Port Angeles, WA
One of the most beautiful places in Olympic National Park is a place called Hurricane Ridge. The Ridge is accessed by way of a 17 mile long road that begins at the main park visitor center just south of Port Angeles. The road winds its way up to a large parking area (the spot is very popular) and another visitor center. The parking area is at 5,242 feet, a pretty high location when you consider that Port Angeles is at sea level.
We met Eric and Laurel in the parking lot at 9:30 AM, an early hour for us. The sight of a pile of snow next to a plow was not very encouraging.
Our plan was to hike a trail up to Sunrise Point, but a check with the ranger in the visitor center revealed that there was still quite a bit of snow on that trail.
So we went to Plan B and drove a short distance further up the road to hike the Hurricane Hill Trail. This trail is about 3.2 miles round trip on a paved trail. It provides outstanding panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains to the south and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north.
We were fortunate to spot some interesting wildlife along the trail. Our first sighting is the Olympic Marmot. Olympic NP is the only place where these little guys exist. Marmot colonies in the park are in decline due to predation by non-native coyotes.
The name of this ridge is an indication that the weather is not always ideal for hiking. So we were pleased that we picked an absolutely perfect day for our hike. The sky was clear of clouds, the temperature was in the mid-60s, and the winds were calm.
The four of us found a nice lunch spot on a low ridge overlooking a beautiful mountain meadow. As we finished our lunch and contemplated our “lunch with a view” photo, two characters walked right in front of us. This brief photo opportunity made it necessary for us to include an unprecedented two lunch pictures in this blog. We hope you don’t mind.
As we hiked back down the trail, we spent some time watching the guy below as he enjoyed a snack in the nearby meadow.
Think we were a little too close to the bear? The above photos were taken on zoom. Below is a non-zoom shot.
Returning to the visitor center we were told that there were some mountain goats hanging around the nearby trail up to Sunset Point. So we crossed some heavy snowbanks and headed up the steep trail. As we went up the trail we were treated to a great view of Hurricane Hill where we hiked earlier.
Mountain goats are not native to the Olympic Peninsula. About a dozen goats were introduced to the Olympic Mountains in the 1920s, before the national park was established in 1938. The goats were placed in the area as an experiment to see how adaptable they would be to the rugged mountains of the Olympics. By 1983, the numbers grew to more than 1,100. A ranger told us that today they estimate the population to be around 800.
The goats can be a nuisance along heavily used trails and around wilderness campsites because they seek out salt and minerals from human urine, backpacks and sweat on clothing. They can become aggressive to humans and in 2007 a man was killed by a 370 pound goat in the Hurricane Ridge area. He was trying to protect his wife and a friend when the goat gored him, severing an artery in his thigh.
We were very calm and quiet as the group of goats pass near us (and other foolish hikers) on the trail.
The trail up Hurricane Hill ranks as one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever done and not to be missed. Stunning vistas surrounded us, and the chance to see some wildlife just added to the experience.