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Grand Ridge

Olympic Peninsula

Location

Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast
View map below

Length

15.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 3100 ft.
Highest Point: 6625 ft.

Rating

4.58 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
 
 

Grand Ridge is the highest continuous trail in the Olympic Mountains. On a clear day it is among the most beautiful places in Washington; the 360 degree view includes the interior of the Olympics, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Canada, and the Cascades.

However, on a cloudy day the ridge can be moody and mysterious or downright treacherous, depending on the weather. Storms develop quickly, with winds racing over the ridge top. Fog and precipitation may obscure visibility. Prepare for varying conditions no matter when you hike Grand Ridge. And always bring plenty of water; none exists along the way.

Grand Ridge is accessible both from Deer Park and Obstruction Point, so if arrangements are made, the ridge can be thru-hiked in one direction. The route described here starts at Deer Park, the lower of the two trailheads, offering a descending grade on the return trip.

Note that a high angle snowfield lingers late into summer east of the Obstruction Point parking lot and is hazardous without the equipment and knowledge to safely cross it. Check conditions before heading to Obstruction Point if that is your intended starting point or a necessary destination.

From the Deer Park ranger station, head downhill on an old road grade. The nearby burn, better seen from the campground, makes for a glorious foreground to the Needles in the distance. Deer and various species of birds frequent the area. After a half mile reach the narrow, forested saddle between Blue and Green Mountains. This is the lowest point of the trip at 4900 feet.

From this point the trail angles gradually up the steep south side of the ridge to Green Mountain. In about two miles enter meadows of avalanche lilies, paintbrush, and lupine. Views open up as the trail ascends parkland lined with subalpine fir, a tree found only in the drier parts of the Olympics. These iconic firs clone themselves from skirt-like branches which sag to the ground under the long-lasting snowpack. Look onto high ridges for “islands” of firs with tall trees in the center and their successors creeping outward.

At three miles the trail swings around the shoulder of Maiden Peak, offering a dramatic view of the Needles and the chasm of old growth that lies a mile below. Maiden Peak is mostly shale and slate broken with orange lichen that softens the sharp rocks. The trail here is narrow and constant winds justify the name of the lone campsite, Roaring Winds, at 4.5 miles. Reservations are required to stay here.

After a low saddle the trail picks up altitude quickly – 600 feet over the next half mile. This section of trail can be tricky in wet weather and is even hard to follow in certain conditions. When in doubt stay high, near the ridge top, but always on the south side, and you will eventually see the trail tread appear below.

On a clear day Mount Olympus will rise above the Bailey Range as you climb Elk Mountain. At 5.25 miles and 6625 feet elevation the trail finally tops out at the Grand Valley junction sign. The view of Mount Olympus, Moose and Grand Lakes, and all the high ridges and snowfields everywhere is sublime. Continue straight, maintaining high altitude for another mile. The trail passes just beneath three peaks of Elk Mountain, each dividing the north face into cirques covered by perennial snow.

This unique place of contrasting environments is worth exploring. The broad, sunny southern slopes of Elk Mountain are home to whistling marmots and clusters of dwarf wildflowers that dance in the afternoon breeze, all just feet away from the curled and crumbling snow cornices that last into late summer on the ridgetop. Stay on solid rock to ensure your trip home.

At 6.5 miles the trail starts to drop noticeably to a dip between Elk Mountain and Obstruction Point. At this point you will know if you will be able to complete the journey to the road or will be forced back by a steep snow patch. Know that the best views are behind you and that unless you’ve arranged for a pick up it is best to turn around here.

WTA Pro Tip: Remember all the ups and downs on the return, including the final 350 feet. Try downtown Port Angeles for a wide selection of delicious dinner options. Swain's General Store is also a traditional supply run.

 

Grand Ridge

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.9184, -123.3821 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast

Deer Park Trail (#)

Olympic National Park

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Olympic Mountains Trail Guide (Robert L. Wood - Mountaineers Books)

Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails Mt Angeles No. 135

Custom Correct Hurricane Ridge

Custom Correct Gray Wolf Dosewallips

Getting There

Drive U.S. 101 from either Port Angeles or Sequim to the Deer Park Road, near milepost 253. Drive 9 miles of paved road and then 8 miles of rough (although suitable for all vehicles) gravel road with scary dropoffs. Turn right toward the ranger station and park in the tiny lot. The campground uphill from the trailhead is arguably the most scenic in the park.

The typical modern outhouse exists, and if the ranger is there it would be a good idea to ask about the snow situation.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
 

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Grand Ridge

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