Ranking: 3/5 A great day hike that allows sweeping ridge line views across the Strait of Juan De Fuca, and also south across the majestic peaks of the Olympic Mountain range. Truly one of the better ridge top hikes you can travel on in the Olympic National Park.
Difficulty: 6/10 The only reason this gets a 6, is because of the length of the hike. It’s not particularly difficult, except for the hike down to Lake Angeles, the trail is steep, and a little washed out in places, with some loose rock and tree roots. The trail elsewhere is well maintained, and easy to follow, with nice amenities at the trailhead, at the visitor center.
Getting there: From I-5N in Tacoma, take exit 132 for S. 38th street, follow signs for Washington 16 W/Gig Harbor/Bremerton, and follow 16W for 27 miles. Continue on 16W, and it turns into 3N, and follow this for 25.1 miles. Turn left onto state route 104W across the Hood Canal Bridge, and follow 104W for 15.1 miles. Then a slight right onto the ramp leading you to Hwy 101N, and follow Hwy 101N for 35.3 miles to Port Angeles. Turn right onto E. Front St., go .9 miles, and then left onto N Race Street, and go another .9 miles where the road turns into the Mt. Angeles Rd, and in .2 of a mile, you will merge slightly right onto the Heart O’ the Hills road, which will take you the remainder of 17.7 miles to the Hurricane Ridge visitor center. As you enter the parking lot, the trailhead for the Klahhane Ridge trail will be to your immediate right.
Permits: It costs $15 a car for a day pass, that is good for 7 days, or you will need a yearly $30 pass to enter the Olympic National Park, or the yearly America the Beautiful Park pass, good for all the National Parks. As of this writing, it is $80 a year. If you plan on staying the night at Lake Angeles, that will also require a Wilderness overnight fee, of $5 per group, and $2 per person per night. Please check the website for Olympic National Park, Wilderness Trip Planner, and look at the wilderness camping/permits link.
Maps: A great map of the area is put out by Green Trails, #134S, Elwha North, Hurricane Ridge.
Hurricane Ridge/Klannane Ridge Added 5/25/2014
Our first hike of the season takes us to an area of Washington, that we’ve rarely visited, the Olympic National Park. Not sure why our trips there have been so seldom, just seems to work out that way. We’re going to make up for it this year, and travel to this region twice this year.
“…Always a stickler for details, I failed to notice the total elevation gain/loss was over 4000ft…”
We thought this would make a great opening hike for the season, a rather long day hike, a 12.5 mile out and back up along the Hurricane Ridge trail, then joining up with the Klahhane Ridge trail that leads us to Lake Angeles. Always a stickler for details, I failed to notice the total elevation gain/loss was over 4000ft to get to the lake and back, and Greg was sure that I left this rather important detail out on purpose…Nope…Just wasn’t paying attention to a detail that might have been something our knees and backs would have liked to know…Or not…
12.6 miles, 4600ft gain/loss. It’s about a 3 hour drive to get to the Hurricane Ridge visitor center from my house, so we left at 5, also great for getting ahead of the traffic. When we arrived in
the Visitor center parking lot, Starbucks in hand, (Yep. There’s one in Port Angeles, and since we left before the local baristas’ opened shop, we had to ignore our caffeine withdrawals until near the trail head…), we were amazed to notice only about 5 cars in the parking lot! On a summer weekend! Really? We thought perhaps we’d missed a sign or something, telling us the place was closed, due to disinterest, but didn’t recall missing that sign, or one like it, anyway…Greg couldn’t believe it, he said every time he and his family came here, the parking lot was always packed…
Breaking out camera equipment, we sighted in on visible Mt. Olympus, and it’s attendant peaks, Mount Fairchild and Carrie. The blue ice of the distant glaciers is visible from the parking lot. White billowing clouds, with dark shadowy underbellies, foretold of a coming storm on top of Mt. Olympus, with thunder showers in the forecast. For now, the rain stays at bay, in the distance.
Not wanting to miss this golden opportunity to pick the parking spot of our desire, (right next to the trailhead), we put on boots, daypacks, and set out on the paved path.
