Photography Travel Guide to Hurricane Ridge
Olympic National Park
One of the most popular destinations in Olympic National Park is Hurricane Ridge. It is only a 17-mile drive from Port Angeles, but what a drive! From sea level you climb to stunning mountain vistas, wildlife, and alpine country just a short stroll from your car.
The road up to the ridge is wide and paved. The grade rises at a a steady 7% that should not be a problem for passenger cars or motor homes, but those pulling trailers should leave them behind. At the top of the ridge is a visitor center with a cafeteria. However, there are no lodging or camping facilities here. This is a day-use area only. The most delightful time to visit is in early summer. Wildflowers, especially glacier lilies, will be in bloom and there is a good chance of seeing the young fawns of black-tailed deer. Purple lupine dominate the spectacular wildflower bloom during the later part of the summer.
In late September or early October the lower elevations of the drive have fall color. During winter the ridge is open to snowshoeing and cross country skiing, however, the weather determines if the road is plowed. When plowed, the road does not open until 9:00 A.M. and is closed to uphill traffic at 4:00 P.M. For road conditions call (206) 452-0329. Hurricane Ridge is well named and you can experience high winds here any time of year. You also can't always tell what the weather is like on the ridge from Port Angeles. A cloudy day on the coast may still be sunny up in the mountains.
The road starts in Port Angeles, and in 17 miles goes from sea level to 5,200 feet. From Port Angles take Race Street to the Olympic Park Port Angeles Visitor Center. This is a good place to stop for maps and current information. Continue to Heart o' the Hills Campground. This is a good base camp for explorations of Hurricane Ridge if you are a camper. From here the road starts its steady climb to Hurricane Ridge. There are many turnouts along the way, each with an ever higher view.
About 3.5 miles from the campground is a turnoff for Lookout Rock. From here there are excellent views looking north over Port Angeles and the Straits of Juan de Fuca below. You can follow a short trail for a view into Morse Creek Canyon and a view of the Olympic Mountains. Back on the road you will pass through some tunnels and then come to another turnout about a mile farther that has another great view. About a mile before reaching the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is a turnout with an outstanding view of the high alpine country.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is about 12.5 miles from the campground. From the back of the visitor center are panoramic views of the Olympic Range. There are several excellent and easy paved trails for you to explore across from the center that take you around Big Meadow. You can probably walk the paved path in about a half hour. Black-tailed deer are common and fairly tame here and an early visit may provide you with excellent deer photo opportunities. Early summer is a good time to find mothers with their fawns. You may also encounter colonies of marmots along the trails. This is an excellent place for summer wildflowers. Above the treeline at the north end of the loop you have views looking north over Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into Canada. A side trip (an extra 45 minutes) up to the top of Alpine Hill will provide you with spectacular vistas and more wildflowers to photograph.
Hurricane Hill and the Lookout Trail
You will want to continue northwest another mile along the paved road to the trailhead for Hurricane Hill. This would be a great sunset or sunrise destination on a clear day. Wildflowers are at their best in early summer, especially along the first portion of the trail. It is 1.5 miles to the summit and you should allow an hour to reach the top. The trail starts out fairly level and then climbs up to the lookout point. You may encounter colonies of marmots along the way. From the summit you have excellent views looking into the Olympic Range, east toward Mt Angeles and north over Port Angeles and the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Trails from the summit lead you to more alpine meadows.
Obstruction Point Road
Just east of the visitor center is the start of Obstruction Point Road. This is a very rough road but can be traveled by a passenger car-just take your time. The first part may be a bit intimidating as it drops off sharply. The road is generally open by the beginning of July. You should pack a picnic lunch and plan to spend a good part of the day. The road travels eight miles along the top of Hurricane Ridge to the end at Obstruction Point. Several trails leave from the ridge and also at the end of the road for the ambitious hiker. There are good views along the way and plenty of opportunities to photograph wildflowers. A colony of marmots can be found about halfway, and early and late in the day you are likely to encounter black-tailed deer.
Copyright 1997, Photo Traveler Publications. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed, except with written permission. You may make a copy for your own personal use.