Heather Park─Steep climb to views that are “Tops”

Heather Park sits snuggly between First and Second Top

Heather Park sits snuggly between First and Second Top

Quick Facts:

Location: Hurricane Ridge-Heart of the Hills

Land Agency: Olympic National Park

Roundtrip: 10 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,940 feet

Green Trails Map: Hurricane Ridge-Elwha North No. 134S

Access: From Port Angeles, follow Race Street south 1.2 miles passing the Olympic National Park Visitors Center to the Hurricane Ridge Road (Heart O the Hills Parkway). Proceed on Hurricane Ridge Road for 5 miles, turning right (just before entrance station) to trailhead.

Notes: Dogs prohibited; Practice Leave No Trace Principles: Camping requires overnight permit;  Don’t be a surface pooper;  Can the tunes

Contact: Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center

Good to Know: Exceptional views, wildflowers, backpacking opportunities

It’s a steep hike to this parkland of heather, subalpine fir and yellow cedars high on a shoulder of craggy Mount Angeles. But if you push on just a little farther to a prominent pinnacle known as First Top, you will be amply rewarded with visual treats; from snowy Mount Olympus to salty Pillar Point on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Start your hike in a uniform forest of second-growth Doug-fir. The original forest burned over 100 years ago. Through a thick understory, the trail steadily climbs. At 1.5 miles pass Halfway Rock, a glacial erratic marking the not-quite the midway point to Heather Park. The trail eases somewhat before commencing into more switchbacks.

Now skirting along the northeast slope of First Top, a thinning forest reveals teaser glimpses. Craggy Second Top hovers ahead. The trail breaks out into the open, snaking steeply around basalt ledges. At 4.2 miles the way levels out, entering Heather Park, a subalpine bowl of flowers, boulders, heather, and stunted evergreens. Come upon a small creek before making a final climb to wind blasted and sun-baked Heather Pass. In early season, Piper’s bluebell, cinquefoil, and Olympic onion add colorful touches to the drab shale and scree littering the pass.

The view is amazing. But it’s better from First Top, 100 feet higher and reached by following a small way path just to the right. From this basaltic shoulder of Mount Angeles, gaze out over Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island. Be sure to turn inward too, enjoying views of Mount Angeles, Hurricane Hill, the Bailey Range and Mount Olympus.

For more detailed information on this hike and 135 others in the Olympics, consult my best selling Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd edition (Mountaineers Books); the most trusted and comprehensive trail guide to the Olympic Peninsula

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