Hike of the Week for Friday, September 9, 2011
Horizon-spanning views from the loftiest trail in the Olympics
Article and photo by Craig Romano
Wide open alpine tundra on the Grand Ridge Trail.
Location: Deer Park-Obstruction Point, Olympic National Park
Land Agency: National Park Service
Roundtrip: 15.4 miles. To Maiden Peak: 7.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,400 feet. To Maiden Peak: 1,600 feet
Green Trails Map: Mt Angeles, WA No. 135
Contact: Olympic National Park; www.nps.gov/olym
Notes: Park entry fee; Pavement on Deer Park Road ends at National Park Boundary (8.5 miles). Beyond, road is steep and narrow; Dogs prohibited.
Access: From Sequim, WA drive west on US 101 for 11 miles. Just before Milepost 253, turn left onto Deer Park Road. Follow this road for 16 miles. Turn right on spur to Deer Park Ranger Station. In .2 miles, come to the trailhead.
Grand Ridge is appropriately named. The views are grand. The wildflowers are grand. And a trek across its wide open slopes is a grand experience. But it gets even grander, for the trail that traverses it is among the highest in the Olympics. Reaching an altitude of 6,600 feet, the Grand Ridge Trail rarely dips below a mile above sea level.
One of the most scenic trails in the Olympics, Grand Ridge provides non-stop views of jagged glacier-covered peaks, deep emerald valleys of unbroken old-growth forest, and miles upon miles of flower-saturated meadows. But there’s a cost to pay for all of this grand beauty. At nearly 7.5 miles long, the trail is a bit too much for most hikers to tackle. It’s a dry trail too, so ample amounts of water need to be packed before setting out. But for those who aren’t up for a 15 mile out-and-back trek, there are a couple of options. Arrange for a pickup at Obstruction Point to hike the trail one way, or just venture the first 3.5 miles to Maiden Peak for a slightly less than grand experience.
The trail begins at Deer Park, dropping a couple hundred feet to a saddle. Climb through thinning forest and within two miles emerge in resplendent meadows. Round Maiden Peak, drop to another saddle, then begin the steep but airy climb to the alpine tundra that flanks Elk Mountain. Bask in mountain breezes and soak up the views. From the sparkling waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the snowy summit of Mount Olympus, grand views emanate from Grand Ridge.
And when you’re not taken aback while staring at the rugged beauty of Mounts Olympus, Cameron, Carrie, and Deception, put your nose to the ground to admire the floral arrangement. Throughout the summer, the trail is lined with flowers—lupine, columbine, tiger lily, paintbrush, cow parsley, rosehip, penstemon, larkspur, gentian, cinquefoil, and a handful of other showy blossoms. And keep a watchful eye in those meadows for movement, for you may be fortunate to spot one of the horned larks that calls Grand Ridge home.
The trail descends windswept Elk Mountain terminating at Obstruction Point. Turn around and enjoy the show one more time. You’ll have a grand time all the way back to the trailhead.
Grand Ridge is one of 125 featured hikes in my Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula Book. For more details on this hike and others, pick up a copy today.