Hike o' the month: Moose Lake in Olympic National Park has it all
Seabury Blair Jr. Mr. Outdoors
Wildflowers, exceptional views, wildlife, the chance to catch a trout, a rugged workout - the hike to Moose Lake has it all. The price for all this splendor is that you must share it with other hikers.
Moose Lake and the Obstruction Point area are among the more popular destinations in the park. Things get even more elbow-to-elbow with backpackers in the evening, making day-hiking an excellent option.
Day-hikers will want to leave plenty of time for the return climb from Moose Lake, because the way is steep and long. Another nag: If there's any hike where extra clothing might come in handy during an evening chill or sudden alpine storm, this is it. It has snowed at Obstruction Point every month of the year, and the trail has the notorious distinction of being the site where, one July four decades ago, two people froze to death.
The trail heads south from the parking lot, which at 6,150 feet would appear to be the top of the world. Actually, after dropping onto a marmot-filled meadow that is flat as a pancake griddle, you'll climb almost 200 feet in the next half mile to another flat plateau filled with phlox and other alpine flowers.
Walk another quarter mile and begin to drop in steep switchbacks where a mountain tarn can be seento the Southeast. You'll drop down to a rocky swale and climb again to a ridge stretching south above Badger Valley. The trail follows the ridge, climbing up and down several times before beginning a long uphill traverse to the high point in the hike, a 6,450-foot peak at 1.2 miles. The trail rounds the peak and begins to descend immediately into the Grand Valley, first with a long downhill traverse, then in steep switchbacks to meadows where creeks gurgle and tarns reflect alpine wildflowers. The trail continues to drop steeply, finally switching back in a meadow and crossing a creek above Grand Lake, at 3.0 miles.
After crossing the creek, the trail meanders through alpine forest to a meadow overlooking Grand Lake and the trail junction leading to the lake, at 3.6 miles. Keep right here and continue past a waterfall another 0.5 miles to Moose Lake. You'll find a great flower-filled meadow for picnicking at the south end of the lake.
For the Kids
Moose Lake is probably too far for most young pedestrians. A better hike for children would be along the first mile of the trail, where they can look down on a number of lakelets on either side of the ridge and play in the lingering snowdrifts along the north side of the ridge.
Hikers can make a loop trip by dropping down to Grand Lake, then following the Grand Valley Trail either directly to Obstruction Point or following the main trail to a junction with the Obstruction Point Trail 2 miles west of the trailhead. I wouldn't recommend this alternative for any, but the strongest hikers, because it loses another 400 feet below Grand Lake before beginning to climb steeply to Obstruction Point in 4.8 miles.
Hikers seeking greater solitude might find it at little Gladys Lake, another 0.5 miles up the trail from Moose Lake.
From Highway 101 in Port Angeles, turn left on Race Street and follow it to the Hurricane Ridge Road just past the Olympic National Park Visitor Center.
Turn right on the Hurricane Ridge Road and be prepared to pay a $10 per carload entry fee at Heart O' the Hills.
Drive 17.5 miles to Hurricane Ridge. On entering the parking area, turn left on the single-lane, gravel Obstruction Point Road and follow it as it winds steeply along an alpine ridge for 8 miles to the Obstruction Point Trailhead.
This road, which opened early this year, was not built for your timid aunt from Iowa and can be dusty in mid-summer.
The Trail to Moose Lake
8.2 miles, round-trip
Allow six hours hiking time
Elevation gain and loss: 1,400 feet
Best in summer, fall
Information: Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center, (360) 565-3100