“… Instead of just letting us pass, he felt obligated to play tour guide…”
The pavement quickly ends, as we pick up the Klahhane Ridge trail, and not 10 minutes into the hike, I almost walk right into a 3 point buck, nonplussed at the humans travelling on the trail, as he was busily foraging in the forest duff for something to eat. He’d raise his head to keep an eye on us, but showed no real concern that we had walked to within 6 feet of him. His horns were covered in velvet still, and would glow with an orange aura when they caught the shafts of sunlight filtering down through the trees. Instead of just letting us pass, he felt obligated to play tour guide, I guess, and led us a good 20 or 30 feet down the trail before more eating captured his attention, and he wandered off the side of the trail to root around some more…
The trail steadily climbs for the first mile, as you follow the ridgeline trail up through gradually thinning trees that gave way to meadows filled with a variety of different types of wildflowers, some of which we didn’t know their names until we compared them to the latest app for Greg’s i-phone, a wildflower identifier. The ones that we did know were Indian Paintbrush, tiger lily, lupine, yellow and purple asters, to name a few…
The trail here is easy to follow, and follows the ridgeline up and down, with constant long distant views mainly south, along the continuation of Hurricane ridge, and distant bald peaks, with highlights of snow and ice capping their crowns.
Occasionally, along a ridge crest, you could see north, down to Port Angeles, and the strait. Very nice, to be able to walk a ridgeline like this, and see for miles in all directions.
“…The trail, at least is in good shape, even if your knees and lungs are not…”
At the 2.5 mile mark, we reach the junction for the Klahhane ridge trail, called the Switchback trail, and for good reason. For the next 1.3 miles, you will gain just over a 1000ft in elevation, as the trail winds its way steeply to the top of Klahhane Ridge. The trail, at least is in good shape, even if your knees and lungs are not…
Take the time once you reach the top here to catch your breath, and look back towards Mount Olympus, and North again across the strait, where you will be sure to see massive ocean going freighters gliding in slow motion across the surface, the only indication that they are moving being the wake that they leave behind. This is also where the Heather Park Trail joins up, as it comes up alongside Mount Angeles, upon whose shoulders you are now standing. It’s an interesting hunk of rock, as large striations of once molten rock line its face, like frozen waves in time.
“…leaving you in an awkward pile in the middle of the trail…”
The next .8 miles, travels along the now much narrower ridgeline, among blackened spires of rock until you reach your high point that overlooks Lake Angeles below, at 4.6 miles. The next 1.7 miles drops steeply down to the lakes edge, 1700ft below, on a trail that is in much poorer shape than the trail traveled to get here. We had to be careful of our steps, as many times it felt as if you were walking on ball bearings, the loose rock would roll underfoot, causing your feet to fly out from under you, leaving you in an awkward pile in the middle of the trail. We commented several times how we weren’t looking forward to the return trip up…
At the lake, there are several campsites, and a bear box to lock your food in, a nice touch.
The lake has a small island in it, and for those hardy enough to swim the short distance to its banks, will be rewarded with their own private beach.
The lakes southern end is hemmed in by large sheer rock cliffs, which you stood above before descending to the lake, creating a nice amphitheater in stone. We met two guys here that had just finished swimming in the lake, and after talking to them, learned that one of them had just moved here from Minnesota, and he was amazed at the amount of mountains we had here in this state, and he wanted to explore more of the region, soaking up as much alpine as he could. A nice reminder of just how lucky we are to live here, and to not take for granted the incredible beauty of our Cascades/Olympic mountain ranges.
“…to which I wanted to say, “Guess you should have worn the fox hat…”
A quick lunch, and we followed our path back to the Hurricane Ridge parking lot. It being later, we started to run into quite a few more people, and once we started down the switchback trail, we passed more than a few gasping and tired groups, asking us how much further to the top. Since Greg and I had not exchanged notes before heading out this day, we both had picked orange as our color of the day, and so we received a few comments on our matching apparel, like, “boy, you guys sure stand out”, and to Greg, “where’s your orange hat?” to which I wanted to say, “Guess you should have worn the fox hat…”
As we arrived back at the truck, the empty and forlorn parking lot was no more, instead it was now crowded with sightseers taking pictures, and heading out on their own day trips along the trails.
All in all, a good trip, filled with lots of elevation gain, mileage, and views to keep us interested.