As the weather transitions to spring, staff at Olympic National Park are turning their attention to spring cleaning and preparations for the main visitor season.
“Spring is a great time to experience Olympic National Park and we invite people to come out and enjoy the warmer temperatures and sunshine,” said Olympic National Park acting superintendent Todd Suess.
“While the park’s higher elevations are still buried under many feet of snow, new leaves and early wildflowers are emerging along lowland trails and roads.”
Park facilities are scheduled to open in phased fashion as maintenance crews work their way through the park’s 16 campgrounds and 140 miles of paved and gravel roads, clearing fallen and hazardous trees from campsites and other public use areas, sweeping winter debris from roads, clearing drainage ditches and culverts and de-winterizing water systems.
“Even relatively mild winters bring debris and trees that need to be cleared so visitors with tents and RVs can use campsites and picnic tables,” Suess said.
And while winter has been mild in the lowlands, snowfall in the mountains has been greater than normal. Nearly 12 feet of snow cover the ground at Hurricane Ridge, and as of April 1 the snowpack in the Olympic Mountains was about 160 percent of average.
“Given the heavy snow pack and weather projections that forecast another cool spring, we must reluctantly anticipate a later than normal opening for high country roads and trails,” Suess said.
An update on the spring and summer seasons at Olympic National Park follows:
• Staircase The Staircase Campground is open for primitive camping (pit toilets and no running water.) Drinking water and flush toilets will be activated by May 25.
The Dosewallips Road remains closed due to a washout outside the park boundaries in Olympic National Forest, so access to the primitive campground is walk-in (5.5 miles) only.
• Deer Park
This winter’s heavy snowpack will contribute to a later than normal opening for the Deer Park Road and campground — both are scheduled to open in mid-July, snow permitting. If conditions allow, Deer Park may open earlier than scheduled.
• Hurricane Ridge and Heart O’ the Hills
Hurricane Ridge Road currently is open as staffing, road and weather conditions permitting.
As of May 1, the road is open 24 hours a day, but late spring snowstorms may close the road temporarily. The last 1.5 mile of the road that leads to the Hurricane Ridge picnic area and Hurricane Hill trailhead and is covered with snows drifts well over 12 feet deep, is expected to open by mid-June.
Obstruction Point Road also is expected to open later than normal this year, with a mid-July opening predicted. If conditions allow, Obstruction Point Road may open earlier than scheduled.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is staffed weekends through June 17 and will be staffed daily beginning June 18. The Olympic National Park Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Heart O’ the Hills Campground is open year-round.
• Elwha Valley
The Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed just beyond the Altair Campground to allow safe removal of the Glines Canyon Dam. Until dam removal is over (anticipated by late 2013), there is no access to Olympic Hot Springs from the Elwha Valley.
Whiskey Bend Road is open. The Elwha Campground is open and Altair Campground will open May 22.
• Lake Crescent
Fairholme Campground opened on April 20. Lake Crescent Lodge opened on May 3; an opening date for the Log Cabin Resort has not been announced. Fairholme General Store will open on May 25.
• Sol Duc Valley
Sol Duc Road, Sol Duc Campground and the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort are all open for the season.
• Hoh Rain Forest and Forks Information Center
The Hoh Road and campground are open. The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is open daily as of May 4.
The Park and Forest Information Center in Forks is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday through Monday and will be open daily beginning June 18.
• Pacific Coast
Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette — Olympic National Park’s road-accessible coastal destinations — are all open. The Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette campgrounds are open. South Beach Campground, located just south of Kalaloch, will open May 22.
Visitors hiking portions of the Pacific coast should check with the Wilderness Information Center for current trail and tide conditions. The Kalaloch Information Station will open daily on May 12. Kalaloch Lodge is open year-round.
• Queets Valley
The Lower Queets Road is open seven miles to Matheny Creek; the Upper Queets Road also is open. The Queets Campground is open for primitive camping.
• Quinault Rain Forest
The Quinault Loop Road, which includes the Quinault North Shore and South Shore Roads, is open.
The North Fork Road and North Fork campground (primitive camping) are open. The Graves Creek Road and campground are open; drinking water and flush toilets at Graves Creek campground will be activated by May 15.
• Park Trails & Wilderness Information Center
Visitors are encouraged to stop by or call the Wilderness Information Center at 565-3100 for current trail reports, spring hiking safety tips and trip planning suggestions. Information also is available at the park’s website.
Deep snow remains at elevations above 2,000-2,500 feet. Even at low elevations, hikers are reminded to use caution and be aware of downed trees, trail damage, high and swift creek crossings, and changing weather conditions.
The Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center, located at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, 3002 Mount Angeles Road in Port Angeles, is open daily from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Phone 360-683-3311, or toll free at 800-829-5810. FAX 360-683-6670.
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