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Olympic National Park Hurricane Ridge Guided Tour

Hikers, including two young ones, pause for a photo as they ascent up the Hurricane Hill trail with the snowcapped Olympic Mountains in the background

Bask in the Glory of Hurricane Ridge with Experience Olympic

Hurricane Ridge is a great sightseeing, hiking, and birding tour destination from May to October. 

Private day tours to Hurricane Ridge can be scheduled as a half day guided sightseeing tour from Port Angeles. If you are interested in a full day guided hike, contact us about organizing a thru (one-way) guided hike using the new public bus shuttle.

Visiting Hurricane Ridge is best enjoyed with a guide who knows where the carnivorous plants grow and brings a spotting scope for viewing endemic Olympic Marmots.

Hurricane Ridge is the Pathway to Olympic's Sublime Subalpine

Discover panoramic views of the Olympic mountains, subalpine wildflowers, butterflies, birds, and mammals on Hurricane Ridge hiking and wildlife viewing tours with a biologist.

Your wildlife guide, Carolyn, conducted her field research on plants adapted to living in a desert environment while in graduate school. Plants and animals at Hurricane Ridge must endure similarly harsh environmental conditions throughout much of the year.

Tour participants looking out from the main parking lot with the Olympic Mountians and former Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge in the background
A Columbian Black-tailed Deer browses in a lush patch of green plants at Hurricane Ridge with the Olympic Mountains in the background

Port Angeles is the Gateway to Hurricane Ridge 

The roughly forty five minute drive from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge is on a well maintained and paved road with ample pull outs. 

The drive to Hurricane Ridge gives you access to stunning montane forests, tunnels through rock, basalt outcroppings, views of the Olympic Mountains, sparse old twisted conifers, and subalpine meadows.

On a clear day, a visit to Hurricane Ridge will hopefully allow us to view Mount Olympus, the highest peak in the Olympic Mountain range towering at just under 8,000 ft. (2400 m) elevation. 

Most Accessible During the Summer Months

Hurricane Ridge offers the most accessible access to the high country in Olympic National Park from roughly Memorial Day to Labor Day and the hiking and sightseeing options are excellent. 

Access to Hurricane Ridge is great during the summer but unpredictable the rest of the year. Usually Hurricane Ridge is open daily starting in May and ending in October. Hurricane Ridge is often closed in April and November and the winter season is usually from December to March, when Hurricane Ridge is only open Friday to Sunday if the weather is good and it is staffed.

Three hikers include a small child hike down the steep Switchback Trail through wildflower-filled meadows
Olympic Marmot standing on a rock and looking out for predators

Charismatic Groundhogs of Olympic National Park

The Olympic Marmot (Marmota olympus) is in the same genus as the lowland groundhog or woodchuck (Marmota monax), a species made famous by Groundhog Day. The Olympic Marmot is endemic, meaning that it is only found in the Olympic mountains and nowhere else.

Marmots are very social and we can usually start to observe them eating plants in May as the snow melts. They live in colonies and burrow underground. They can begin their hibernation as early as September.

Olympic Peninsula Isolation

During the last ice age, only certain areas on the Olympic Peninsula were free of ice, including Hurricane Ridge. 

This geologic “island-effect” combined with the Olympic Peninsula being surrounded by water on three sides geographically, has resulted in isolation and the evolution of unique flora and fauna. 

The Olympic Marmot is an example of unique fauna and Piper’s Bellflower is an example of unique flora of the Olympic Peninsula.

Olympic bellflowers or Piper's bellflower is native to the Olympic Mountains and is shown here on a rocky outcropping
Two small Black Bear cubs are grazing in a lush subalpine meadow where the plants are as tall as they are

Additional Hurricane Ridge Mammals

In addition to Olympic Marmots, we can also view Olympic Chipmunk, Black-tailed Deer, Snowshoe Hare, and Black Bear.

Black Bear can be viewed at a distance in the greenest of subalpine meadows when leafy green plant growth is fresh and lush, usually in June.

A low snowpack and dry hot spring/summer can lead to some variable wildlife viewing conditions in late summer and early fall.

Hurricane Ridge Birds and Mammals active early in the morning

Sunrise can be as early as 5:13 AM on the summer solstice with twilight starting around 4:43 AM. The dawn chorus of songbirds (a phenomenon that occurs in the early morning hours during breeding) starts in early spring and continues until roughly mid July starts around twilight. It is best to organize tours up to Hurricane Ridge early in the morning to take advantage of the twilight hours. 

In summer, timing is especially important because warmer temperatures are the perfect conditions for mid-day wildlife inactivity.

