Trip Report    

Winter Scramble - First Top, Lake Angeles Loop

An incredibly dramatic setting, from the fog covered Strait of Juan de Fuca, the looming wall of Klahhane Ridge to the south, and the chilly/brooding Lake Angeles after sunset (replete with a rising moon). Throw in a couple Salish Sea cruises plus a great workout (~5500’, 12 miles) and you’ve got a pretty good day.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Recent heavy snows followed by warming conditions led to highly variable snow/ice conditions (substantial portions of trail were surprisingly free of snow/ice), so we ended up using all our equipment throughout the day (micro-spikes/snowshoes).  Snowshoes were used continuously from ~3200’ to the summit of First Top, with unconsolidated/crusty conditions complicating the avoidance of tree wells in a few spots.  The traversing descent between the First Top trail to the Lake Angeles trail (~3200’ to ~2600’) was mostly snow free.  Compact snow/ice on the trail to Lake Angeles made micro-spikes useful (the crossing of Ennis Creek at 2600’):


    (Photo by Erin Vagely)

A wonderful day with lots of variety, plus no other parties were seen after leaving the cars.  Unfortunately the pandemic has greatly reduced ferry sailings (the first sailings appear to be more reliable than others).  Recently the Hurricane Ridge Road does not open until 9AM, so even though our starting point (the Klahhane Ridge trailhead near Lake Dawn) was outside the park, the long line of traffic queued at the park entrance prevented us from heading out until 9:30am (can be mitigated somewhat by preparing packs/donning boots while in line):


(Photo by Max Parsons)

The vistas at First Top were unmatched, looking north:


… and looking south:


with a particularly dramatic setting to the east on the way down:


(Photo by Erin Vagely)

With our relatively late start and ferry schedule uncertainty (plus a few other concerns) we opted to cut our trip short at Lake Angeles instead of our originally intended Point 4795:


Probably a good thing as most of us barely made our respective ferry sailings (on the alternate schedules they tend to be several hours between the adjacent sailings).  Spending the night in Port Angeles (Friday, Saturday, or both) would help mitigate the entrance line as well as allowing a more leisurely trip. A great day in the mountains with a total trip time of 9.5 hours (3.5 hours to summit of First Top, 2.5 hours descending to the Lake Angeles trail, 2 hours to Lake Angeles, and 1.5 hours back to the cars).  Photos from this and other trips to this venue can be seen here.