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Originally published Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 6:31 AM

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3 top drives in Olympic National Park

Drive up to Hurricane Ridge and along Lake Crescent and the coast around Kalaloch.


Seattle Times NWTraveler editor

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A don’t-miss drive up to 5,242 feet for views of mountains and, on a clear day, Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca sparkling far below.

Stop on the way at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, the park’s main visitor center on the outskirts of Port Angeles (and go around the back to see an often-overlooked 1887 log cabin in which settlers lived).

It’s about 17 miles from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge. Drive defensively on the steep, winding last half of the road since drivers can get distracted by views and deer sometimes dart across the road. You do not want Bambi on your hood.

Up at Hurricane Ridge is a big parking lot, another visitor center and trails of all sorts. From there, continue for another 1.5 miles on the Hurricane Hill Road (narrow and not suitable for RVs) for picnic areas, more views, more trailheads.

Or for a little more driving adventure, veer off from the Hurricane Ridge parking lot onto the narrow, unpaved 8-mile Obstruction Point Road (no RVs) for in-your-face meadow and mountain views. It dead-ends at 6,150-foot Obstruction Point.

The main Hurricane Ridge road is open 24 hours a day, mid-May into October, then mostly only on weekends for the snowy rest of the year.

This 10-mile stretch is very scenic — and slow. It’s a narrow, twisting old road along the park’s Lake Crescent, wedged between cliffs and the lake.

Think of it as driving into the 1920s since you’ll be driving at that era’s speeds, thanks to the tight curves and RVs lumbering along what’s a major route in the park. Just slow down and enjoy the views of the deep-blue lake.

Stop midway along the lake at the little peninsula that contains the park’s Storm King Ranger Station and Lake Crescent Lodge. Stretch your legs along one of the level, short trails, get a snack or meal at the lodge.

Much of Olympic National Park’s Pacific coast is roadless (and conservationists battled to keep it that way), but Highway 101 skirts the ocean for a scenic 8-mile stretch from Ruby Beach south to Kalaloch.

Pull out at viewpoints (trees can block the view from the road) or park and walk down the bluff to the beaches. Ruby Beach is one of the most scenic, framed by rocks.

A few miles south the Big Cedar Tree, a popular roadside stop, isn’t so big any more. The centuries-old, 174-foot-tall tree split in half in a March storm.

At the very popular Kalaloch, you’ll find a ranger station, lodge (with restaurant and general store) and miles of sandy beach.



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