A tour participant takes a photograph of a mammal on the Hurricane Hill trail with the Olympic Mountains rising above the clouds in the background
A Fritillary Butterfly sits on a the flower of Pearly Everlasting with its wings spread

Hurricane Ridge Birds and Butterflies

Nature lovers flock to the Olympic Mountains in the summer and are known to concentrate on birds in the early morning when they are the most active and then switch to butterflies later in the day. Bird activity often drops off around noon when butterfly activity picks up. 

Butterflies are insects and insects are comprised of the head, thorax, and abdomen. Butterfly thoracic temperatures must reach a certain minimum in order to take flight in the morning which is why you will see them basking in the sun with their wings spread but not flying around in the morning.

Wildflowers of Hurricane Ridge

Old Man's Whiskers or Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) is pictured here at the top of Hurricane Hill with the Olympic Mountains in the distance. A unique variety (campanulatum) has been described here in Olympic.

Some of the more interesting Olympic wildflowers like to grow not only in high elevation rocky crevices but also next to year-round flowing streams and boggy ephemeral wetlands. 

By August, most of the these wildflowers have already bloomed in order to be able to disperse their seeds in time for winter when they will be covered in feet of snow.

Prairie Smoke is a small red flower that grows close to the ground and the one pictured here has the Olympic Mountains in the background
Interpretation sign that shows the Lillian Glacier in 1905 and then in 2010 when there are only a few snow patches left

Aftermath of the 2023 Day Lodge Fire

Very little nature interpretation is left from the 2023 fire that consumed the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge, making a hiking and nature guide even more useful in understanding the complexities of the Hurricane Ridge ecosystem.  

People have been enjoying Hurricane Ridge for thousands of years without a permanent structure like a lodge. Our visits Hurricane Ridge highlight the natural world: the sparse stands of stunted subalpine trees and tapestry of subalpine wildflowers as well as the views and wildlife.

Hurricane Ridge vs Mount Rainer's Paradise

Both Hurricane Ridge and Paradise in Mount Rainer National Park are at about 5000 feet elevation and share similar plants and wildlife. 

Rainer is a volcano that climbs to 14,000 feet so Paradise has access to ample running water during the summer and fall. In contrast, once the snow disappears from Hurricane Ridge, there is not more access to running water.

Hurricane Ridge has much more reliable spring or early summer wildflowers, whereas Paradise is typically better for wildflowers starting in August.

Closeup of an Avalanche Lily with a carpet of lilies behind it as the aftermath of a recent snow drift melt
An Olympic Marmot stand up in alert pose looking and listening for predators
Closeup of an Olympic Marmot with white hair around the nose, small ears, and golden patterning on the back
An Olympic Marmot looks out at the view from its high rocky perch
A Columbian Black-tailed Deer walks on top of a snowdrift at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
A male Black-tailed Deer with large antlers rests on the ground next to a female
Close up of a dotted Black-tailed Deer fawn in a meadow with flowers in the background
A mama bear browses with her two cubs nearby but not pictured in a lush green meadow at Hurricane Ridge
A young Black Bear looks up from grazing on a steep slope at Hurricane Ridge
A young Black Bear lifts its nose to smell from further upslope at Hurricane Ridge
An Olympic Chipmunk stops briefly to eat a flower or seeds at Hurricane Ridge
A Sooty Grouse stands up to look around for her offspring that she is traveling with
A brown snowshoe hare pauses for a moment and listens with its large ears at Hurricane Ridge
An expansive view of snowcapped Olympic Mountains as seen from Hurricane Ridge
The pink flowers of Elephanthead Lousewort look like small elephants head
Closeup of a Columbian Lily that looks like a minature Day Lily
An uncommon white flowering Broadleaf Lupine which usually has blue flowers and the leaves are large and palmate
The Sierra ShootingSar has very distinctive purple-pink flowers and is next to a white orchid
Western Pasqueflower seedhead backlit by the sun on a rocky slope with the sky in the background
Closeup of a Daisy with pink petals against a green background
A nodding Chocolate Lily seen from below with the sky and large tree silhouette in the background
Bright red Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) brightens up a rocky slope along with Spreading Phlox at Hurricane Ridge
Picturesque scene of the sky, snow-capped Olympic mountains, cloud layer, subalpine trees, and thick wildflower meadow
Patch of blue lupine set against the snowclad Olympic Mountains with blue sky
A yellow wallflower stands out against red painbrush and other flowers with the snowy Olympic Mountains and forested slopes in the background
A guided hike on the snow drift in early spring on Hurricane Hill with four family members
Bracted Lousewort and Broadleaf Lupine grown together in a wet seep at Hurricane Ridge
A hiker with hiking poles, a backpack, and hydration system, poses on trail dotted with snow with the Olympic Mountains in the background