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From majestic, snowy Klahhane Ridge, you can almost see forever
Seabury Blair Jr. Mr. Outdoors

Here's another one of those snowy springtime outings for families who enjoy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing: Klahhane Ridge.

This lofty, scenic alpine ridge connects Hurricane Ridge to 6,454-foot-high Mount Angeles before it plunges down Second and Third Peaks to Heart O' the Hills. From various points you'll be able to see the mountains of Vancouver Island to the north and the rugged jumble of Olympic Mountains to the east, south and west. On a clear day, you can look north across Vancouver Island to the huge coastal range of mainland British Columbia.

Unless you are in search of powder snow, there's little point in taking this hike when visibility is bad. Save this walk for one of those bluebird days of spring, and bring along your binoculars.

You'll find plenty of snow along this route well into April and beyond.

Telemark skiers climb to Klahhane Ridge north of Mount Angeles to plunge off its steep north face for a taste of wild snow, but your hike will take you from Hurricane Ridge Lodge north to the foot of Mount Angeles.

Begin by climbing along the northeasterly side of the ski trail across the Hurricane Ridge Road and north of the lodge. This hill, called Sunrise Ridge, has a rope tow for downhill skiers. The trail for snowshoers and cross- country skiers is on the extreme right, marked by green-circle signs to the top of the ridge.

From there, turn north along the crest of the ridge as it drops, then climbs along the summits of minor peaks, where views seem to stretch forever. The first 300 feet or so may drop too steeply for beginning snowshoers or skiers, but those who are comfortable with exposure to steep slopes can safely navigate this area.

This steep section and another approximately 1.5 miles from the lodge are likely the only two spots that would stop beginners from taking this walk. If they don't mind taking off skis or snowshoes and "post-holing" these sections, there's no reason a beginner should shy away from this outing.

For the most part, the route traverses the southeasterly side of the ridge. A summer trail follows the same route, but in the spring, snow covers the ridge and skiers and 'shoers can simply walk along the crest of the ridge staying well clear of the possible cornices that form along the northwesterly ridgecrest.

At about 1.5 miles, you'll come to a minor peak with possible cornices on the north face. Turn southeast, or right, and follow the ridge down 50 to 100 feet to more gentle terrain before gaining the route to the north as it enters a forest of silver fir.

The peak might make the best turnaround for families just getting their summer hiking legs in shape, but winter walkers can continue another 1.5 miles to the base of Mount Angeles. Here the trail crosses under the northeast face of the mountain, while a climber's route leads up an obvious snow-covered meadow along the ridgecrest.

This would be the second turnaround spot. Skiers can climb the meadow along the climber's route for a good downhill rush, or follow the meadow northwesterly around Angeles to find good north-facing slopes.

Finally, if you are in search of downhill thrills, you can ski or ride easterly off Klahhane Ridge at any point along the crest. You'll drop to the Hurricane Ridge Road below and can walk or hitch a ride back to the lodge.

The Route

0.0   Hurricane Ridge Parking Lot

0.2   Sunrise Ridge

1.5   First turnaround

3.0   Second turnaround

Getting There

From Hood Canal Bridge, follow Highways 104 and 101 to Port Angeles. Turn left on Race Street and follow it past the Olympic National Park Visitor Center to the Hurricane Ridge Road.

Follow the Hurricane Ridge Road 17 miles to the ridge parking lot. Expect to pay a $10 per carload entry fee at Heart O' the Hills.

The road is usually open Thursdays through Mondays, depending on weather conditions. For recorded information on the road, call (360) 452-0329.

A bus runs to Hurricane Ridge on weekends from Port Angeles. Passengers are exempt from paying the park entry fee. For information and fares, call (360) 452-4501.

For 13 other winter ski or snowshoe outings in the Olympic Mountains and 56 winter trails throughout Western Washington, see "Backcountry Ski! Washington," $15.95, Sasquatch Books, by Seabury Blair Jr. Published in The Sun: 03/11/2001


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