SEPTEMBER 2000 HIKE O' THE MONTH
Take scenic Olympic route
Seabury Blair Jr.
There is no finer time to get into the Olympic National Park high country than autumn. The short walk to a broad saddle just north of 6,454-foot-high Mount Angeles is a perfect example.
On a clear, crisp autumn day, you can practically see the ivy growing on the walls of the Empress Hotel, all the way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Victoria, British Columbia. The snowcapped Coast Range of British Columbia floats above Vancouver Island like distant clouds, while the icefields of Mount Carrie to the southwest seem so close you can hear them melting.
Watch tankers pull into port at Port Angeles, spot a black bear in the meadows below Hurricane Ridge, slurping blueberries for winter. Look at the fading purple of lupine in the meadows, and the growing reds and oranges of autumn huckleberries.
The hike begins with a short, steep climb to Sunrise Ridge, where in another two months or so you'll find a rope tow and hundreds of young skiers and snowboarders. Find the trail - paved for the first 300 feet or so -across the parking area from the remodeled Hurricane Ridge Lodge.
Climb to the top of Sunrise Ridge, then follow the trail as it drops steeply along the ridge crest and traverses the broad slope above the Hurricane Ridge Road. Views here are to the southwest, toward Mount Carrie, Mount Olympus, and south up the Elwha and Lillian River valleys. You can look east toward Obstruction Point.
The trail alternately climbs and drops for about a mile, then switches back down a steep section to cross a flat, broad saddle underneath the south face of Mount Angeles. As the ridge climbs toward the mountain, the trail cuts to the right, angling across the face of the peak in subalpine forest.
The trail descends slightly, and after crossing a rock-filled gully, emerges on a dirty sidehill to join with the Switchback Trail, about 3 miles from Hurricane Ridge. The Switchback trail plunges down, in 0.5 miles, to a big switchback on the Hurricane Ridge Road, 2 miles downhill from the lodge.
If you have two cars, or arrange to meet someone hiking up the Switchback Trail, this is a good spot to exchange car keys to make a one-way trip. A better option might be to meet at the Mount Angeles Saddle, the broad ridge that is 0.5 miles UP the trail from the junction.
This final half-mile to the Saddle is the steepest of all but shouldn't be difficult if you take your time to admire the view. A big rock at the saddle makes an excellent spot for a picnic and to ogle the scenery.
* 7.2 miles, round-trip (4.2 miles with key exchange)
* Moderately steep with short steep sections
* Best for intermediate and strong hikers
* 600-foot elevation gain and loss
* Carry plenty of water
* Pets and vehicles prohibited
* Paved nature trail at Hurricane is wheelchair accessible with assistance.
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 it about 17.5 miles to Hurricane Ridge. Be prepared to pay a $10 per carload entry fee at Heart O' the Hills.
0.0 - Hurricane Ridge Parking Lot
0.3 - Sunrise Ridge
1.3 - Switchbacks downhill
3.0 - Switchback Trail Junction. Climb left.
3.6 - Mount Angeles Saddle