Griff Peak and Unicorn Peak

Griff Peak 5120 ft.Elevation gain 2.600 ft. Distance: 7mi. Time: 6 hrs. 80% alpine. Hurricane Hill Trailhead: 5,075 ft. Enjoyment rating: 2.

Unicorn Peak 5,200 ft. Elevation gain, 2,800 ft. Distance: 8 mi. Time: 7-8 hrs. 80% alpine. Hurricane Hill Trailhead 5,075 ft. Enjoyment rating 3.

Griff peak, right, from Hurricane Hill.

Griff peak, right, from Hurricane Hill.

Getting to The Trailhead: From Hwy 101 in Port Angeles take Race St. south and drive 17 miles to the top of Hurricane Ridge, then past the Visitor’s Center 1.5 miles to the end of the road and the Hurricane Hill trailhead.

Overview:This is a rugged hike that goes off trail after you reach the top of Hurricane Hill. You cross a burn from a 2003 forest fire, which makes the steep ridges even more difficult because the burned ground is slicker. Hurricane Hill is 5,757 ft and 1.5 miles from the trailhead and Griff peak is another very tough 1.5 miles north, dropping down to 4,600 ft. before climbing back up to Griff peak at 5,120 ft. Unicorn Peak is another tough .5 mile west of Griff along the ridge. The hike involves a Jekyll and Hyde contrast in trails. The first half, the Hurricane Hill trail, is a partially asphalt trail through high alpine meadows with gorgeous views of the Olympics, especially the Bailey Range, the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Canada. It is a very popular short alpine hike and draws all ages. The Griff Peak, Unicorn off-trail hike cuts north cross country, on a rocky ridge from Hurricane Hill. It’s like a dragon’s tail, up and down with tough footing and steep ridges, involving some hard rock scrambling at times. After about .75 mile you enter the burn, which is interesting to study for rejuvenation, but makes footing more difficult because of the number of downed trees which the hiker must navigate. You are not likely to see anyone else on this part of the trail.

The Trail:

At 2.7 miles from the trailhead, the burn begins on a 200 yard, last ridge spine down. Among the burned trees a twenty foot strip of wildflowers and new growth follows the ridge spine to the bottom. This last section down is steep but passable, the going very slow. It will heighten your mood to see some new growth in the blackened forest. Once you reach the bottom, the hike up to Griff Peak, at 3.5 miles, involves 600 feet of elevation gain as well as navigating your way over and around more burned out, deadfall forest. Your hands will soon be black from the burned logs and your mood may be just as black from looking at the fire’s destruction. Even though the views from the top are good, this is one peak that may not be worth the work

To get to the unusual rock spire called Unicorn Peak follow the ridge .5 miles west from Griff to the western side of Unicorn Peak at 4 miles. From here it is a hard rock scramble to the top. The views are magnificent, with a close up of Unicorn Horn, the twin peak to Unicorn, just to the west. Port Angeles is 5,000 feet directly below you and Victoria, Canada is across the strait. To the east are Heather Park and the massive Mt. Angeles peaks. South and southwest are a beautiful string of high Olympic peaks: Olympus, Carrie, Fitzhenry, Cat, Appleton & Boulder

Coming back is 1,200 feet of elevation gain and a slow climb up the same dragon ridge back to the top of Hurricane hill. The deer in this area are pretty tame and have been known to follow hikers, looking for food. Just say no.

On the Hurricane Hill ridges you are also likely to see Olympic Marmots sunning themselves in the rocks and meadows. These blond and brown Marmots are only found in the Olympic Mountains and like us, often seem to be admiring the Olympic peaks in the distance. It is estimated that 15 of them live in the Hurricane Hill area.

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