Hurricane Ridge With Kids: Get ready for a winter adventure – Seattle’s Child | Dauktion

Hurricane Ridge towers high in the Olympic Mountains. With panoramic mountain views stretching clear into Canada, it’s easy to see why this is a hike appreciated by many. The Ridge is a great year-round adventure. Although easily accessible in summer, it’s worth the challenge in winter.

get there

If you are looking for a winter wonderland then look no further than Hurricane Ridge. It pays to pile the kids up, pack the car with every imaginable winter toy, and fill the three-hour drive with movies, books, and games for the kids.

Our drive up the mountain was an experience. Even in December, the base was green and lush. We saw people leaving to enjoy the snow at lower elevations.

During the winter season, the road is expected to be open Friday through Sunday and Mondays on public holidays, weather and road conditions permitting. The road is closed on all other days. You must wear snow chains in your car during the winter season and must leave the entrance by 17:00.

The closest city to Hurricane Ridge is Port Angeles, 17 miles from the top of the mountain. The long and winding road is slow, very steep and winding. It can be challenging for squeamish kids in the car (and nerve-wracking for adult drivers!). The steep slopes are lined with crash barriers and the road has many wide turning points. The ride to the top is made even more challenging as the last few miles are solid ice. A four-wheel drive car is a must here.

When we arrived we found that the ski lift was buried in snow and the parking lot was completely frozen over. That was enough to shut down the Hurricane Ridge Rental Shop, so bring your own gear just in case.

Hurricane Ridge: Travel and Weather

Before you pack your bags or buy your national park pass, be sure to call the Hurricane Ridge Roads and Weather Line: 360-565-3131.

Try to be flexible with your planning as the weather changes quickly. Roads may be closed due to strong winds, blizzard and heavy snow accumulation. To prepare for a possible closure and to maximize our chance of admission, we camped in our trailer overnight. Camping at the KOA (Kampgrounds of America) in Port Angeles helped us when we missed our admission window on Saturday. The KOA offered us the chance to roast marshmallows over an open fire with a view of the mountains. The camping trip only heightened our excitement as we parked our trailer on site, drove up the Ridge, and celebrated coming to the park on Sunday. If camping isn’t your thing, you’ll find the nearest lodge in Port Angeles called Olympic Lodge – 12 miles from Hurricane Ridge. Advance bookings are recommended.

The queue for entry into the park also tends to get backed up and there is no guarantee that you will get inside. The winter opening hours – 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. – begin at the end of November and last until March 27th. You must be down the hill by 5pm and no one is allowed in after 4pm.

Dress appropriately for the weather

Hurricane Ridge definitely gets a lot of snow in the winter and my almost 3 year old was mesmerized seeing everything beneath our feet. The snow banks piled higher than he did and he kept whispering, “Is that where Elsa lives, mommy?”

I’ve never seen so much snow and my kid was layered like the blueberry version of Willy Wonka from Veruca Salt. For the little ones, I appreciated the thumbless mittens and put them on before putting on his insulated coat. Thermal underwear for toddlers keeps them warm even under their snow bibs. Top it off with a pair of snow boots and an adorable beanie, and you have a warm winter ensemble. (See more expert tips on winter weather gear here.)

Hurricane Ridge: Playing in the snow

We went to Hurricane Ridge looking for lots of snow to play with. The Ridge offers limited downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and a kid-friendly sledding area. The National Parks Service (NPS) recommends using areas near the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center as safe places to participate in winter fun. If you venture further inland, NPS recommends signing your name in the registration box in the visitor center foyer. Due to extreme weather changes, everyone is warned that sudden snowstorms, avalanches and white outs can occur. Preparing for the winter weather is key to staying safe and having fun.

We chose the sledding zone to the left of the visitor center and loved it! The small course is on a slope, away from cars and other adventurers, which is perfect for kids to dash down without fearing the trek back up.

Views for miles on a clear summer day

Hurricane Ridge in Summer

Summer is a stark contrast to the winter season. If you are lucky enough to explore the area on a clear day you can see Mount Olympus and across the Juan de Fuca Strait to Vancouver Island.

The approach is significantly less treacherous and the paved road makes access easy for any vehicle. The parking lot fills up quickly in summer so we went later in the day and found a spot near the entrance.

Steep drops on the trail: carry your little ones or pack them.

accessibility and the way

Access to the Cirque Rim and Big Meadow paved hiking trails is a great benefit for those with strollers or those with mobility issues. Although the sidewalk doesn’t extend through Hurricane Hill, we were able to hike the rest.

Hurricane Hill starts where the dirt road starts and gets a bit more challenging. There are steep drop offs, an 827 foot drop in elevation, and narrow sections that wouldn’t be ideal for little hikers.

We ended up carrying our toddler for most of the 3.4 mile hike there and back. As we returned to the lower paved section, we were greeted by all the sub-alpine flowers, various birds, and even black-tailed deer. These deer are not shy and will cross your path. Respect wildlife and their habitat by staying away from them and avoiding them.

Visitor center and picnic areas

Hurricane Ridge has quickly become our favorite area to fuel up and explore when in the area or planning a trip. The visitor center is accessible year-round when the road is open. There are flush toilets, exhibits including a park film, a warming area in winter and a gift shop and cafe in summer.

There are picnic areas accessible outside the visitor center from mid-May to October. There will come a day when your child will clean up after themselves, but that will only happen if you lead by example and unpack your own junk.

Hurricane Ridge is a wonderful place to get out, explore and move! In all seasons it will awaken your senses and be a great adventure. Find a break in the clouds to enjoy a moment in the sun with your little ones.

Hurricane Ridge: Do your research before you go

  • Call 360-565-3131 for weather and road closure information before heading out
  • Bring chains for your car in winter, preferably 4WD
  • The visitor center offers guided hikes in summer
  • Parts of the trail are stroller friendly, but there are steep drops on the climb
  • A national park pass is required to enter this park. (Fourth graders can get them for free, FYI.)

More trips in Seattle’s Child:

Guide to Washington’s three national parks

The rest of Olympic National Park: a family outing

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