From stunning coastline to alpine summits to temperate rainforests, Olympic National Park has a lot to offer anyone who loves the outdoors. But great hiking also means great crowds: Around three million people visit Olympic National Park each year. Sixty percent of those visits, however, happen in July, August, and September. If you want to visit Olympic but would prefer to do so in relative solitude, consider packing a pair of snowshoes and visiting in the winter.
What Makes It Great
The best place for a winter hike in Olympic is Hurricane Ridge, accessible via Hurricane Ridge Road. During the winter season, the road is open Friday through Sunday (weather and road conditions permitting – be sure to check road conditions before you go). Take note that the National Park Service requires all vehicles traveling Hurricane Ridge Road to carry tire chains, including cars equipped with four-wheel drive.
From Hurricane Ridge (a popular spot for downhill skiers and tubers), there are plenty of options for great snowshoe treks. For those looking for a moderate adventure, try the six-mile round-trip jaunt to Hurricane Hill. From the top of the hill, you’ll be treated to a dramatic panoramic view: The Strait of Juan de Fuca, nestled between the Olympic foothills and Canada’s Vancouver Island, to the north; the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound to the northeast; Mt. Angeles and Mt. McCarthy to the east; the majestic Mt. Olympus to the south.
If you’re looking for something a little more strenuous, the 9-mile hike to the 6,247-foot summit of Eagle Point could be your ticket. The trail begins with a short, steep descent and then continues along through alpine forests, with clearings that provide sights of the peaks of the Baily Range throughout. Snowshoers who want to make it an overnight trip can camp at the Waterhole Camp, 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
Keep in mind that the winter weather on Hurricane Ridge can mean anything from sunshine to blizzard; be prepared for a variety of conditions, check avalanche conditions before you go, and don’t be afraid to turn around when circumstances call for it.
Who is Going to Love It
Everyone from winter fiends to novice snowshoers can have a great excursion from Hurricane Ridge. Anyone who has seen Olympic in the summer will get a particular thrill out of seeing the park in its snow-covered glory.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Enter the park through the Heart O’the Hills entrance station and take Hurricane Ridge Road to park at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. To check road conditions, call the weather hotline at (360) 565-3131, or check their website here.