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Olympic National Park shares ‘top 10 tips’ for fun, safe winter recreation

Sequim Gazette logo: MainLogo Sequim Gazette 11/24/2022 Sequim Gazette Staff
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National Park Service park rangers welcomes Olympic Peninsula residents and visitors to safely enjoy their 2022-2023 winter visits to Olympic National Park.

“Visiting Olympic during the winter season is a great time to experience the peacefulness of a snowy landscape, take a walk through the cool rain forest, or storm watch at the coast,” ranger Jared Low said. “With preparation and planning, visitors can have fun, stay safe, and help us protect park resources.”

Though Hurricane Ridge is subject to extreme winter conditions — including sudden storms, white-outs and avalanches that make making planning and preparation for winter conditions essential — it remains a popular place for winter recreation at Olympic National Park.

Here are 10 tips for having fun and staying safe on the ridge, courtesy of the National Park Service:

1 — Carry tire chains or approved traction control devices and know how to use them.

2 — Check the Hurricane Ridge in Winter Twitter account (twitter.com/HRWinterAccess) to see if the road to Hurricane Ridge is currently open.

3 — Wear warm layers and bring along extra clothing and emergency supplies like food, water, and first aid gear. You may want something dry to change into after playing in the snow.

4 — Go to go.nps.gov/HRwinter to see what services are open at Hurricane Ridge.

5 — If you’re visiting Hurricane Ridge, you may have to wait in your car at the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station if the parking lot is full. Bring a blanket to stay cozy and a book or podcast to pass the time.

6 — Winter driving basics: Take it slow. Brake slowly, turn slowly, accelerate slowly, drive slowly.

7 — Leave your dog at home. Pets aren’t allowed in buildings or on snow trails at Hurricane Ridge, and they’ll get cold waiting in your car.

8 — Be on the lookout for cornices and other signs of avalanche danger. Learn more about traveling in snowy areas and avalanche safety at go.nps.gov/OlympicSnow.

9 — Don’t feed the Canada jays, even if they ask you to. Just don’t. Let them be wild.

10 — Always have a backup plan! Olympic is a big and diverse park. If you don’t need to visit Hurricane Ridge, you can still enjoy rivers, forests, lakes, and the beautiful Pacific Coast!

Find more information and a video about visiting Hurricane Ridge, visit go.nps.gov/HRwinter.

Winter season operations, details

Winter season operations for Hurricane Ridge are set to begin on Friday, Nov. 25, and end March 26, 2023.

Weather permitting, Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open Friday through Sunday through March 26, 2023 (closed Dec. 25, Christmas Day). In addition, the road is scheduled to be open daily Dec. 26-Jan. 2, and the holiday Mondays of Jan. 16, 2023, and Feb. 20, 2023.

Hurricane Ridge Road typically opens at 9 a.m., though times can vary. Depending on weather and road conditions, the road may be open as late as noon, or not open at all. 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.

All vehicles, including four-wheel drive, are required to carry tire chains or approved traction control devices when traveling above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station during the winter season.

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 line at 360-565-3131 and by following @HRWinterAccess on Twitter (no account necessary).

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

Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center

The restrooms and exhibit area will be open inside the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Be prepared to use your vehicle as a warming area in case the visitor center does not open due to weather or staffing issues. Pack extra food, water, dry clothing, and blankets and/or sleeping bags in your vehicle.

The visitor center will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday through Sunday, Nov. 25-March 26. Exceptions: Closed Dec. 25; open daily Dec. 26-Jan. 2, open holiday Mondays Jan. 16 and Feb. 20.

The concessioner-operated Mountain View Café, Gift Shop & Rental Shop on the lower level of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center will open on Dec. 9, and will have the same operating hours as the visitor center, described above. Food service will be take-out only.

Downhill ski, snowboard, and tubing area

The Hurricane Ridge Downhill Ski, Snowboard, and Tubing Area has two rope tows, a poma lift and tubing park, and is operated by the Hurricane Winter Sports Club. It is scheduled to operate Dec. 4-March 26.

Weather and snow permitting, the Downhill Ski, Snowboard, and Tubing Area is open weekends, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Exceptions: Closed Dec. 25; open daily Dec. 26-Jan. 2, open holiday Mondays Jan. 16 and Feb. 20.

More information about the Hurricane Ridge Downhill Ski, Snowboard, and Tubing Area for the 2022-2023 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 snowboarding beyond the immediate Hurricane Ridge area must 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 (nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/cross-country-skiing-snowshoeing-routes.htm), or the park newspaper, The Bugler (nps.gov/olym/learn/news/newspaper.htm).

Snowshoe with a ranger

Ranger-led snowshoe walks will begin at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center on Saturdays from December 31 to March 25 at 1:30 pm. Snowshoe walks may be canceled at any time because of weather, operational priorities, and/or safety concerns. Call 360-565-3131 for updates. There is no additional cost for this program.

Snowshoe walks last 90 minutes and cover less than a mile. Walks are limited to 20 participants. Sign up starts at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center at 1 p.m. Snowshoes and instructions are provided. Participants should prepare for cold, snow, wind, or even rain. Dress in layers, wear warm, waterproof boots and bring hats, mittens, sunscreen and glasses.

Avalanche information

Up-to-date information about weather and avalanche risk is available from the Northwest Avalanche Center. Anyone planning to venture beyond the maintained downhill ski area or the immediate Hurricane Ridge area should always check the Northwest Avalanche Center website (nwac.us) 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 3002 Mount Angeles Road in Port Angeles, Washington, is currently open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) from 9 am to 4 pm. Restrooms are open daily and are located outside the main building. Staff are also available by phone or email to answer questions. Call 360-565-3130.

Wilderness Information Centers and Wilderness Safety

Staff are available daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Port Angeles Wilderness Information Center located inside the Olympic National Park Visitor Center to distribute bear canisters and answer questions. Like the visitor center, the Wilderness Information Center is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Staff are also available by email or by phone at 360-565-3100. Wilderness camping permits can be reserved online in advance via Recreation.gov. The Quinault and Hoodsport Wilderness Information Centers are closed for the season.

Wilderness use during the fall and winter require additional skill in navigation, route-finding, and snow travel. Navigation – map, compass, and GPS system – is one of the Ten Essentials (nps.gov/articles/10essentials.htm). 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: nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wilderness-winter-travel.htm.

Winter closures

Deer Park Road, Obstruction Point Road, and Hurricane Hill Road are closed for the winter season. Sol Duc Road typically 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 & Weather line at 360-565-3131 to check current road and campground status information.

Winter camping

All park campgrounds open during winter are first-come, first-served. Some park campgrounds are primitive with no potable water. Check campground statuses on the park website at nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/campgroundstatus.htm.

Pacific Coast

Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette are open, weather and conditions permitting. Visitors should be aware of 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 forests

Throughout the winter season, rain falls frequently in the Hoh, Queets, and Quinault Valleys, contributing to the yearly average of 140 inches of precipitation. Visitors should prepare for wet weather. For updates on road and trail conditions, call the recorded Road & Weather line at 360-565-3131.

Recreate responsibly

Whether you’re planning to backpack, snowshoe, ski, or take a day hike, please remember to Recreate Responsibly (nps.gov/planyourvisit/recreate-responsibly.htm). Visitors are encouraged to follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and follow “Leave No Trace” principles when you visit.

For more

Find more information about visiting Olympic National Park in winter at go.nps.gov/OlympicWinter22-23.

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