Welcome to the Olympic Mountains located in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington! Here one feels as if they are on top of the world, hence the title, “A View from Heaven.” No wonder a national park was created to preserve the enormous wilderness area surrounding this majestic range of glacier coated mountains—Olympic National Park. Easy access to the park entrance on the Olympic Peninsula makes way for tourists from both the US and Canada. A daily ferry between Port Angeles, WA and Victoria, Canada is a very popular mode of transportation for Canadians to visit the US mainland, as well as for Americans to visit Vancouver Island. Americans wanting to visit the park usually start out from the Seattle/metropolitan Puget Sound area. One must cross a few bodies of water to get to the park except if you are traveling from the south of the Puget Sound area. From the state capital of Olympia, one can take the Hwy 101 exit from Interstate 5 and then follow the signs for northbound 101. From anywhere else in the Puget Sound region, one will need to cross both Puget Sound and/or the Hood Canal. The method of crossing is up to the traveler: either all by car, or a combination of car and ferry. Ultimately, one must end up on Hwy 101 traveling west towards Port Angeles. If you were to look at a map, you would see that Hwy 101 loops all around the Olympic Peninsula and then continues south along the US west coast—a very scenic route if one has the time.
The most visited area of the park is probably Hurricane Ridge, easily accessed via Port Angeles. Be aware that at some point the traffic moves in only direction through town on Hwy 101. Just watch for the signs as you travel through town and hang a left where indicated. You will not be very many miles from the turn off to the park. If you like, you can stop to visit the park visitor center just before the turnoff to the road that leads to the park entrance. Once inside the park, (fee required) you will pass by the Heart O’ the Hills, a popular campground and hiking area and the only campground inside this part of the park. From here, the drive starts to take on exhilarating views once you start to climb in elevation. You’ll pass through sets of tunnels as well. Be sure stop at roadside viewpoints to get a panoramic view of the strait separating Canada and the US. If it’s a clear enough day, you can spot Mt Baker in the distance. Oh, and watch out for the wildlife crossing the road. The park is full of deer. They are not very shy and will walk right by you. It’s amazing how tame they are, but please be aware that it is unlawful to feed them.
Once you reach the Hurricane Visitor Center, there is ample parking. Elevation is now 5,242 ft. The road does continue a little bit past the visitor center ending up at smaller parking areas with picnic areas. The visitor center has a well stocked souvenir shop staffed during the summer months, as well as restrooms downstairs.
From the Hurricane Visitor Center, one gets an eye-popping panoramic view of the mountain range of several snow covered peaks, Mt Olympus being the highest at 7,980 ft. You feel as though you are on top of the world. Immediately before you are sweeping green valleys and meadows that are plentiful with Blue Lupine in the spring. Don’t be surprised to see a deer or two grazing in these meadows. The colorful spring meadows make this my favorite time of year to visit the park. Another fantastic time to visit is in the autumn when there tends to be banks of low clouds sitting in the valleys early in the morning. This is an experience never to forget. It’s a bit precarious driving up the mountain road in dense fog and I would suggest that you be a bit familiar with the drive before attempting it. But once you get above the cloud bank, you will get to observe this phenomenon with a view from Heaven, so to speak. It’s just you, the mountains, the valleys, the quietude, and the swirling clouds below blanketing the valleys. The best way to see what kind of weather conditions are at Hurricane Ridge is to go to the live webcam. Then you can decide whether or not to hop in your car to take a roughly 3 hour drive if you live in the Puget Sound area. Also, during the winter season, there are limited winter recreation activities to include skiing at Hurricane Ridge. The video below includes many photos of my experiences in this part of the national park. For more complete information on the park, visit the official Olympic National Park website.