Olympic National Park Ready For Winter Season

Winter offers distinctly different experiences for visitors to Olympic National Park. NPS photo of the Storm King Ranger Station.

Snow sports? Check.

Storm-pounded coastlines? Check.

Lush, emerald forests? Check.

In short, Olympic National Park has three very distinct options for winter visitors. For those who enjoy indoor comforts, options include ocean storm-watching from the Kalaloch Lodge along the park’s Pacific Coast to lakeside dining at Lake Crescent Lodge to weekend day trips to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center on snow-covered Hurricane Ridge. Outdoor opportunities abound too, from camping to hiking to snowshoeing.

“Every season at Olympic brings its own magic, and for the prepared visitor, winter can be an excellent time to experience the many facets of the park,” says Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “I encourage visitors to take advantage of this special season at Olympic National Park – beginning with checking the weather forecast and preparing for cold, wet or snowy conditions.”

Current information is available at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The visitor center will be closed on November 28 for Thanksgiving, and on December 25 for Christmas.

Park information is also available 24/7 at the Olympic National Park website (www.nps.gov/olym), the park’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/OlympicNPS) and via the park’s Road and Weather Hotline at (360) 565-3131. People can also follow “HRWinterAccess” on Twitter to receive specific Hurricane Ridge Road condition updates.

Visiting the Coast

Kalaloch Lodge is open year-round and offers overnight lodging, a dining room and gift shop.

Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette campgrounds are open throughout the winter. Both Kalaloch and Mora campgrounds have running water and flush toilets; vault toilets are available in the Ozette campground.

Visitors should always check a current tide table and weather report before venturing onto the beach. Stay far away from beach logs, which are easily tossed by waves.

The Forks Information Station is closed for the season.

Visiting the Forests

Lake Crescent Lodge has extended its season this year and offers overnight lodging, a dining room and gift shop through December 31.

The Hoh Rain Forest area, with walking trails and a campground, remains open throughout the winter, weather permitting. Running water and flush toilets remain in operation in the Hoh Campground. The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center will close for the season on December 2 and reopen in early March.

The Quinault Graves Creek Campground is open through the winter, with vault toilets available.

The Sol Duc Road and Campground remain open, weather and road conditions permitting, throughout the winter. Snow accumulations may cause the road to be closed for extended time periods. Vault toilets are available in the campground. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is closed for the season and will reopen in March.

The Elwha Valley and Elwha Campground remain open; vault toilets are available at the campground.

Heart O’the Hills Campground is open with running water and flush toilets available. Snow accumulation may cause the campground to become walk-in only.

The Staircase area is open; the campground is open for walk-in camping only. Vault toilets are available in the campground.

Visiting the Mountains

Winter road access to Hurricane Ridge is always dependent on safe road and weather conditions. Beginning November 29, the Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open Friday through Sunday and Monday holidays from November 29 through March 30, 2014.

Whether to open the Hurricane Ridge Road is a decision made each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the winter season and is based on staff assessment of road and weather conditions, along with forecasts and information from the National Weather Service and the Northwest Avalanche Center.

Current information about the Hurricane Ridge Road is posted on the Olympic National Park website (www.nps.gov/olym) and is available via the park’s Road and Weather Hotline at (360) 565-3131. People can also follow “HRWinterAccess” on Twitter to receive road condition updates.

All vehicles, including four-wheel drive, must carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart O’the Hills entrance station between November 15 and April 1. “Having a set of chains in every vehicle gives an extra safety margin when road conditions worsen during the day and increases the number of days we can keep the road open,” said Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.

The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is open when the road is open, with restrooms, exhibits, park film and a warming area.

The Hurricane Ridge snack bar and ski shop, with both ski and snowshoe rentals, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays beginning Saturday, November 30 through March 30, 2014.

The Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays from December 7 through March 30, 2014. More information about the Hurricane Ridge downhill ski and snowboard area is available at hurricaneridge.com.

Opportunities for cross-country skiers and snowshoe walkers range from open meadows near the visitor center to extreme terrain in the park’s wilderness backcountry. Anyone skiing or snowshoeing beyond the immediate Hurricane Ridge area should sign-in at the registration box in the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and be prepared for steep terrain and the possibility of avalanches. Although close to town, Hurricane Ridge is subject to extreme winter conditions, including sudden storms, white-outs and avalanche, making planning and preparation for winter conditions vitally important.

Information about ski and snowshoe routes and trails is available at park visitor centers, the Olympic National Park website or the park’s visitor newspaper, the Bugler.

Ranger-led snowshoe walks will not be offered this winter.