Ultimate Guide To Hurricane Hill Trail in Washington, 2021

Hurricane Hill trail

The hike up Hurricane Hill Trail is a very popular trek for locals and visitors alike. The trail is rated moderate in difficulty making it a family favorite. The 3.2 mile in and out trail starts at an elevation of over 4,000’ at the trailhead with a 950’ gain in elevation to the summit. The Hurricane Hill trail is well maintained and well-traveled especially during the summer months of July till October. 

With only a few miles in length and less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain, you would not expect such panoramic views from the top as you will see. From the summit of Hurricane Hill, you get a great 360-degree view of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Elwha River Valley.


On a clear summer day, you can see Puget Sound, Mount Olympus, and Vancouver Island, Canada in the distance. With meadows of beautiful seasonal wildflowers and frequent wildlife encounters, the hike itself is awesome. After hiking the Hurricane Hill Trail you will understand its popularity. Be sure to arrive early in the day to ensure a parking spot and to avoid the crowds.


Hurricane Hill Trail History 

Hurricane Hill trail

The Hurricane Ridge Road and the Hurricane Ridge Lodge were both built in the 1950s by the Olympic National Park’s second superintendent Fred Overly as part of his plan to increase park attendance. The Lodge was dedicated in September 1952 by Congressman Henry M. Jackson. The role of the Lodge changed in the 1980s from a concession facility to more interpretive uses, focusing on topics of interest in the park such as geology and wildlife. 

Skiing facilities were established as part of the plan to increase the number of park visitors but in the following decades skiing in the National Parks became a divisive issue. The park began restricting winter access in 1990 which began a steep drop in park attendance. In 2005, the park allowed visitors in the winter season only from Friday through Sunday. 

In 2011 and 2012, the park agreed to return to its original winter schedule on a trial basis after the community raised $75,000 to bridge the estimated budgetary gap. Despite the 35% increase in visitors, the park declared the trial a failure and returned to the restricted schedule of 3-days-a-week access during the winter season.  


The Hurricane Hill trail is usually snow-covered from October through May. Visitors during the winter report Hurricane Hill Trail is an exceptional snowshoe hike, despite the limited access. The summer remains the peak time for visits to the trail with many varieties of wildflowers and wildlife for viewing. Over the years, the trail has become the second most popular hike in the park. 


Getting To The Hurricane Hill Trail  

Hurricane Hill trail

From Port Angeles, travel Highway 101 turning off the highway onto Race Street. Continue on Race Street for 1.2 miles to Hurrican Ridge Road. The large building there is the Olympic National Park Visitors Center and Wilderness Information Center. Here you can purchase a National Park Pass for parking and park entry. 

Continue on Hurricane Ridge Road for 18 miles to the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center. Pass the visitors center and drive 1.5 miles to the Hurricane Hill Trail head and parking area. There are no facilities in the trailhead parking area.

There is a bathroom, gift shop, snacks, and water at the visitors center so, plan accordingly. Also, be aware the road from the visitors center to the trailhead is subject to seasonal closure. You may have to add on an additional 3 miles roundtrip if you have to hike to the trailhead. 

Hurricane Hill trail

PARK FACILITIES AND REGULATIONS

The Olympic National Park is proud to offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities for locals and tourists alike. Visitors can experience rushing rivers, temperate rain forests, alpine wildflowers, and outstanding views from mountaintop summits. Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, camping, and more outdoor activities abound. The Wilderness areas offer peaceful solitude and an opportunity to experience the vast biodiversity of the Olympic Peninsula. 

The park’s highest priority is providing a safe, welcoming, and inclusive experience for all visitors. The Forest Service has a zero-tolerance policy for racism, harassment, or intimidation in any form. Remember the park is a national treasure and belongs to everyone. 

Pets are allowed in the National Park but not on the Hurricane Hill Trail. Service animals are, of course, always welcome. Recreation sites are available for anyone to use. Specific rules may apply to a certain area and if so, they are posted at each site. Be courteous to fellow visitors and mindful of the rules of the park.  

