Ultimate Guide To Mount Storm King in Washington For 2021

Mount Storm King is located in the Olympic National Park about 20 miles from Port Angeles, Washington. The mountain is located at the southern end of Lake Crescent near Barnes Point. Mount Storm King has an elevation of 4,534 feet. The trail climbs 1780 feet in just 1.9 miles up the north slope of the mountain. 

Hikers choose the Mount Storm King trail for the magnificent views. Standing on a rocky outcropping above Lake Crescent after a difficult climb, reward yourself with the expansive views of the lake and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. You will not be disappointed. 


The hike to the summit is about 2.5 miles one way with an average incline of 18%. It is described as a short but grueling climb culminating in a series of ropes to aid your ascent. After the ropes, it is a short scramble to the peak. Be aware there are few flat sections to catch your breath but the trail winds through forests with lots of shade so it’s not too bad. 


Mount Storm King History

Klallum tribe legend tells of the origin of Mount Storm King being angered at the warring tribes at his feet, so he picked up a boulder and threw it at the warriors, killing them and cutting Tsulh-mut in half creating Lake Crescent and Lakes Sutherland. Geology bears this legend out as evidence of a massive landslide 7,000 years ago helped to form the lakes. 

More modern legends describe Lake Crescent as haunted. In 1940, some fishermen found a body in the lake. The body was perfectly preserved by the near-freezing temperature of the deep glacially carved lake. The woman was identified as Hallie Latham Illingworth, a waitress at the Lake Crescent Tavern. She was killed by her husband who threw her weighted-down body into the lake  and it took three years to discover her body. She became known as “The Lady of The Lake” and is said to still haunt the lake which entombed her after her death. 

The Olympic mountains protect a region of North America’s remaining temperate rainforests. The Hoh and Quinault Rain Forests are among the park’s most notable features. Filled with mosses and Sitka spruce, the Hoh, Quinault, Queets, and Bogachiel river valleys all have characteristics of this ecosystem. 


The Olympic National Park itself was established in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt. In 1976, the park became an International Biosphere Reserve, and in 1981 was designated a World Heritage Site.  

 Covering nearly one million acres, Olympic National Park is home to three separate ecosystems – glaciated mountains, rugged Pacific coastline, and lush temperate rainforests. Each has its distinct flora and fauna to explore. With over 95% of the park designated wilderness, the park protects one of the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48 states. Visitors have the opportunity to experience remoteness and pristine nature in a way that few other places can offer. 


Getting To The Trail

The hike to Mount Storm King shares the same trailhead for Marymere Falls. Beginning behind the Ranger Station, the trail passes under Highway 101. The initial stretch runs on a wide, level path lined by massive fir and cedar trees. 

The Storm King Trail veers left (east) a half a mile in, separating from the Marymere Falls trail. The trail continues on an additional 1.5 miles to the end of the maintained trail, climbing 1700’ in elevation. 

Numerous spurs lead off the main trail the final half-mile, continuing to great views across Lake Crescent, Pyramid Peak, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Take care on these slippery spurs and outcrops, which tread over precipitous drop-offs.

PARK FACILITIES AND REGULATIONS

Remember, weather conditions can change rapidly in wilderness areas. Always check the weather report before your trip, pack the ten essentials, and be prepared for bad weather. Bring your own water and pack out all trash, including toilet paper.

Here is a list of ten essential items one should always have on hand when hiking. 

  • Navigation – map, compass, or handheld GPS device. 
  • Headlamp/flashlight with extra batteries
  • Fire – matches, lighter, or firestarter
  • Knife
  • First Aid kit
  • Sun protection – glasses, sunscreen, and sun-protective clothing
  • Emergency items – light shelter, mirror, and whistle
  • Extra clothing – rain gear and extra clothing
  • Extra water – at least one quart per person
  • Extra food – high energy bars, jerky, candy

Always be prepared as the weather can change rapidly in the Olympic Mountains. You can not count on your cellphone to have service. So, be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Most national park ranger stations are unmanned at the time of writing so check online to purchase a $15day pass, or a National Parks annual pass, for hiking the Mount Storm King Trail. The trail is open from dawn to dusk. Camping is not permitted on the trail. Pets are not permitted on the trail. No campfires along the trail. No aerial drones are allowed. Pay attention to park rules, pack warm clothing and know your limits. 


Navigating the Mount Storm King Trail

mount storm kingPark in the lot on Highway 101 (Olympic Highway) next to the Mount Storm King Ranger Station on the southeast corner of Lake Crescent. Follow signs for Marymere Falls and they share trailheads. Don’t let this wide, flat trail lull you into a false sense of security as your climb is about to begin! 

Follow the trail under Highway 101 till you see a large boulder (about half an hour in) with a sign propped against it pointing the way uphill via a 180 degrees turn. This is the turn-off for Storm King. If you want to add a short detour, we recommend seeing the falls, before or after your hike up Mount Storm King. 

Say goodbye to the flat, easy hike, and hello to the uphill trek which continues to the summit. The trail is a series of switchbacks that eventually goes deeper into the forest. The first half-mile is alongside a deep dropoff but it heads inward where the path isn’t so narrow or steep on either side. 

Walking first through damp thick forests where little sunlight penetrates to the ground, enjoy the sights and smells of the Olympic National Park. As you continue the climb, at 1.6 miles in you will come to a clearing with a nice view of the surrounding tree-covered mountains and you’ll get a glimpse of the lake. Look how high you have already climbed!

Keep climbing as you notice the forest changes. Pine trees give way, or at least begin to share the space, with madronas and manzanitas; hardy, twisted trees and shrubs with reddish bark that adds color to the ever-green cedars and massive hemlocks. 

Begin looking for views when the madronas appear. Peek-a-boo glimpses of the lake through the trees soon lead to a more open area with expansive views. At 1.5 miles, stop at the shoulder for a view of Lake Crescent and the Strait. This is the end of the maintained trail. If you want the million-dollar expansive vista at the summit, continue following the trail as it grows more narrow and steeper culminating at the climber’s trail. 

This final climb is the most difficult but if you like ascending a slippery slope clinging to a rope to pull yourself up, this is the fun part. Depending on the weather conditions, the trail may be dry and dusty, or wet and slippery with almost no traction. If the steep, slippery slope alarms you, please remember it is much more difficult coming back down. If you can’t handle this last part of the ascent, stop here and enjoy the view. 

Past four to five sections of rope, the narrow trail turns to the left. Then it is only a rocky scramble to the overlook of Lake Crescent. The expansive, uninterrupted vista is a wonder to behold. You will want to wear bug repellent as the mosquitos are plentiful at the top. 

The climb down Mount Storm King is one of the few trails where the descent takes as long as the ascent. This is because the steep slope becomes slippery with little traction and can be hard on your knees. Be sure to wear a headlamp if you plan on taking in the sunset from the summit as the forest is very thick and becomes dark very quickly on your way down. 

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

Whether you make it to the summit or not, you will appreciate the magnificent views from Mount Storm King Trail. The views from the top are incredible and the forest itself is so pretty it will distract you from the steep climb. The hike is quiet, peaceful, and a fun challenge too.

 For an added bonus, hike the Marymere Falls Trail, either at the beginning or end of this hike. It is a short, flat trail with sections of natural steps to reach the summit. After the Mount Storm King rigorous hike, this will feel like a short stroll. Hike it before the Mount Storm King Trail and you may find the falls all to yourself.  

Next, check out the other top hikes in Olympic National Park outside the Mount Storm King Trail by following the links below: