By Peninsula Daily News staff
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WITH RELATIVELY FLAT terrain, ranger-guided snowshoe hikes and dramatic vistas for beginning and casual snowshoers, plus more difficult, technical trails for advanced snowshoe athletes, Hurricane Ridge is a popular destination.
“It's a great way to get off the beaten track,” said Ranger Janis Burger, lead interpreter for the snowshoe hikes.
Ranger-led 90-minute snowshoe walks, suited to beginners and families, are offered at 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays.
(To reach the Ridge, head up Hurricane Ridge Road, which extends 17 miles south from Port Angeles off Race Street and Mount Angeles Road. It is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and on Monday holidays. Before heading to the Ridge, check on road and weather conditions by phoning the park's hotline, 360-565-3131.
(Chains must be carried in your vehicle. You can also take a shuttle bus to the Ridge — see below.)
“We've had 4-year-olds to 80-year-olds — all ages and abilities. For many, it's their first time on snowshoes,” Burger said.
After one or two accompanied hikes, many rent or purchase snowshoes and set out on their own, she said.
Burger includes lessons on how to walk in snowshoes, and rangers point out interesting natural features and animal tracks, explaining how plant and animal life have adapted to winter in the high mountain ranges, Burger said.
Animal tracks seen on the walks have included snowshoe hares, squirrels, weasels, bobcats and occasionally coyote or fishers, she said.
Walks are about a mile in length.
Snowshoers should sign up at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center information desk at 1:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the scheduled walk, and be dressed appropriately for cold weather.
Shoeshoes are provided.
The park asks for a $5 donation from each participant to help it continue the program and maintain the loaner snowshoes.
Advance reservations are required for group snowshoe walks, which begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays.
Group reservations are available by phoning Olympic National Park at 360-565-3136.
For the less athletically adventurous, the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center — which offers the snowshoe rentals, a gift shop and snack bar — provides a warm place to sip hot chocolate and eat lunch while enjoying second-floor panoramic views of valleys, Klahhane Ridge and glaciers.
A children's sledding hill near the visitor center will be open for sledders ages 8 and younger.
All vehicles — including the four-wheel-drive variety — must carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart O' the Hills entrance station, about 5 miles south of Port Angeles.
They must be below the gate at Heart O' the Hills by dusk.
There's another way to get to and from the Ridge without driving
Take the shuttle
All Points Charters & Tours provides twice-daily van service from downtown Port Angeles on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays, when the road is open.
Shuttle vans leave the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, 121 E. Railroad Ave., at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and the Vern Burton Community Center, Fourth and Peabody streets, at 9:05 a.m. and 12:35 p.m.
Vans leave Hurricane Ridge for the return trip at about 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The round-trip fare is $20 per person and $10 for children ages 6-12. Children younger than 6 ride for free.
Fares do not include park entrance fees.
To reserve a seat, phone 360-460-7131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olympic National Park entrance fees are collected at the Heart O' the Hills entrance station.
Fees are $5 per individual or $15 for a seven-day entrance pass for a vehicle.
The Olympic National Park annual pass, good for one year, costs $30.
For more information, phone 360-565-3100 or 360-565-3130, or visit www.hurricaneridge.com.