The 360° views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island, and the Olympic Mountains from our perch atop Klahhane Ridge was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The water sparkled spectacularly below us and mountain after mountain seemed to disappear in a blue haze. Sweat ran down our faces and our throats were parched, but we didn’t care. We were simply happy to be here, on top of the world!
Klahhane Ridge is located in Olympic National Park, Washington and is a well-known crest trail that’s certainly not for the faint of heart! The Ridge connects the east face of Mount Angeles with the spires of Rocky Peak. The trail winds its way along alpine mountain ridges, dips into forested ravines, and climbs steep, barren mountains for a once-in-a-lifetime hike. From the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, the hike to Klahhane Ridge is a strenuous 7.2-mile round tip.
Let’s go on an adventure!
After we packed up our campsite at Heart o’ the Hills Campground, we drove 30 minutes to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center where we planned to only explore Hurricane Ridge. Little did we know what we were actually getting ourselves into!
The drive was spectacular and with every twist of the road we were presented with yet another spectacular view – how is that even possible? The mountains spanned like dragon’s backs into the distance and snow-capped peaks reached to the heavens. Mountains have a way of making the world magical and reminding us how small we are. It’s a beautiful thing.
We gazed in awe, faces practically plastered to the car’s windows, as we rounded the final corner and got our first glimpse of the top of Hurricane Ridge. We’d never seen a more beautiful parking lot. It sat perched on the edge of the ridge and overlooked the beautiful range of mountains.
The Switchback Trail
We didn’t know it at the time, but we passed the other trailhead for Klahhane Ridge, the Switchback Trail, on our way to the Visitor Centre. It’s the more common – not to mention direct! – route to Klahhane Ridge. It’s a 3-mile return trip, but rapidly ascends 1,421 feet in 1.5 miles.
Klahhane Ridge via Hurricane Ridge
Before was impulsively decided to tackle Klahhane Ridge, we enjoyed the quick hikes at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Centre. Hurricane Ridge is beautiful and is great for an easy afternoon adventure, but as we climbed towards Sunrise Point we noticed a trail that branched off and disappeared into the distance. Because I’m unable to resist a trail, I convinced Jacob we should do it — besides, the sign said it was only 3.8 miles to Mt Angeles. I laugh at that decision now because we made the ultimate rookie mistake: we mistook miles for kilometers. What we had expected to be just under 4 km was actually over 6 — one way. Needless to say, we didn’t realize what we were taking on.
The trail led us through the exposed side of Sunrise Point before climbing to the top of new ridges. We were rewarded with stunning views of the high alpine meadows in every direction. The sun beat down relentlessly on the exposed trail, though, and the wind tricked us into forgetting the heat; with little tree cover, we were soon sweating profusely.
The plants & animals of an alpine climate
We visited in early August and the slopes were adorned with alpine wildflowers like paintbrush, Jacob’s ladder, lupine, and bistort. Butterflies were in abundance and fluttered around our feet; Jacob tried futility to take a macro photo of one. He quickly became engrossed with taking photos of the bugs and plants we encountered.
We luckily didn’t encounter any large animals, but black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, mountain goat, marmots, and deer call the Olympic Mountain Range home. We always pack bear spray, just in case.
Halfway along the trail we came to a plunging set of steep switchbacks. The ravine was densely forested and came as a welcome relief from the direct sun we’d been exposed to so far. We took frequent breaks and were exuberantly happy for the shade the trees provided. We relaxed at the bottom, winded from the descent, and drank some much-needed water. It was here we realized that we hadn’t brought nearly enough water – we had to start rationing. Another rookie move.
After we climbed out of the small ravine, we saw that we’d left behind the ridge top trail and were instead walking along the mountainside. The dirt turned red and we soon come to a fork in the trail. Had we turned down the mountain, we would have arrived at the main trailhead for Klahhane Ridge, the Switchback Trail.
The final, steep ascent to Klahhane Ridge
Before were began the steep switchback hike up to Klahhane Ridge, we met with an older gentleman who was on his way down. Having done no prior research on the hike, we had no idea how much longer we had. He laughed and assured us that we were almost done and that the view from the summit was entirely worth the pain. Encouraged, we thanked him and continued on, wishing the entire way that we were already at the top.
As we tackled the switchbacks, we thought back longingly on the ease of the ridgetops trail. We were soon out of breath and took frequent breaks, resting when we could. We burned through our water and wished desperately we had brought more. We passed beside beautiful basalt spires and were soon covered in red dirt. Almost painfully, we finally reached the summit.
Gorgeous views from Klahhane Ridge
The view from Klahhane Ridge was jaw-droppingly beautiful and, looking back from where we had come, we could barely make out Sunrise Point in the distance. 3.8 miles was a lot farther than we imagined when we set out. We paused, disbelief written across our faces. How in the hell did we make it this far?!
We sat with welcome relief and took in the beauty of our surroundings. A few snow patches — it was the middle of August! — even sat hidden in the bowl of the summit. I can’t say I was surprised though because the Olympic Mountain Range often receives more than 30 feet of snow in the winter and, because of the high altitudes, often doesn’t entirely melt.
We drank all but one bottle of our remaining water and were thankful we had the foresight to pack apples and granola bars to refuel. The trail continued on to Lake Angeles and we spotted various trails crisscrossing the mountain but we knew we didn’t have the energy to continue on.
We’d only met a handful of people before we began the upward ascent from the Switchback Trail so we were surprised by the number of groups we met. It was impressive to see the wide spectrum of ages at the summit; there were many adventurous seniors who continued along the trail towards Lake Angeles. It’s true that your age doesn’t matter!
When we finally decided to leave, we braced ourselves for the return hike. We knew as we left that it was going to be rough. We were already tired, didn’t have enough water, and had sore feet.
The return hike to Hurricane Ridge
The hike back… was rough. Worse than we’d originally thought it would be, actually. We didn’t die though, so that was a plus.
Our spur of the moment decision to hike to Klahanne Ridge and lack of preparation reared its ugly head, big time. A rash appeared above my sock and my ankles swelled into logs, which further irritated my rash. My toes and heels developed blisters and I only avoided drawing blood by walking on the heels of my shoes (which isn’t a smart idea, fyi). Back at camp, where we had our first aid equipment, Jacob bandaged my right foot because it was in such rough shape.
The hike back was technically faster because we don’t stop for photos but it felt much longer. We didn’t enjoy the view and we took frequent breaks because of my aching feet. By the time we finally reached our car, I was close to tears and collapsed into it. I tore my shoes off as if they were on fire and doused them in water. I swore that I’d never felt anything as beautiful before.
One of the reasons I had such a bad experience was because I wore trainers which aren’t meant for long hikes. Jacob wore actual hiking shoes and was in much better shape than me. We also didn’t have enough water to keep ourselves properly hydrated and had to ration our little water carefully on the return trek. I’m pretty sure I suffered from some heat exhaustion as well because that night I was freezing and sat huddled in all our blankets all night.
Long story short, always be prepared before you set you on a hike! Don’t be like us.
Information & trailhead location
Despite everything, we would definitely do this hike again; we would just make sure to properly prepare for it. Klahhane Ridge is a challenging hike that requires proper planning for an enjoyable experience. It offers stunning views the entire 7.2 miles and truly rewards you for your hard work.
|Distance||~11.5 km (7.2 mi)|
|Pricing||A park pass is required to enter Olympic National Park. There are various options, but a standard one-vehicle pass is $25 for a week or $50 for the annual pass.|
|Notes||Bring plenty of water, sturdy footwear, and first-aid equipment.|