Off the Highway – Olympic National Park

One of the first places we visited in Washington State is the Olympic National Park., the largest national park in the state. At 1,442 square miles, it is slightly more than five times the size of Singapore. Hence it is impossible to see and experience the park in a couple of days.  Since we had only three days, we visited only one section of the park.

Hurricane Ridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Located 17 miles south of Port Angeles, it often gets wind gusts over 75 miles an hour, hence lending the name ‘Hurricane’.

In the winter, Hurricane Ridge receives 30-35 feet of snow a year and it stays until summer. The best time to visit is from June to September when the weather tends to be sunny with occasional rain. We visited in July last year and it was blue skies during the day, although it became a little chilly in the evenings and early in the morning. A popular site in the park, it was rather crowded when we arrived at midday, so it’s best to make it your first destination in the park to enjoy the breathtaking views.

Like many areas in the Olympic Park, wild animals roam freely. We saw a Roosevelt elk grazing on the open field, and we were told there are also black bears and mountain lions. Fortunately or unfortunately, we did not encounter.

On a clear day, you can see the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Vancouver Island and the inside of the Olympics such as Mt.Olympus and the Blue Glacier.

There are plenty of hikes around Hurricane Ridge for all levels of experience. Some examples are Hurricane Hill, Klahnne Ridge, and Maiden Peak. We didn’t go to any of the hikes as we had planned another hike at Sol Duc Waterfalls (see below).

History of Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge was used by the native people in the Olympic Peninsula for thousands of years. This is evidenced by leaf-shaped spearheads that have been spotted throughout the Olympic Mountains that date back to 12,000 years ago.

The first group of European Americans to come to Hurricane Ridge were from Joseph O’Neill’s 1885 expedition. It took them one-month clearing bushes, creating trails as well as route finding to make it to the top from Port Angeles.

In 1956, a public funding and massive National Park campaign helped to build a completely paved, two-lane road up to Hurricane Ridge. They also helped to build a ski area that is still used today.

Sol Duc Falls and Mink Lake

Located at the northeast of the park, the Sol Duc Valley is characterized by old-growth forests and sub-alpine lakes.  One of the attractions there is the Falls which starts near the Sol Duc Hot Springs and Resort.

The hike to the Falls brings you through a dense forest canopy and although there are some areas where it can be a little steep, it is easy enough for a beginner hiker. Only 2.6 km (1.6 miles) roundtrip, with an elevation of 150m (500 feet), it is a popular hike with families.

You can’t miss the falls. You hear it way before you arrive, especially in summer where the melted snow comes down with a roar, cascading down 48 feet into a narrow, rocky canyon.

From the falls, we decided to hike further to Mink Lake. This was a much longer hike and at a higher elevation 500 meters (1650 feet). This 8.4km (5.2 miles) hike brings you through old forests, and also wildflowers. Although tiring, the hike was well worth the effort, as the lake is really picturesque. You can spend your time enjoying the wildlife from birds to deer to elks that make this place their home. We did.

Spending only two days at the park, we saw only a tiny fraction of this natural preserve. We would be back for more.

Citations

Websites

Hurricane Ridge Area Brochure – Olympic National Park (U.S. National Park Service). 2019. Available at https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/hurricane-r idge-area-brochure.htm [Accessed 20 July 2020].

Visiting Hurricane Ridge – Olympic National Park (U.S. National Park Service). 2020. Available at https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-hu rricane-ridge.htm [Accessed 20 July 2020].

 Dobyns, G. 2019. Hurricane Ridge. Wildland Hiking Trails Guide. Available at https://www.wildlandtrekking.com/hiking-trails/olympic-national-park-hurricane-ridge/ [Accessed 21 July 2020].

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