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Recreate responsibly this fall and winter season at Olympic National Park

  • Fri Nov 27th, 2020 7:47am
  • Sports

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. Although most of the areas of the park are open, some facilities and park roads are closed now for the season. Before your visit, 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 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 if you are 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, 2021.

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. Be prepared to use your vehicle as a warming area and pack extra food, water, dry clothing, and blankets and/or sleeping bags in your 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 four-wheel drive, 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 p.m. 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.

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

When planning a visit to Hurricane Ridge, check the park website for updates and changes to winter operations.

Downhill Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area

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 beginning Dec. 6 through March 28, 2021. 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 and 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 or the park newspaper, the Bugler.

Avalanche Information

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.

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 the webcam views).

Olympic National Park Visitor Center

The Olympic National Park Visitor Center, at the base of Hurricane Ridge Road in Port Angeles, remains closed. Staff 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.

Visitor Information: 360-565-3130

Road & Weather Hotline: 360-565-3131

Wilderness Information Centers – 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 [email protected], 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. Know how to use a topographical or relief map as well as your compass or GPS unit before going out. Check the park website for more information on winter travel in the wilderness.

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 due to 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

Throughout the winter season, rain falls frequently in the Hoh, Queets and Quinault Valleys, contributing to the yearly average of 140 inches of precipitation each year. The result is a lush, green canopy of both coniferous and deciduous species. Mosses and ferns that blanket the surfaces add another dimension to the enchantment of the rain forest.

The Hoh Rain Forest Road is generally open 24 hours a day. 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. to 4 p.m. through Jan. 3, 2021 (except Christmas Day).

Recreate Responsibly

Whether you’re planning to backpacking, snowshoe, ski, or take a day hike, please remember to Recreate Responsibly. Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and practice Leave No Trace principles when you visit.

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 your household. Give others plenty of room whether you are on a trail, at a boat launch, or in a parking lot. Follow the CDC social distancing guidelines for staying six 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.