Olympic National Park is the crown jewel of Washington. The park protects 922,650 acres on the Olympic peninsula in the northwest corner of the state. It’s like three distinct parks in one—mountains, coast, and rainforest—therefore I am creating three separate posts. This photo shows the mighty Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in the Olympics, which is 7,965 feet high and covered with numerous glaciers.
Hurricane Ridge is the most popular destination in Olympic National Park. The mile-high ridge has a visitor center, numerous hiking trails, and a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains. The ridge got its name from the intense hurricane-force winds that it experiences in winter.
A 700-foot climb up Hurricane Hill provides 360-degree views of the Olympic Peninsula. This view is looking north to the city of Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a large body of water that leads out to the Pacific Ocean and separates the USA from Vancouver, Canada.
This view from Hurricane Hill is looking south to the Olympic Mountains.
There were numerous deer on Hurricane Ridge including this young fawn. They seemed to have little fear of humans. Notice the snow in the background. It can snow any time of the year including at the end of August when we visited, but this snow patch was left over from last year.
We spent 10 days in Olympic National Park, which was more time than in any other single park on our trip. This was due to a combination of factors: the distinct sections of the park gave us lots of variety to see, the weather was terrific warm and sunny, and we had just sold our house and wanted to slow down a bit. In this photo, Theresa is hiking down Hurricane Hill.
We drove on the exhilarating (some may call it terrifying) 8-mile road to Obstruction Point. It’s a mostly one-lane gravel road cut into the side of the Olympic Mountains. There are numerous steep grades, a few thousand-foot dropoffs, and no guard rails.
But the drive was worth it, because at the end of Obstruction Point Road is the Grand Pass Trail, one of the most beautiful trails we’ve ever hiked. We had fantastic panoramic alpine views the entire way.
We heard this marmot in the bushes as we hiked by. He hid from us for a few minutes, but then he emerged and stood on a rock in full view, even though I was less than 10 feet away.
The alpine lupine was in full bloom along the way. We’ve been treated to this beautiful flower (which is Theresa’s favorite wildflower) since Alaska. Interestingly, lupine seeds are legumes that contain the full range of essential amino acids. Because lupines can be grown in cold climates, unlike soy, they are being used more often as a cash crop alternative to soy.
In 1988, Congress designated 95% of Olympic National Park as wilderness. The views from our hike on Grand Pass kept getting better and better.
We stopped for lunch on a high ridge, then rested in the sun for a while.
Normally after we eat lunch, we head back to the trailhead. But all during lunch, this large grey mountain was tempting us to climb it. With binoculars we could see hikers walking along the summit. But mountains are the opposite of car mirrors—objects are farther than they appear. We started to hike toward the mountain, but we quickly realized the summit was a few miles and a nearly 2,000-foot climb above us, so we turned back. That’s one thing we’ve never had trouble doing: turning back when it didn’t make sense to go forward. This has kept us out of some dangerous situations over the years.
It’s a treat to walk on snow in summer and throw snowballs at each other.
There were some small glacial lakes on the edge of the mountain as we hiked backed to Obstruction Point.
Madison Falls is about a 40-foot waterfall flowing down a mossy green rock ledge.
We climbed a steep trail for a view of Lake Mills, which is slowly draining after the National Park Service removed the Elwa Dam. Along with the Glines Canyon dam downstream, this will free up the Elwa River after nearly 100 years of being bottled up. The salmon population is expected to swell 100 times to over 300,000 as all five species of Pacific salmon return to an unimpeded 70 miles of river. Also while on this ridge we were surrounded by hundreds of Pine White butterflies swarming in the nearby trees.
Lake Crescent is a 12-mile long lake in Olympic National Park. At 624 feet deep, it’s the second deepest lake in Washington State. A lack of nitrogen in the water inhibits algae growth and results in the lake’s brilliant blue color.