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AUGUST 2000 HIKE O' THE MONTH
GRAND RIDGE TRAIL
Seabury Blair Jr.
Mr. Outdoors

THE HIKE

7.6 miles, one-way (or exchange car keys)
Steep and moderately steep sections
Best for strong hikers
750-foot elevation gain and loss
Carry plenty of water
Pets and vehicles prohibited
No section is accessible to wheelchairs (but the drive is worth the trip)

THE ROUTE 0.0  -  Obstruction Point Parking Lot
0.2  -  Steep snowfield, junction with Badger Valley way trail. Keep left
1.2  -  Elk Mountain
3.0  -  Steep descent to Roaring Winds Camp
3.3  -  Roaring Winds Camp. Steep climb back to Grand Ridge
5.2 -  Maiden Peak. Descend to Grassy Valley
6.1  -  Grassy Valley
7.6  -  Deer Park

The high, rocky trail along the northern crest of the Olympic Mountains is one of Olympic National Park's most scenic walks.

Aptly named Grand Ridge stretches for 7.6 miles above Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, providing an alpine hiking connection from Obstruction Point, on the west end, to Deer Park, on the east. It makes an ideal one-way trek for hikers who can park cars at either end, meet for lunch in the middle, and trade car keys.

But before planning such an adventure, call the park at (360) 452-4501 to make certain the roads leading to Obstruction Point and Deer Park are open and snow-free. Snowdrifts linger on the Obstruction Point Road well into July; sometimes longer.

If you can't muster two cars, plan on hiking half-way from either trailhead. I prefer to start from Obstruction Point, simply because the 8.4-mile drive from Hurricane Ridge is an adventure in itself.

But both the Obstruction Point Road and the Deer Park Road are sufficient to give flatlanders heart palpitations driving to the trailhead. In fact, non-hikers eager to get up close and personal with the Olympic Mountains could choose no better way than to drive one (or both) of these roads.

Mountain bikers in search of thrills - and exercise - will also find both along these roads, too. They are excellent gravel alternatives to the crowded Hurricane Ridge Road.

From Obstruction Point, the trail drops briefly to cross the headwall of Grand Valley between 6,450-foot-high Obstruction Point and 6,575-foot-high Elk Mountain. Hikers on this section of trail must navigate a steep snowfield, but there's usually a well-marked path, sometimes with a handline for added security.

You can walk for about 3 miles along the Grand Ridge Trail from Obstruction Point without gaining or losing substantial elevation. But when you reach the lofty perch above Roaring Winds Camp, you'll see the trail descending steeply about 500 feet to the low saddle that makes a good turnaround spot or meeting spot for those exchanging car keys.

Roaring Winds provides 360-degree views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island and the interior Olympic Mountains. There's no water along the length of this trail, so plan on carrying plenty with you.

If you're hiking beyond Roaring Winds, you'll climb steeply again to the 6,000-foot high ridge and continue east past Maiden Peak and Green Mountain to Deer Park. The last mile of this trail is up the abandoned road originally planned to connect to Obstruction Point.

GETTING THERE

From Hood Canal Bridge, follow Highway 104 and 101 to Port Angeles. If driving to Deer Park, turn left off Highway 101 at the Deer Park Road, just east of the multiplex theater and Toyota car dealership before entering Port Angeles and the Morse Creek Valley.

If you are bound for Obstruction Point, continue past the Deer Park Road on Highway 101 to Race Street. Turn right on Race Street and follow the Hurricane Ridge Road to Hurricane Ridge. Be prepared to pay a $10 entry fee at Heart O' the Hills.

Turn left on entering the Hurricane Ridge parking lot onto the Obstruction Point Road. It looks like you're driving off a cliff.

The gravel road drops steeply for the first half mile, enters the forest, then drops again to a saddle below Steeple Rock, then climbs past Steeple Rock. The road continues past Waterhole and climbs steeply past Eagle Point.

It drops from Eagle Point, rounds a corner, then enters alpine forest to climb to Obstruction Point. There's a big parking lot, outhouses, and marmots which have a reputation for chewing on things like radiator hoses and other vital car parts.

The trail begins at the east end of the parking lot. Don't confuse it with the Grand Lake Trail, which starts near the east end of the lot, but heads south, up the hill you can see from the lot.

Though large, the Obstruction Point parking area is often full. Be prepared to park along the roadside before reaching the lot, and expect a dusty ride home.


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