Angeles Road. The “in-city” Olympic National Park visitors center will be on the right side just south of Park Avenue. Just after passing the visitors center, there is an intersection, stay to the right and you will be on Hurricane Ridge Road.
At Lake Dawn, Mt. Angeles Road reconnects with Hurricane Ridge Road. This small section of Mt. Angeles Road however does not connect with the main Mt. Angeles Road that was in Port Angeles. To the south of this intersection is the Heart O Hills Campground. Heart-O-Hills campground has lots of trees and lots of shade. It is open year-round and operates on a first come first serve basis.
There are only a few campgrounds in Olympic National Park that take reservations. Heart-O-Hills campground is not one of them. Campground reservations (for campgrounds that take reservations) are only available in the summer season.
The visitors center is about eighteen miles south of Port Angeles. It has a small park store with a typical assortment of tee shirts and similar items. The one thing that makes it special is that it has wonderful views of the mountains. The views to the south are amazing but don’t forget to look in the other directions.
As you can tell from the pictures, the mountains to the south are further away than the peaks in the other directions. Between the visitors center and Mount Olympus is the Elwah River canyon which flows to the north and into the Strait Juan de Fuca to the west of Port Angeles.
The Elwha River is short (45 miles long) but it is the major river in the area of the park. During the rainy season, the river flows at forty thousand cubic feet per second. For my fishing friends, now that the dam has been removed, salmon should return to the river, and assuming you are there in the summer, after the spring runoff, the river will be pristine. In addition to several species of salmon, steelhead trout and ocean-run cutthroat trout are in the river at different times of the year.
A little to the west of the visitors’ center is the trailhead for Hurricane Hill. This paved trail (yes I said paved, with asphalt). I think that the decision was made to pave the trail due to the high traffic level and rainfall. The Hurricane Hill trail is almost three and a half miles long and very steep climbing a thousand feet vertically. It is very popular. The rainfall in the area probably made trail maintenance an annual nightmare.
Like most National Parks the wildlife does not consider tourists (us) as a threat. I didn’t approach this buck, rather he approached me, not to come to me, but rather I was just along the path that he was using. Remember the asphalt trail I mentioned, it is also in this picture, right behind the buck.
As I already said, we visited Hurricane Ridge while staying in Sequim. Then after that, we drove further west (on a different day) and visited Crescent Lake. I think that it may be the prettiest alpine lake we have seen in our last five years of travel. Arguably Crescent Lake is prettier than Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe both of which are stunning.
Changing campgrounds, we then went to Forks Washington and visited the westernmost point of the continental United States. From Forks, we then went back east and camped at the Hoa Rainforest and then camped at the Olympic National Park coastal area at the beach.
I hope you like the stories about Olympic National Park because I have lots more blog posts to do on the subject.
Olympic National Park year-round playground
Because it is close to Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge gets visitors every season. In the winter, there is a small ski area. In the spring, you might want to check the forecast for high winds, just saying, it is named Hurricane Ridge for a reason. For us, at the end of the summer season going to Hurricane Ridge was a great introduction to the Olympic National Park. We got some great views of the Olympic Mountain range and even a view all the way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca all the way to Canada.