Hike of the Week: Eagle Point, ONP

Hike of the Week: Eagle Point, ONP

Winter hiking on webbed feet

It’s hard to set-aside a part of your life for four or five months. That could explain why snowshoeing has become such a popular pursuit. Summer hikers, tired of hanging up their packs and boots when the first snow falls, have found that snowshoes let them extend their favorite past time into the fourth season. Over the last 20 years, snowshoeing has been the fastest growing outdoor winter sport.  The ease with which beginners can become accomplished snowshoers helps explain this growth, as does the relatively low cost of entering the sport. Anyone who knows how to walk knows the basics of snowshoeing—strap them on and walk. Simple as that. Another reason snowshoes are increasingly popular with hikers is that, with snowshoes, hikers can get to the same areas in winter that they hike to in summer. They can move easily through thick forests and up steep slopes. Snowshoeing isn’t quite as easy as hiking, though. Not only is it more physically challenging, but there are more dangers inherent in the sport. Most notably, the risk of avalanches must be considered anytime you venture into the winter wilderness.

Remember: Every time you plan to venture out into the snowy mountains, you should first contact the NW Avalanche Center to get the avalanche danger report for your area of interest. Visit www.nwac.us.

  You must also remember this: Finding enjoyment in the journey – and in the chance to be out in the winter wilderness – provides the payoff in snowshoeing, not the destination. Even trekking along just a short section of this long out-and-back route can be incredibly rewarding!  

 Eagle Point, Olympic National Park

With the sweeping line of white mountains that ends at glacier-capped Mount Olympus stretching before them, snowshoers will wonder why they ever bothered visiting this area in the summer. The hike begins with a short, steep descent, and then wanders over fairly level terrain-just a few rolling hills-as the trail stretches east under the flank of jagged Steeple Rock and Eagle Point. Snowshoers will find great views of the distant peaks of the Bailey Range, and look down into the dark Lillian River Valley. Snowshoers looking for a gentle outing (or if the snow is icy) can pitch their tents at Waterhole Camp-just 4 miles out. This sheltered area has plenty of views and scenery. For a more strenuous trek, push on past Waterhole, climbing along the flank of Eagle Point, before entering a long open stretch to Obstruction Point. This last 3-mile leg is treacherous in inclement weather, so pay attention to weather reports and current conditions. If a storm threatens, make camp at Waterhole and save the last leg for another time, or do it the next morning as a pre-breakfast blood-warmer if the air is clear and calm. To get there, from Port Angeles drive 17 miles up Hurricane Ridge Road to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Sign in at the center (required for all users), and then drive back down the road a half mile to the trailhead parking area near the first bend in the road. Start the hike from the last switchback on Hurricane Ridge Road. You will need to hike a few hundred yards back from the parking area, and then drop off the road end, descending a steep hill for about 100 yards before reaching the fairly level, wide trail leading off to the east. You'll be in high subalpine forest with frequent breaks with views south to Mount Olympus and the Lillian River Valley and northwest to Mount Angeles.
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