Story submitted by Kirsten
Olympic National Park (ONP) is located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state and covers 922,700 acres. Often overshadowed by Mount Rainier National Park, ONP is home to four distinct ecosystems: Pacific coastline, alpine areas, the west side temperate rainforest and the forests of the drier east side. The park is about a 90 minute drive from Silverdale, making it a wonderful day trip for anyone stationed at Bangor. There are many wonderful locations one can explore, but Hurricane Ridge is by far my favorite.
Hurricane Ridge is the most accessible mountain area within ONP, known for mostly clear weather, fantastic views and great outdoor recreation for all fitness levels.
Getting from Kitsap County to the entrance of Hurricane Ridge takes about an hour and a half. There are many fun stops along the way to help you enjoy the drive. Hot tip: always check the National Park Services website for road closures and the latest COVID-19 regulations before leaving home.
Our family really enjoys stopping at the Jamestown S’Kallam Tribal Headquarters. It’s a wonderful place to get out, stretch your legs and use the restroom. There are beautiful carvings and walking paths along the grounds. We enjoy stopping at the art gallery and usually find something to take home. Across the street is the Longhouse Market and Deli, a lovely place to stop and pick up sandwiches and other hiking provisions (if you didn’t pack them yourself).
The two biggest towns you’ll drive through on your way to Hurricane Ridge are Sequim, famous for its lavender farms and festivals, and Port Angeles, home to so many wonderful shops and restaurants it’s worth a day trip of its own.
Just before you approach the entrance to Hurricane Ridge you’ll see the huge wooden play structure of Ericson Park. We haven’t worked it into our day trips to ONP yet, but the kids have always wanted to stop. It would be a lovely reward for good hikers if your kids are like mine and need some motivation.
The drive from the entrance of Hurricane Ridge up to the visitor’s center takes about a half hour. There is no cell signal. If maps make you feel more comfortable be sure to download them on your way up. Tire chains are required to be in your car after November 20th until May 1st. There are several stores in Port Angeles that rent tire chains.
The view of the Olympic Mountains from the visitor’s center is incredible. If hiking isn’t your thing pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the view. It’s well worth the drive just for that.
There are several paved hiking trails that are less than a mile that you can get to from the Hurricane Ridge visitor’s center. This is a wonderful place to bring small children. Our favorite trail is the Hurricane Hill Trail and is rated “moderate” by AllTrails. I enjoy it so much because you maintain a wonderful view the entire hike. A few times we were not able to get to the top of Hurricane Hill and it wasn’t a disappointment to turn around and try again another day.
Regardless of which trail you choose, you can see beautiful meadows with wildflowers as well as wildlife. The Marmots are my favorite — the brown rodents that look like groundhogs. If you hear a high pitched whistle it’s these guys. There are also deer and birds. I had expected to see goats based on other reports, but there are few goats left in the Olympics. The removal of this non-native species began in 2019, many of them were returned to the Cascades of Northern Washington.
On Your Way Home
Our family normally spends two hours up in Hurricane Ridge before we head back down the mountain. If you’re still up for an adventure head to the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim. Here you can drive through the preserve and feed the game animals bread. The bread must be purchased on site. The farm recommends one loaf of bread per person in the vehicle. This author recommends two adults per vehicle, one to drive and one to manage tiny people in the back. All the animals on the farm appear well cared for. The large animals such as the bears and lions are previous actors that cannot be returned to the wild. They also appear well cared for. These animals you cannot feed.
The route from Kitsap to Hurricane Ridge offers ample activity options for families. Has your family taken this trip before? What activities have you loved? Please share in the comments below!