By Gary Huff
Hurricane Hill: Elevation 5,757 ft.
Elevation gain: 823 ft. Distance: 3.2 mi. Time: 2 hrs. 100% alpine. Trailhead 5.075 ft. Enjoyment rating: 4+
Overview:Hurricane Hill is where I take all my visitors to show them the Olympics. It’s a favorite hike of mine, even though it’s paved with asphalt most of the way up and populated with other hikers. Why? Because Hurricane Hill is a great alpine experience. And the quickest. Views of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island are spectacular. Huge alpine meadows, covered with wild flowers, make you feel like you’re in a sound of music movie. A colony of Olympic Marmonts, found only in the Olympics, can usually be seen sunning themselves.
The Trail:In Port Angeles, on Hwy 101, turn south on Race Street and drive 19 miles up the Hurricane Ridge road. The trailhead is at the end of the road, 1.5 miles beyond the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center. The 1.6 mile trail winds up through open meadows with great views all the way. The trail begins with a gradual uphill. At .4 mile pass a junction with the Little River Trail which leads down the valley 8 miles to the Little River Road. After the junction the trail begins to climb more in earnest using a couple of switchbacks. To the South Mt. Olympus and it’s glaciers are visible with Mt. Carrie just to the right and in front. Mt. Fitzhenry is just right of Mt. Carrie. To the southwest are Cat Peak & the high divide. Looking west Mt. Appleton and Boulder Peak rise above the Boulder Creek, Olympic Hot Springs valley. In the meadows wildflowers are abundant through mid summer. Phlox, lupine, paintbrush, springbeauty, Bistort, Olympic mountain asters and springbeauty abound. At 1.5 miles come to a junction sign with the Elwah trail goinng left. This trail drops 5,000 ft. in 6.1 miles to the Elwah Ranger Station.
The Peak:At 1.6 miles find a short trail to the peak left of the main trail. At the top you will find signs of an old lookout which stood on top for many years. Views from the top are gorgeous. To the East you have a very close look at Mt. Angeles and beyond are the peaks of grand ridge and grand valley. Moving north you see views of Second Top, First Top, Griff Peak, the two spires of Unicorn Peak and Unicorn Horn and parts of Port Angeles. Farther north is a good look at the Strait and Vancouver Island. West and South are the peaks described on the way up. Southeast is the Bailey Range, the Elwah Valley, Long Ridge, Dodger Point, and Mt. Anderson.
If you want a longer hike, from the top, there are two miles of ridges to explore. The ridge leading east is interesting and can be followed on trails for an easy half mile. Or, my favorite, head back .1 mile to the Elwah trail junction. Follow that trail for 1.5 miles of gradual down hill, about 800 feet of elevation loss, to a large rock outcrop overlooking the Elwah River and Lake Mills, a great lunch spot. This 1.5 miles of ridge walking crosses large alpine meadows, winds through subalpine trees and provides more spactacular views.
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