Olympic Inspiration: Taking in the Winter Wonderland at Hurricane Ridge

Few places in the world produce pure joy and happiness with just one glance, but Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge does that with ease. A mile above the Strait of Juan de Fuca and just a short 17 mile drive from the fantastic outdoor recreation town of Port Angeles, Washington, Hurricane Ridge is one of America’s most-underrated nature destinations. Open year round in the summer, the area is only accessible during the snowy months on the weekends, making a trip to the region a limited edition experience. Plan ahead, grab your snow gear and camera and hit up The Ridge this winter. This is a family-friendly adventure you don’t want to miss.

Hurricane Ridge is truly a playground of the gods, even more so in the winter. As the trees become weighed down with snow and transform into images from a Dr. Seuss book, the already intoxicatingly beautiful region becomes indescribably perfect. On sunny days, the Olympic Mountains shimmer and shine, showing off their glaciers and powdery peaks. A wintery wonderland, snowshoers and cross-country skiers have over 20 miles of trails to explore, each offering views more breathtaking every mile. High above the trails, daring backcountry skiers and snowboards weave through forests before bombing down bowls packed full of powdery goodness. Even those who would rather just sit back and enjoy the sweeping vistas from the comforts of a warm building are in luck, as the Hurricane Ridge visitor center lets you enjoy the panoramic wonderland without being in the elements. Those with kids can enjoy the small sledding area near the visitor center, or take a small walk toward Hurricane Hill to see the aforementioned Dr Seuss-eque trees.

Hurricane Ridge is a winter wonderland that is calling for you. Will you answer?

Snowboard, ski or just sit and enjoy the winter views at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.
Snowboard, ski or just sit and enjoy the winter views at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.
Snowshoe along ridiculous ridges in Olympic National Park's Hurricane Ridge region
Snowshoe along ridiculous ridges in Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge region

While snowshoers tend to reap the most benefit from Hurricane Ridge, the front and backcountry ski and snowboard opportunities are second to none.  If you are looking for an insanely gorgeous day on the slopes, take a trip to Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge Ski Area. Unrivaled views, fresh lines, and all the powder you could ask for are just some of the things waiting for you. Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is one of only three operating ski and snowboard areas in our National Parks. It has 10 trails, two rope tows, one lift, and views as far as the eye can see. While only officially sporting an elevation drop of 800 feet, there are a few backcountry areas where those looking for adventure can find waist deep powder and epic lines. Hurricane Ridge also has a terrain park with natural hits, jumps and rails, set against the glorious panorama of the Olympic Mountains.

Enjoy a snowball fight in the shadow of glaciers at Olympic National park's Hurricane Ridge.
Enjoy a snowball fight in the shadow of glaciers at Olympic National park’s Hurricane Ridge.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park on a very snow day.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park on a very snow day.
Snowshoe through incredible forests in Olympic National Park's Hurricane Ridge region
Snowshoe through incredible forests in Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge region

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO VISIT

  • Weather permitting; the Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open Friday through Sunday and Monday holidays from November 25, 2016 through March 26, 2017.  The road will be closed on Sunday, December 25, Christmas Day and is scheduled to be open daily from Monday, December 26 through Monday, January 2, 2017.
  •  All vehicles, including four wheel drive, are required to carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart O’the Hills entrance station between Thanksgiving and the last weekend of March. “Having a set of chains in every vehicle gives an extra safety margin when road conditions worsen during the day,” said Acting Superintendent Spector. 
  •  Winter storms can close or delay opening of the Hurricane Ridge Road; high winds and blizzard conditions are not uncommon.  Road and weather condition updates are available on the park’s Road and Weather Hotline at (360) 565-3131 or @HRWinterAccess on Twitter.
  •  The Hurricane Ridge Road may also close temporarily if the parking lot becomes completely full.  Park staff urges Hurricane Ridge visitors to carpool and pay extra attention to making the best possible use of the parking area. 
  •  Weather permitting, Hurricane Ridge Road usually opens at 9:00 a.m., but times vary according to road and weather conditions. The road closes to uphill traffic at 4:00 p.m. and all vehicles must exit the Heart of the Hills entrance station by 5:00 p.m.

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Header image by the one, the only, Lee Jacobson of Washington Hikers and Climbers. Used with permission. 

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