By Gary Huff
Storm King Mt. 2,800 ft.
Elevation gain: 2,200 ft. Length: 4.5 mi. Time: 4hrs. 25% alpine like. Trailhead 620 ft. Enjoyment rating: 4
Overview:Storm King is a series of rocky peaks towering above Lake Crescent’s southeast corner. This is a steep but interesting hike to one of those rocky peaks, the highest visible peak from the Storm King Ranger station parking lot. Higher Storm King peaks sit behind this one but this is the one which is hikeable and accessible. And, it is clear of snow much of the year because of the low elevation level. There is some rock scrambling and use of fixed ropes involved but it is not difficult or life threatening. The views of Lake Crescent and the surrounding country are outstanding.
Getting to the Trailhead:The hike begins on the Marymere Falls trail. The trailhead is located just off Hwy 101, 20 miles west of Port Angeles, at the Storm King Ranger station, on the east side of Lake Crescent. Just follow the signs the short distance off Hwy 101.
The Trail:From the trailhead, walk one quarter mile (back under hwy 101) on the Marymere Falls trail. (Note: 90 foot Marymere Falls is .3 mile straight ahead and worth the trip.) Turn left at the Storm King Mountain sign on your left. The trail climbs steeply for 1.7 miles, up switchbacks and through huge Douglas Firs. One old tree, which is disected because it had fallen across the trail, is head high and contains 320 years of rings, according to a sign on the tree. That means it was standing in 1684. Immagine what tales it could tell. Going up the trail there are some good viewpoints of towering, Aurora Ridge to the south. At 1.5 mi. The trail breaks out onto a narrow ridge with great views down to Lake Crescent. Shortly, at 2,500 ft elevation and 2 mi. from the trailhead, come to a sign which says: “End of maintained trail, hazardous beyond.” This advises you that the footing is more difficult and the going slow. From here on up the ridge appears alpine, even though it is too low to be true alpine. Because it is a warmer, drier, south facing ridge it has a rock and meadow look. You even find Manzanita growing here, a contorted brush common to Northern California and Southern Oregon. Continue on the trail a couple hundred feet on an all rock trail until you come to a rope which helps get you up a steep slope. The trail continues another two hundred feet farther where you come to a second rope.
The Peak:The rocky peak is just above you to the left. The rope helps you get up the saddle just below and right of the peak. Some light scrambling takes you to the peak and spectacular views of the entire expanse of Lake Crescent, 2,800 feet below. North across the lake is a close up view of Pyramid Mountain. Behind Pyramid is the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island. West, just beyond the end of the lake is Mt. Muller. Another, higher Storm King peak is visible above you to the right but is very difficult and has no ropes to aid the hiker.
The first time up this trail, we turned back because of the warning sign and a question about the safety of the ropes. But on my next hike up, I ran into a staff person from the National Park Institute who told me that he helped put the ropes in and uses them all the time. He explained that they were very thick and well anchored. I found that they were quite safe and made it possible to get to the peak. Now, when I need a rocky peak fix in the off season, I go up Storm King. It is accessible much earlier and later in the year than the other Olympic peaks.
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