Top Things To Do During Winter at Olympic National Park, WA

A Guide to Winter Recreation at Olympic National Park

From snow-blanketed mountains to evergreen forests dripping with rain and ocean beaches pounded by winter storm waves, there are many ways to recreate in the winter at Olympic National Park. Although most of 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 aheadhike smartpack 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

Cross-Country Skiers Hurricane Ridge in winter
Cross-Country Skiing at Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Winter season operations for Hurricane Ridge are set to begin Friday, November 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 December 26, 2020 through January 3, 2021(closed Christmas Day)and holiday Mondays on January 18 and February 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 10:00 am to 4:00 pm 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 during the winter
Hurricane Ridge Road

Hurricane Ridge Road opens at 9:00 am, though times can vary according to road and weather conditions. The road closes to uphill traffic at 4:00 pm and all vehicles must exit the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station by 5:00 pm. 

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.  

Hurricane Ridge Mountain View Café, Gift Shop and Rental Shop

The concession-operated Hurricane Ridge Mountain ViewCafé, Gift Shop and Rental Shop will not open this winter season. Food service and gear rentals will not be available at Hurricane Ridge.  

Downhill Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area

rope tow at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
Rope Tow at Hurricane Ridge

Weather and snow permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area is scheduled to operate from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays beginning December 6 through March 28, 2021.  The area is also scheduled to be open daily December 26 through January 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 

A man standing next to an Avalanche Sign

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 websiteThe 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 9:00 am to 4:00 pm 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 9:00 am to 4:00 pm 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 Store

The park store is operated by Discover Your Northwest, an official non-profit partner of the National Park Service dedicated to supporting the educational mission of Olympic National Park. While the physical park store locations remain closed, a range of books, travel guides, maps, pins, and other items are available for sale online. To find out more, become a member, or browse the online bookstore, visit www.discovernw.org/olympic

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

Olympic Peninsula beach
Clouds and Rolling Waves at Ruby Beach

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

winter at Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park
Hoh Rain Forest with a light blanket of winter snow

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 10:00 am to 4:00 pm through January 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.

Recreate Responsibly Winter Addition
RecreateResponsibly.org

This blog was written by guest-blogger Penny Wagner, Public Affairs Specialist, Olympic National Park. Visit NPS.gov/olym for more information.

Feature Photo: Cross-Country Skier at Hurricane Ridge | Photo by Dan Sullivan, NPS

About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 422 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and YouTube. 

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