Trip Report    

Winter Scramble - Elwha to West Hurricane Hill

A beautiful area with dramatic vistas (and a great workout at ~5200’ gain over ~13 miles). West Hurricane Hill (elev. 5000’, 47.99891°N 123.55827°W) is a wonderful substitute for the usual Hurricane Hill given winter conditions and the Elwha road outage.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The park service has put a substantial amount of effort into improving the Elwha-Hurricane Hill trail (especially the lower parts where the trail has been widened and cleared of brush).  Intermittent snow encountered at ~1800’, and snowshoes donned at ~3800’.  Surprising how the snow depth only increased slowly through this section, possibly the tree cover (deeper in the open sections).  As we reached the open meadow (~4100’) snow depth became much more variable (deep and fluffy one moment, very shallow the next).  Along the summit ridge we experienced ‘snow balling up on the bottoms of our snowshoes’ (for an even better workout ;).  Micro-spikes were used on the middle portion of the descent. 

Out of an abundance of caution we ascended along the western margin of the open meadow area above 4100’ using tree’d sections to limit exposure to potential avalanche terrain for the last 900’ of gain:


As we toiled upward we would periodically experience intense sunshine that felt like a heat lamp one moment, reverting to intense cold as the clouds closed in the next.  Perhaps this intense sun had something to do with the snow balling up on our snowshoes.

The Elwha road outage (Olympic Hot Springs Road) is closed at the Madison Falls parking area.  Since this outage adds 2 miles one way (4 miles round trip) it effectively precludes a one day trip to the usual Hurricane Hill.  West Hurricane Hill however is a great winter scramble substitute as it effectively trades the extra mileage to Hurricane Hill for the extra mileage associated with the road outage bypass trail.  The bypass trail also gives you an extra 400’ of elevation gain (200’ outbound, 200’ inbound). 

A great day in the mountains with a total trip time of 9 hours (5 hours up, 3.5 hours down, and a half hour for lunch at the summit).  Photos from this and other trips to this venue can be seen here.