A note from Features Editor Bobby Murray: Brian Wood is a 17 year old student who has such a great passion to become a travel writer/photographer that we thought that his enthusiasm and talent was worthy of inclusion in this magazine. Good luck Brian with your career!


Hiking In The Olympic National Forest & Park
An adventure by contributing writer Brian Wood

Olympic National Forest & Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. President Theodore Roosevelt created the National Monument in 1909 and in 1938 gained National Park status where in 1988 it was designated as part of the Olympic Wilderness, all to protect the unique wildlife which live in the region such as the Olympic marmot and Roosevelt elk.

The entire wilderness area, which consists of over ninety percent of Olympic National Park, is roughly 876,000 acres in size and can be divided into three specific regions: the Pacific coast region, the Olympic Mountains region, and the temperate rainforest region.

High Steel Bridge

My journey into this vast wilderness started in the National Forest which borders the National Park, at a place called the High Steel Bridge, a 550-foot tall structure which was the first bridge built in the region back in the 1920s and is the highest bridge in the Olympic region.

When I was there, I was just able to get enough nerves up to walk across the bridge from one side to the other, a miracle for me since I’m afraid of heights, trying not to look down too much as I crossed.

For those of you who suffer from vertigo, this might not be a good spot for you to visit, especially if a big truck rolls past while you’re on it; but if you’re the kind who likes to visit tall structures, here’s a little note to you: don’t try to measure the height of a bridge this tall by dropping a piece of bark over the side, it blows away in the wind too easy.

View from High Steel Bridge

The drive from the town of Shelton in the southeast corner of the peninsula to Port Angeles in the north contains some great views of Puget Sound and the surrounding waters which makes for great photo opportunities, especially during the morning and there are many spots along the way which make for great fishing for the avid fisherman or for people who just want to get out on the water— remember to bring your boating license though.

But if you really want to see Olympic National Park, the main attraction, a good place to start is the road to Hurricane Ridge which starts in the city of Port Angeles which is at the very top of the Olympic Peninsula. It’s also probably a good idea to stop by the visitor centers on the way because some of them are quite informative to your personnel need-to-knows.

Behind the first visitor center which is right after the ranger station of the park, there is a very nice hiking trail with beautiful flora and fauna along it’s length and is a great place to walk any pets you brought with you, for me this was my ferret, Baisy, a rambunctious little thing who just couldn’t get enough of the outdoors while my family and I were visiting the area. It’s also another great place to take pictures, just watch out for the spider webs crisscrossing the trails, you should be able to see them shining in the morning light.

Now, before I move on, I should give you a little heads up and that is to not try and see the whole park in one day, it’s just not feasible, especially if your people are not from around the Olympic area. If you’re there for a weekend trip or so forth, plan your trip accordingly and don’t try to rush through the park like what we did, it’s too unique to just simply rush through.

The drive up to Hurricane Ridge has a lot of switchbacks going up into the mountains, but the view is definitely worth the slightly nerve-racking drive. The visitor center at the top isn’t bad, there are plenty of handicap spots for those of you who are disabled, and a mildly treacherous drive down to a lovely picnic area where the view put the “F” in fantastic, a sight you’ll have to see to truly appreciate, and believe me when I tell you that you won’t regret it. It’s quite a scene to behold.

Picnic area Hurricane Ridge

Now, if you’re the picnicking type, the views at Hurricane Ridge where they set up their picnic tables are quite nice. There are no pets allowed on the hiking trails up here, though, which means you’ll need to keep any critters you have in the car and only take them out to stretch their legs in the parking lot or in the designated areas.


A little note: there are no weapons or vehicles allowed on the trails, especially to Hurricane Hill, the tallest area in the Hurricane Ridge portion of the park. This is for the wildlife’s own good, you should understand.

On the trail up to Hurricane Hill, you can see for miles in just about every direction: Mount Olympus, Puget Sound, the entire National Park, everything; if you look hard enough you can even see some of the shipping vessels in Puget Sound and even the very edge of Victoria Island, British Colombia, far to the north.

Hurricane Ridge Trail

In the summertime, the time I visited the area, the smell of wildflowers up on Hurricane Hill is quite lovely and adds a fine fragrance to the extraordinary views.

There is a reason why they call it Hurricane Ridge because when you reach the top of Hurricane Hill, the winds that blow off of the ocean far below are accelerated by a sheer cliff which drops below in front of you when you reach the top, making them seem almost hurricane in ferocity. Down below, the pine forest stretches out as far as the eye can see.

The climb up to Hurricane Hill— though splendid— is not for the faint of heart. It is a tough climb and should only be attempted by the physically fit. However, regardless of how bad the climb is to the top, the scene is worth the trip. It is like you are sandwiched between two great big mountains and are able to see everything from your position— an absolutely amazing experience for anyone!

July is probably the best time to visit the Olympic National Park. Make sure you pack plenty of water for the hikes you will be doing.

A note to people is that if you don’t think you can do the walk to the top of the ridge, just simply take the easier scenic trail up the mountain because the hike up is tough, even for a teenager like myself.

Hurricane Ridge picnic area

At least you get a good wind every now and then. Don’t do too much walking in the high altitude though if your not that physically fit.

Also, it might be a good idea to take the high trails early in the morning before it gets too hot and keep your camera ready for any wildlife that might come along. Be careful so you don’t undergo what happened to me and accidentally run into a stump or sign posted in the middle of the trail while looking through the view finder.

Olympic National Park and it’s surrounding forest is one of kind and too big to be seen in one day, a nearly 250-mile round trip, perhaps more, so if you can’t see the whole park on your first trip here, just simply come back again another time and see the rest of this stunning countTwilightry, for you will never forget the trip here for as long as you live.

An interesting last note is that if you are a fan of author Stephenie Meyer, Forks, Washington, the town where her Twilight series of novels takes place is located just west of the west entrance to Olympic National Park, so it is a special treat for you that you shouldn’t miss.

If you do happen to get to Olympic National Park, enjoy your venture.



Brian Wood



Story and photos of this article copyright © 2009 Brian Wood


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