As winter comes to the Pacific Northwest, National Park rangers share their tips and recommendations for visitors planning a wintry visit to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.
While winter weather may bring increased road hazards and some closures, it can also be a special time to experience this Northwest national park, according to a press release.
“Visiting Olympic during the winter season is a great time to experience the peacefulness of a snowy landscape, take a walk through the cool rain forest or watch a storm at the coast,” said park Ranger Jared Low. “With preparation and planning, visitors can have fun, stay safe, and help us protect park resources.”
Visiting Hurricane Ridge in winter
Hurricane Ridge is a popular place for winter recreation at Olympic National Park. Although close to Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge is subject to extreme winter conditions, including sudden storms, white-outs and avalanches, making planning and preparation for winter conditions essential.
Weather conditions can change quickly and with little warning. Hurricane Ridge Road is the only way to access Hurricane Ridge by car. This road can experience closures due to extreme weather.
Winter season operations for Hurricane Ridge are set to begin on Friday, Nov. 25, and end on March 26.
Weather permitting, Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open Friday through Sunday through March 26, 2023 (closed Dec. 25, Christmas Day). In addition, the road is scheduled to be open daily Dec. 26 through Jan. 2, and the holiday Mondays of Jan. 16, 2023, and Feb. 20, 2023.
Hurricane Ridge Road typically opens at 9 a.m., though times can vary. Depending on weather and road conditions, the road may be open as late as noon, or not open at all. The road closes to uphill traffic at 4 p.m. and all vehicles must exit the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station by 5 p.m.
All vehicles, including four-wheel drive, are required to carry tire chains or approved traction control devices when traveling above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station during the winter season.
Winter storms can close or delay opening of the Hurricane Ridge Road; high winds and blizzard conditions are not uncommon. Road and weather condition updates are available on the Road and Weather line at 360-565-3131.
Hurricane Ridge Road closes temporarily when the parking lot becomes completely full. Park staff urge visitors to park efficiently in order to maximize parking space.
Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
The restrooms and exhibit area will be open inside the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Be prepared to use your vehicle as a warming area in case the visitor center does not open due to weather or staffing issues. Pack extra food, water, dry clothing, and blankets and/or sleeping bags in your vehicle.
The visitor center will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
The concessionaire-operated Mountain View Café, Gift Shop & Rental Shop on the lower level of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center will open on Dec. 9, and will have the same operating hours as the visitor center. Food service will be take-out only.
Downhill ski, snowboard and tubing area
The Hurricane Ridge downhill ski, snowboard, and tubing area has two rope tows, a poma lift and tubing park, and is operated by the Hurricane Winter Sports Club. It is scheduled to operate Dec. 4, through March 26, 2023. Weather and snow permitting, the area is open weekends, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More information about the Hurricane Ridge downhill ski, snowboard, and tubing area for the 2022-2023 season is available at hurricaneridge.com.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
Opportunities for cross-country skiers and snowshoers range from open, level meadows near the Visitor Center to extreme terrain in the wilderness backcountry. Anyone skiing or snowboarding beyond the immediate Hurricane Ridge area must sign in at the registration box in the foyer of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and be prepared for steep terrain and the possibility of avalanches.
Information about ski and snowshoe routes and trails is available at park visitor centers, the park website, or the park newspaper, The Bugler.
Snowshoe with a ranger
Ranger-led snowshoe walks will begin at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center on Saturdays from Dec. 31 to March 25 at 1:30 p.m. Snowshoe walks may be canceled at any time due to weather, operational priorities, and/or safety concerns. Call 360-565-3131 for updates.
There is no additional cost for this program. Snowshoe walks last 1.5 hours and cover less than a mile. Walks are limited to 20 participants. Sign up starts at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center at 1 p.m. Snowshoes and instructions are provided. Participants should prepare for cold, snow, wind or even rain. Dress in layers, wear warm, waterproof boots and bring hats, mittens, sunscreen and glasses.
Up-to-date information about weather and avalanche risk is available from the Northwest Avalanche Center. Anyone planning to venture beyond the maintained downhill ski area or the immediate Hurricane Ridge area should always check the Northwest Avalanche Center website and the current conditions posted at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.
Hurricane Ridge webcam
Hurricane Ridge webcams are available on the park website. The webcam image is updated every 15 minutes (although severe weather can obstruct the webcam views).
Olympic National Park Visitor Center
The Olympic National Park Visitor Center at 3002 Mount Angeles Road in Port Angeles, is currently open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Restrooms are open daily and are located outside the main building. Staff are also available by phone or email to answer questions. Call 360-565-3130.
Wilderness Information Centers and Wilderness Safety
Staff are available daily 9 am to 4 pm at the Port Angeles Wilderness Information Center located inside the Olympic National Park Visitor Center to distribute bear canisters and answer questions. Like the visitor center, the Wilderness Information Center is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Staff are also available by email or by phone at (360) 565-3100. Wilderness camping permits can be reserved online in advance via Recreation.gov. The Quinault and Hoodsport Wilderness Information Centers are closed for the season.
Winter road closures
Deer Park Road, Obstruction Point Road and Hurricane Hill Road are closed for the winter season. Sol Duc Road typically closes for the winter due to snow and icy road conditions. Other park roads may close with short notice due to road and weather conditions. Call the road and weather line at 360-565-3131 to check current road and campground status information.
All park campgrounds open during winter are first-come, first-served. Some park campgrounds are primitive with no potable water.
Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette are open, weather and conditions permitting. Visitors should be aware of high tides in the winter and any predicted storms. Storms can make beach hiking hazardous and even impossible due to large waves. Coastal streams that are normally easy to cross can be waist deep or deeper during storms.
Throughout the winter season, rain falls frequently in the Hoh, Queets and Quinault Valleys, contributing to the yearly average of 140 inches of precipitation. Visitors should prepare for wet weather.