By Gary Huff
Steeple Rock: 5,567 ft.
Elevation gain 500 ft. from Obstruction Point Rd. (5,050 ft). Length: 1mi. Time: 2hrs. 100% alpine. Enjoyment rating: 4+
Overview:This is a short but exciting off-trail hike, to the top of a ridge and a 200 ft rock spire, which can be clearly seen, 2 miles east of the Hurricane Ridge Road. The spire, which appears to not be hike able from the front side, allows the hiker to get to the top from the backside or north side. Some moderate scrambling is required. Views are spectacular in all directions: Sequim, the Strait, Protection Island and Mt. Baker to the north, the whole string of Olympic peaks (including Olympus) to the south, Blue Mt. to the west; Hurricane ridge and Mt Angeles to the east.
Getting to the Trailhead:In Port Angeles turn south on Race Street and follow the Hurricane Ridge Road 17 miles to the Hurricane Ridge visitor’s center. Just before you enter the parking lot take a hard left turn on the Obstruction Point Road. Drive 1.9 miles. There is a pull off for one car on the right where you will see a short trail going off a few feet. Steeple Rock is just ahead and on your left, or north.
The Hike:From the pullout, cross the road and hike up the steep slope, aiming just left of Steeple Rock. There is a faint trail up through the scree and heather. Though it is quite steep, the footing is solid with some back sliding in the scree rock. Three fourths of the way up the ridge, there is a difficult spot because of a rock rib covered with broken, loose rock. Alternatives are to go left through junipers or to the right around the large rock outcrop.
The Peak:At the top of the ridge find a small meadow, turn right, passing two climbing paths in the first 100 ft, going up toward the spire. Stay on the faint trail which bends up and around for another 100 ft. You are now just below the spire top on the north side. Make your way to the top, through some steep vegetation and moderate rock scrambling. Coming back down, you may have to sit down a few times to negotiate the steep terrain. As long as you take it slow and focus, the route is not life threatening. Climbing this peak is not a good time to let your mind wander.
Standing on the top, on the narrow rock, you may experience some vertigo, so be careful. The views of the surrounding mountains are dramatic. Port Angeles, the Strait and Vancouver Island are below you to the north. The mountains of Grand Ridge and Grand Valley are east. South is Mt. Olympus and west is a close view of Mt. Angeles and its many peaks. And twice I have seen black bears ambling down through the meadows leading down to the Lillian River drainage below me to the south, beyond where I was parked on the road.
On the way back down explore the ridge to the east which runs another quarter mile and is worth the extra walk.
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