Top Peninsula hikes have

Top Peninsula hikes have

easy access

On the Trail

Leif Nesheim

Hiking isn't just for rugged, outdoorsy types able to leap tall mountains in a single bound. There are trails on the Olympic Peninsula for people of all abilities, including some trails that are wheelchair-

accessible. They're a great way to introduce novice hikers to the joys of the outdoors without dragging them on a killer trek or to allow folks with mobility issues an opportunity to share the beauty.

This week, I'm sharing a few of my favorite hikes from around the peninsula that all can enjoy.

Hurricane Ridge/

Hurricane Hill

How hard: easy

How long: Several quarter-mile to half-mile loops

Hurricane Hill

How long: 3.2 miles round trip

How hard: Moderate.

How to get there: Take U.S. Highway 101 west to Race Street in Port Angeles, turn south. Turn right on Hurricane Ridge Road just past the National Park Visitors Center. Five miles beyond is the park entrance; a pass is required. Follow Hurricane Ridge Road to the visitor

center there or continue beyond to Hurricane Hill.

Seventeen miles south of Port Angeles at an elevation of 5,225 feet, the ridge is Olympic National Park's most easily reached mountain destination.

Paved meadow loop trails traverse the ridgetop near the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Blacktailed deer often are seen browsing among the meadow flowers. The trails are paved and handicapped accessible with some assistance and provide magnificent mountain vistas. The views are so omnipresent, you don't need to leave the car.

But don't limit yourself. Get out. The fresh scent of hemlock and fir wafts on the breezes that sweep Hurricane Ridge. Delicate mountain flowers, from early-blooming alpine lilies that poke their drooping white heads from melting snow patches to the bright red Indian paintbrushes and tiny pink phlox blossoms, there is a panoply of pretty.

Because there is so much to see so easily, summer crowds can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are two easy ways to get beyond the crowds: go early or go farther.

Go farther, past the visitor center - which has accessible restrooms - and you are on a road leading to the Hurricane Hill trail. It's paved but has steep drop-offs and no guard rail. The first half-mile of the 1.6-mile trail is considered accessible with assistance. This is where I take hiking newbies in the north Olympics.

The trail is an easy ascent with beautiful views that passes through gorgeous floral displays. It's rather well-traveled but much less populated than the Hurricane Ridge trail network. Wildflowers, fir scent, mountain views, late-melting snow patches ... think "Sound of Music."

Quinault Valley

Rain Forest Nature Trail Loop

How long: 0.5 mile

How hard: easy

How to get there: Take U.S. Highway 101 loop to the South Shore Road, south of Amanda Park. Follow the road 1.4 miles to the parking area on the right. A barrier-free flush toilet, drinking water and a visitor information board are also available. A pass is required to park; $5 day pass is available at trailhead.

This is a pretty, barrier-free loop with educational signage along its route. A portion of it joins the Quinault Loop trail.

The forest here is the most massive along the route, with luxuriant rain-forest vegetation: tall trees, verdant moss and lichen and ferns of all sorts. While you're in the area, head to the north shore of the lake for some additional hiking opportunities.

The Maple Glades Trail is a 0.5-mile hard-packed loop trail through a moss-draped rain forest.

The nearby Kestner Homestead Trail is a 1.3 mile self-guided, hard-packed loop trail. It links with the Maple Glades Trail and leads to the historical Kestner Homestead. Both are accessible with assistance.

Fort Worden

State Park

How long: Various lengths depending upon route.

How hard: Easy.

How to get there: Take U.S. Highway 101 east to Highway 20, then head north to Port Townsend. Turn left at the light on Kearney Street. Follow the signs to the park: right on Blaine, left on Walker (which becomes Cherry Street), continue straight up a hill on Fort Worden Way to the park's main gate. Once inside the park there are numerous buildings and trails to explore. Maps are available at the visitors' center or park office; follow the signs at the first four-way intersection inside the main gate (the visitors' center is at the intersection, the park office is to the right). Free.

The trails and old roads that wend their way through Port Townsend's Fort Worden State Park aren't so much a hike as they are the foundation of a pleasant stroll.

Some of the trails are more accessible than others but there are plenty of places where all should be able to go, including the historical gun emplacements, buildings and lighthouse.

Mowed grass grows on wide trails hedged by wild roses in places and tall trees. Other trails are paved roadbeds. The crumbling stone walls of the batteries are punctuated with heavy metal doors hanging open on their hinges.

Though the wood buildings are well-maintained and house numerous programs and activities, a hostel and other entertaining things to do, nature is reclaiming many portions of the fort.

Don't forget to drive down to Point Wilson lighthouse for a particularly scenic maritime view.

Friends Landing

How long: 1.7-mile loop

How hard: Easy

How to get there: Take Highways 101, 108, 8 and finally U.S. Highway 12 to Montesano. Then, at Montesano's west end, take the Devonshire Road exit south to Katon Road; turn left and follow the road to the end. Park either next to the sign at a trailhead or near the boat launch a little farther in. Free.

Friends Landing is a great place for a quick stroll, camping, fishing or just getting away for a little while.

The trail is a 1.7-mile loop around 32-acre Lake Quigg, a former gravel pit. The trail is either paved or a level boardwalk the entire way.

It has interpretive stations throughout its length that tell of the wildlife and habitat of the Chehalis River, Lake Quigg and the surrounding wetlands.

Overlooks provide places for tranquil viewing of the lake or river. On sunny days, light dapples through a canopy of green maple leaves. Salal, salmonberry, ferns and other foliage fill out the understory.

The Friend family donated 152 acres of former gravel pit to Trout Unlimited in 1988; Friends of Friends Landing now manages the private, not-for-profit park.

It was designed to be fully accessible and has RV and tent campsites, fishing, boating, picnic and playground opportunities.

Camping reservations may be made March to November by calling 360-249-5117.

Leif Nesheim can be reached at

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