Washington Trails: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/mount-storm-king
Location: 48.0578, -123.7884
Mountain Range: Olympic National Park (pass required)
Distance: 3.4 miles, roundtrip
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes up, 45 minutes down
Elevation gain: 2000 ft.
Highlights: tough elevation, non-technical rope sections, lookout onto Lake Crescent and 360° views
It took approximately 7 months to make it across the Sound and over to the Olympic Mountains. Too long, but Mount Storm King made for an incredibly scenic and ass-kicking first hike in Olympic National Park. I’d recommend this short, 2,000 ft stairmaster to anyone looking for regal views, mildly sweaty palms and buns of steel. Go on a windy day and you will absolutely feel like a king (or queen) upon it’s summit, and you might just be the only one up there.
I finally visited the Olympic mountain range, and it was a spur of the moment visit. I woke up early on a weekday to take the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry over to the peninsula. Note that unlike the San Juan ferries, this ticket is not automatically roundtrip so it’s a little pricey for a day hike at $18.20 each way, but it saves you quite the drive if you’re coming from the east. The ride is also a scenic one. I waved goodbye to clouds and gray, and welcomed sunny skies. Or so I thought…
The drive from Bainbridge to the Storm King Ranger Station is a scenic, 2-hour drive along and across the small towns that pepper the peninsula coast. The ultimate scenery arrives at the end of the drive when you reach Lake Crescent, “considered by many to be one of the crown jewels of Olympic National Park.” This deep and expansive lake is known for its turquoise blue color and reputation as a summer recreation favorite in Washington state. It was starting to cloud over just as I arrived, and so I found out the hard way that weather on the peninsula is just as temperamental as it is in Seattle. Rain started coming down as I started the trail, and there was a bit of light snow coming down when I reached the summit. But that’s what I get for hiking at the end of March!
Follow the curvy road along the water until you see signs for Storm King Ranger Station. It is well marked and the parking lot for the trail. I can imagine the parking lot being full on weekends, as it was heavily populated on a weekday. The ranger station is also the starting point for the family-friendly and heavily trafficked Marymere Falls Trail, which I took a stroll to on my way back down, as the trail meets with the Storm King trail and it was a walk in the park after the daunting trek I had just made.
As mentioned, Mount Storm King trail is an uphill battle. You’ll feel it in your legs and lungs, but with a few quick breaks every now and then it’s totally doable. It’s shaded for the majority of the hike, opening up to cliff-side views when you reach the top. You’re almost there when you reach the 2 ropes sections that lead you to the summit. On a windy day, which I had, the rope sections are no joke. Bring some work gloves, or even regular knit gloves will do, to protect you hands. I don’t think death is in store for you should you fall at these sections, but the height will have your heart racing regardless. Hiking boots/shoes are definitely recommended for extra traction.
The summit is sneaky, and after the ropes is directly up and to the left. I kept going a ways to the right before I realized I had passed the summit. The summit is very rocky, but not too high and there is ample room for many people to stand at the top. You’ll want to eat your lunch or snack up here as there aren’t that many other spots of the way up. You’ll have sweeping views of Lake Crescent, the mountains, and depending where you parked you may even see you car in the Ranger Station parking lot! A great sense of accomplishment is waiting for you at the top of this trail. Get a hiking.
Spoiler Alert: Trail Play-By-Play
Walk past front of Storm King Ranger Station
Follow Marymere Falls trail through a brink underpass
Trailhead will be on your left
Immediate and intense inclines
Somewhat of a break where the incline ceases for all of 30 seconds
Under a fallen tree delicately and dangerously balanced on another tree
Through large downed tree that is split in two
Ridge with lake views, but keep going!
Sharp turn where cliffs start
Series of 2 non-technical rope sections
Left up to the rocky summit