When visiting the park dispose of all trash in provided containers, otherwise, pack out whatever you brought in, and yes, this applies to toilet tissue as well. Please do not leave litter on the trails. Motor vehicles must obey posted traffic signs and speed limits and park only in the designated parking areas. Trail bikes and other off-road vehicles are allowed in the park but ride respectfully, avoiding damage to the forest and meadows. 

The nearest camping area is the Heart O’ The Hills Campground located 12 miles north of Hurricane Ridge. There are 105 campsites and it is open year-round. Campfires are not allowed along the trail.


Navigating The Hurricane Hill Trail

hurricane hill trail

This short alpine hike rewards the hiker with wondrous wildflowers, opportunities for wildlife viewing, and expansive views of the Olympic Mountains from the summit. Considered an easy hike, the Hurricane Hill Trail is a family favorite in the summertime so arrive early to ensure a parking spot and to avoid large crowds on the trail. 

Before you even begin the hike, the views of Barnes Ridge from the parking lot are outstanding. To begin the hike, follow the wide pathway from the trailhead along a south-facing traverse through open forests of pines and low shrubs. The way is quite accessible even for wheelchairs with assistance for the first quarter mile or so. 

Wildflowers bloom all along the trail. July is the best month for viewing alpine wildflowers as cinquefoil, penstemon, arnica, paintbrush, tiger lily, bluebell, lupine, bistort, and the Olympic Mountain aster are all in full bloom. Butterflies, including fritillaries, checkerspots, and blues flutter about the flowers. 

The Hurricane Hill trail continues along the ridgeline, entering a patch of forest along the west side of a knoll. From there, enter a vast expanse of an alpine meadow where, in addition to wildflowers, you may see wildlife, such as Olympic marmots, black-tailed deer, and sooty grouse. The deer in the area are quite tame but please do not feed them. Don’t be surprised to catch a glimpse of less frequently seen wildlife such as elk and bears. 

Just before you reach the first switchback, encounter a trenched trail (sign reads “Elwha 6 miles”) heading off to your left. Follow this trail to the Elwha Valley and the Whiskey Bend Road. This is a steep, long day hike of 14 miles. So, unless you have plenty of spare time, or a car waiting at the end of the trail, it is best to continue along the original trail.

The views open up as you make four switchbacks above a small tarn. When you reach the junction with the Hurricane Hill Trail Spur, proceed another one-tenth of a mile to reach the summit of Hurricane Hill. This place is aptly named as strong winds are common at the top. 

Look out for the mountain goats which frequently congregate at the summit. Do not crowd or follow the goats as they can be very large and somewhat aggressive. Be prepared for the cutest little beggars as chipmunks have grown quite fond of hiker’s snacks. Try to remember the park rules and please do not feed the wildlife.

From the summit looking to the north, the two closest peaks are Griff Peak and Unicorn Peak and from these, the views extend across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island Canada. On a clear day, you can spot Mount Baker and Mount Garibaldi, the two northernmost high peaks in the Cascades. To the southwest is glaciated Mount Carrie in the Baily Ridge and beyond Carrie, the Hoh and Blue Glaciers glisten in the sunlight on the northeast slope of Mount Olympus. 

If you wish to add a bit more to the hike, follow the Hurricane Hill Trail to descend on the north-facing slope. You will see more meadows with wildflowers and a different viewpoint of the mountains. 

For more incredible hikes in Olympic National Park, check out our guide to Finding the 10 Best Hikes in Olympic National Park.

If you’re planning a trip to Olympic National Park and are looking for a great place to stay, look no further than The 8 Best Hotels Near Olympic National Park: Our Top Picks.


Final Thoughts

Hurricane Hill Trail packs a lot of pleasure for a short hike. Whether you are seeking a day trip suitable for the whole family, or a first-time hike through the park, it is easy to see why it is one of the most traveled routes in the Olympic National Park. With its wide, well-maintained Hurricane Hill trail and incredible vista from the summit, even jaded hikers are awed by the view on a clear day. You may even spot a ferry boat shuttling visitors back and forth between the USA and Canada. 

Next, check out the other top hikes in Olympic National Park outside the Hurricane Hill Trail by following the links below: