A cross-country skier enjoys a day at Hurricane Ridge. Photo by Dan Sullivan/National Park Service

Officials: Recreate responsibly this fall, winter at Olympic National Park

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

From snow-blanketed mountains to evergreen forests dripping with rain and ocean beaches pounded by winter storm waves, there are many ways to experience the fall and winter seasons at Olympic National park.

Although most of areas of the park are open, some facilities and park roads are closed now for the season. Visitors are encouraged to check the current conditions and weather forecast and be prepared for rain and snow. Call 360-565-3131 for current road, campground and weather information that is updated twice daily.

As always, visitors are urged to plan ahead, hike smart, pack the “Ten Essentials” and have an emergency plan — even for a short day hike or snowshoe excursion. Consider learning CPR and basic wilderness first aid, especially for those planning to hike, ski or snowshoe in the backcountry. Leaving an accurate itinerary with an emergency contact is a critical step for any trip in the backcountry.

Hurricane Ridge

Winter season operations for Hurricane Ridge are set to begin Friday, Nov. 27. Weather permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open Fridays through Sundays through March 28.

In addition, the road is scheduled to be open during winter break from Dec. 26-Jan. 3 (closed Christmas Day) and holiday Mondays on Jan. 18 and Feb. 15.

The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center will remain closed through the winter season. Staff are currently scheduled to be available at an information window from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. but the exhibit space, tables and warming area are closed. Visitors are asked to be prepared to use vehicles as a warming areas and pack extra food, water, dry clothing and blankets and/or sleeping bags in one’s vehicle. Restroom facilities will be open.

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.

All vehicles, including 4-wheel drive vehicles, are required to carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station during the winter season.

Hurricane Ridge Road opens at 9 a.m., though times can vary according to road and weather conditions. The road closes to uphill traffic at 4:00 pm and all vehicles must exit the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station by 5 p.m.

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 Hotline at 360-565-3131 or by following @HRWinterAccess on Twitter.

Hurricane Ridge Road closes temporarily when the parking lot becomes completely full; park staff urge ridge visitors to park efficiently in order to maximize parking space.

The concession-operated Hurricane Ridge Mountain View Café, Gift Shop and Rental Shop will not open this winter season. In addition, food service and gear rentals will not be available at Hurricane Ridge.

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 views).

Ski, snowboard, tubing areas

Weather and snow permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area is scheduled to operate from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays, Dec. 6-March 28. The area is also scheduled to be open daily Dec. 26-Jan. 3.

More information about the Hurricane Ridge Downhill Ski, Snowboard and Tubing area for the 2020-2021 season is available at hurricaneridge.com.

Cross-country skiing, 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 snowshoeing beyond the immediate Hurricane Ridge area should 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 (www.nps.gov/olym) or the park newspaper, the Bugler (nps.gov/olym/learn/news/winter-2020-2021-bugler-newspaper.htm)

Avalanche info

Up-to-date information about weather and avalanche risk is available from the Northwest Avalanche Center online at nwac.us.

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.

ONP Visitor Center

Located at the base of Hurricane Ridge Road in Port Angeles, the Olympic National Park Visitor Center remains closed. Staffers are available from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) on the front porch and by phone or email to answer questions.

Get visitor information at 360-565-3130 and the road/weather hotline at 360-565-3131.

Wilderness Safety

Wilderness Information Centers are closed to the public for the remainder of 2020. Staff are available daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. to distribute bear canisters and answer questions from the back porch, via email at OLYM_WIC@nps.gov, or by phone at 360-565-3100.

All wilderness camping permits must be reserved online at recreation.gov prior to the planned trip.

Wilderness use during the fall and winter requires additional skill in navigation, route-finding and snow travel. Navigation — map, compass, and GPS system — is one of the Ten Essentials. Navigation systems should be used when planning your route and orienting yourself to your surroundings. Check the park website for more information on winter travel in the wilderness.

Park store

The park store is operated by Discover Your Northwest, an official non-profit partner of the National Park Service dedicated to supporting the educational mission of Olympic National Park. While the physical park store locations remain closed, a range of books, travel guides, maps, pins and other items are available for sale online. To find out more, become a member, or browse the online bookstore, visit www.discovernw.org/olympic.

Park Roads

Deer Park Road, Obstruction Point Road and Hurricane Hill Road are closed to vehicles for the winter season. Sol Duc Road often closes for the winter due to snow and icy road conditions.

Other park roads may close with short notice because of road and weather conditions. Call the Road and Weather Hotline at 360-565-3131 to check current road status information.

The Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed to vehicle access beyond the Madison Falls parking area at the park boundary due to a major road washout. There is limited parking and turnaround space. The remainder of the Olympic Hot Springs Road and access to Whiskey Bend Road is open to pedestrians and bicycles via a temporary bypass trail. Bicyclists should walk their bike on the bypass trail and all users should be prepared to share the trail. Dogs on a leash are allowed on the roads and the bypass trail, but not on any other trails beyond the gate.

Pacific Coast

Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette — Olympic National Park’s road-accessible coastal destinations — are open weather permitting, including all roads, campgrounds and trailheads. Visitors should be aware of the 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.

Rain Forest

The Hoh Rain Forest Road is generally open 24 hours a day, but the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center remains closed. Restroom facilities are located outside the Visitor Center. Staff are available outside the Visitor Center Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through Jan. 3 (except Christmas Day).

Safety first

Whether you’re planning to backpacking, snowshoe, ski, or take a day hike, park visitors are asked recreate responsibly. Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and practice Leave No Trace principles.

• Know before you go. Visit NPS.gov/olym for current park conditions. Make a plan, follow the 10 Essentials, and if you are sick, stay home.

• Keep it close. Follow the state and county orders governing the open status of the area you’re considering visiting. The National Park Service is working closely with governors and state and local health departments as we increase access and services across the National Park System.

• Keep your distance. Recreate with the people in one’s household. Give others plenty of room whether on a trail, at a boat launch or in a parking lot. Follow CDC social distancing guidelines for staying 6 feet away from others. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth if you’re near others.

• Know your limits. Postpone challenging hikes or trying new activities while first responders, parks, and communities continue to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.

• Keep it with you. If you brought it, take it with you. Trash pickup and restroom facilities will continue to be limited in many park areas. Follow Leave No Trace principles.

• Keep it inclusive. Be an active part of making our nation’s parks and public lands safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.

— Olympic National Park sources

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