Mt. Angeles

Mt. Angeles: 6,454 ft. Elevation gain: 2,454 ft. Length: 4mi. Time: 4 hrs. 100% alpine. Trailhead: Switchback trail, 4,000 ft. Rating 5+ (Note: from the Hurricane Ridge visitor’s center at 5,250 ft., the length is 8 mi. and elev. gain is 1,900 ft.: length is 5 hrs.)

Mt. Angeles, southwest face. The route in red.

Mt. Angeles, southwest face. The route in red.

Overview:Mt. Angeles is the rocky peak and a series of massive ridges which stand guard over Port Angeles and the north olympic peninsula. It is one of my favorite hikes to a peak. It is very accessible, the switchback trailhead starts high, from a paved road. The views are expansive in every direction, the wildlife is abundant, the wildflowers are prolific, and the scrambling up the final section is exhilarating. This hike provides the water-mountain view combination, unique in the Olympics: offering broad vistas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Canada as well as the whole string of Olympic peaks. Also, once on top of the saddle, there are 4 miles of ridges to explore and once on top of Mt Angeles, there are other rocky peaks to explore, providing lots of flexibility and adventure.

Getting to The Trail:From Hwy 101 in Port Angeles turn south at the Olympic National Park sign on Race Street and continue past the National Park Visitor’s Center. From here it is 17 paved miles to the top of Hurricane Ridge. You enter the park at a toll booth 5 miles up the road. Two miles from the top is the signed, switchback trailhead. Plenty of parking is available. If you want to get to the trailhead at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center, continue up the road two miles to the top and park at the beginning (east end) of the parking lot. The trail starts here.

The Trail:The quickest way up to Mt. Angeles is this switchback trail. The trail begins at a small creek and heads quickly uphill, switch backing .6 of a mile to an intersection with the trail from the Hurricane Ridge visitor’s center. Go right toward Klahhane Ridge and Mt. Angeles. It’s one mile to the saddle just below Mt. Angeles. This first 1.6 miles is almost all alpine with huge, lush meadows covered in wildflowers. Deer and mountain goats can often be spotted here. Mt Angeles’ rocky massif is visible most of the way up. At the saddle (Victor Pass, 5,850 ft.) just below Mt. Angeles, find a trail intersection: to the left is Heather Park, to the right is Klahhane Ridge. (Great ridges can be walked and explored for two miles in either direction. There is elevation up and down either way but well worth it. Views are spectacular. Lake Angeles is about 3 miles to the right but the elevation loss is significant. Good views of the lake can be had at 2 miles.)

The Peak:At the saddle, Mt. Angeles’ highest peak is 600 feet straight above you. The slab geology, which is evident, comes from being a former ocean bottom. Some people climb to the top from here, but it is a difficult scramble up the rock. There are many routes up but the best hiking route that I have found is up the southeast face,through scree, shown above in black. From the saddle this route is steep but mainly scree (talus) with stable footing. It’s slow going at times, with two steps up and one back.You can make better time by stepping on rock but the footing can be difficult, as some of the rock is crumbly and rotten. (Coming down, it is sometimes advisable to sit down and inch your way down some of the steeper areas.) Once you gain the top of the ridge, walk west to a middle peak. The highest peak is further west but takes some difficult rock scrambling and is not much higher than where you are. There is another peak just to the northeast, which is 25 feet shorter than the far west peak, but also fun to explore if you like rock scrambling.

Views from the top are incredible, with peaks visible in all directions. South, the line of Olympic peaks march from east to west: including Blue, Elk, Grand ridge, Eagle, Anderson, Ferry, Queets, Olympus, Carrie, Fitzhenry, & Appleton. Port Angeles, Sequim, and the Strait lay almost 6,500 feet below you to the north. On a clear day you can see Victoria, the mountains of northern Vancouver Island and the coastal peaks of British Columbia.

I’ve been to the top a few times and often seen mountain goats. Mt. goats are not dangerous but they have sharp horns and like the salt that hikers create. So I keep my distance and move off the trail if they want it.

Peak loop:Since there are various routes to the top, the hiker can go up one side and back down another, making a loop. A second hikeable route, from which you can make a loop, is to go up the southwest side of Mt. Angeles. The route described above is up the east side. The southwest route is as follows. Turn left, towards the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center, at the first trail junction at .6 mile from the switchback trailhead,. After one quarter mile, turn right on a climbers trail going up toward the mountain. It is located at a sign on the main trail that just says . Follow this steep trail through alpine firs and meadows until it ends in the rocks on the southwest side of the mountain. (Note: Avoid the temptation of going right, or southeast up a visible scree trail. The rocks are too difficult here.) From the end of the trail, continue straight, southwest. Scramble up and through a notch in the small trees and find the continuation of the climbers trail. Follow this up and west, using some rock scrambling, till you come to the end of the high rock spires on your right. Cut up to the top, coming out near the west end of the top ridge. Scramble to the top of the peak or just enjoy the view from where you are.

To complete the loop you could scramble east but it is a very difficult. Instead I drop down the north face about 200 feet to a little bench, walk east about 200 feet, then climb back up to the top ridge middle peak, which is described in the East face route above.

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