Driving up a Cliff in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park : NPS PhotoI must reveal a bias. Olympic National Park is by far my favorite of all places within the National Park Service. I'm probably not alone either. For many years, Olympic Park has been one of the top 5 travel destinations within the Parks. This fact has always been a bit of a surprise to me. Within the state of Washington, I've always imagined that Mt. Rainier National Park and the North Cascades National Park are more accessible. Both are an easy (but timely) detour from Interstate-5. Olympic National Park is on a giant peninsula, with access from the north and east by ferry. There is no access from the Pacific Ocean to the west. So why all the visitors? I do believe it is because of the remarkable and breathtaking beauty. It is possible to spend the morning at the coast, and then spend your afternoon on a mountain top.

There is easy access to a mountain top along the Hurricane Ridge Road. A visit to Hurricane Ridge within Olympic National Park is a unique experience. There is only the one road that leads to the top of the ridge. That road starts in Port Angeles which is at elevation 0 (on the water), and climbs 5230 feet in elevation over 18 miles. The drive can be thrilling, as the road snakes up the side of steep cliffs. While you may not want to look down, you'll be compelled to look "out". The higher you climb, the better the views get. Ahead of you are the rugged peaks of the Olympic Mountains, and in your rear-view far below is the city of Port Angeles. At the top of the ridge is a visitor center, but the real destination are the many trails which criss-cross the area. Each trail leading to a different vantage point. From this elevation, even Victoria B.C. (Canada) is within easy view.

The Hurricane Ridge Road was built in the late 1950s, and was last resurfaced in the early 1980s. The park has just received final approval to fix up the road. The work will include resurfacing the road and the parking lot at the top. Where the road has settled, road base reconstruction will occur. So, until the funding for the project comes in, double check your breaks before your drive back down to the waterfront, and if you are faint of heart, don't look down!