OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Winter season operations of Hurricane Ridge have begun, with the road to the Ridge open Fridays through Sundays until after the last weekend in March, weather permitting.
With the sun shining and the 17-mile road up to the Hurricane Ridge parking lot clear, families and friends took advantage of the first day of the season on Friday to partake in various winter outdoor activities, including snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowball fights.
Concessions, rope tows, tubing and the poma-lift area are closed now, but not for long. This coming Sunday is scheduled to be the first day the Skiing and Snowboard Area will be open, according to the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club website at hurricaneridge.com.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center will remain closed through the winter season, Olympic National park announced. Staff are scheduled to be available at an information window from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the exhibit space, tables and warming area are closed.
Park officials ask visitors to be prepared to use vehicles as warming areas and to pack extra food, water, dry clothing and blankets and/or sleeping bag.
Social distancing is enforced by park rangers and signage in and around the visitors center. Masks and social distancing are required inside, and only restroom facilities are available to visitors.
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 those with 4-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 opens at 9 a.m., although times can vary according to road and weather conditions. 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.
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.
Hurricane Ridge Road closes temporarily when the parking lot becomes completely full; park staff urge ridge visitors to park efficiently to maximize parking space.
Weather and snow permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area is scheduled to operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays from Dec. 6 through March 28.
The area is also scheduled to be open daily from Dec. 26 through Jan. 3.
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 at nps.gov/olym or the park newspaper, the Bugler.
Up-to-date information about weather and avalanche risk is available from the Northwest Avalanche Center online at nwac.us.
Hurricane Ridge webcams are available on the park website. The webcam image is updated every 15 minutes (although severe weather can obstruct views).
The Olympic National Park Visitor Center at the base of Hurricane Ridge Road in Port Angeles remains closed.
Staffers are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, on the front porch and by phone or email to answer questions and provide wilderness bear canisters and information.
Get visitor information at 360-565-3130 and the road/weather hotline at 360-565-3131.
All wilderness camping permits must be reserved online at recreation.gov prior to the planned trip.
Other 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.
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.
Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette — Olympic National Park’s road-accessible coastal destinations — are open, weather permitting, including all roads, campgrounds and trailheads.
The Hoh Rain Forest Road is generally open 24 hours a day, but the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center remains closed. Restroom facilities are located outside the center. Staff are available outside the center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, except during holiday closures.