Access: Steep, narrow gravel road with drop-offs to trailhead; Olympic National Park entrance fee required
The terrain along Grand Ridge on Elk Mountain is the highest trail-accessible point in Washington State's Olympic National Park, making this an excellent hike for nonstop views of the alpine interior of the Olympics and of the blue waters of the Salish Sea. Maiden Peak makes an excellent day hike destination from Obstruction Point, providing the opportunity to visit two lofty Olympic summits with relative ease. Fairly little effort is required for such awesome views: the trailhead at Obstruction Point is at over 6000 feet above sea level, the highest road-accessible point in the Olympics. The trail itself is often narrow as it traverses steep slopes, especially on the stretch between Elk Mountain and Maiden Peak, making this potentially a challenging hike for hikers with a fear of heights.
I hiked out along Grand Ridge on an August afternoon with clear blue skies. Leaving Seattle a little before 9, I took the Tacoma Narrows and Hood Canal bridges out to the Olympic Peninsula, following US 101 to Port Angeles and then taking Race Street up the hill to the turnoff for the Hurricane Ridge Road. Once atop Hurricane Ridge, I turned left onto Obstruction Point Road just before reaching the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and followed this steep and narrow gravel road through alpine terrain with occasional drop-offs to one side until I reached its terminus at the Obstruction Point Trailhead. The drive along Obstruction Point Road was filled with grand views of Mount Olympus and other snowy Olympic peaks.
Two trails emanated from the Obstruction Point Trailhead: the trail along Lillian Ridge to Grand Valley headed off to the right, while the Obstruction Point-Deer Park Trail, which here I'll refer to as the Grand Ridge Trail, led off to the left. I took the Grand Ridge Trail, which began to wrap around the side of Obstruction Peak and quickly came to a view of bulky, massive Elk Mountain. Elk Mountain is not a particularly elegant looking mountain: the summit ridgeline seemed almost flat and the mountain's sloppes were for the most part barren; it was, however, exciting to think of the views that would from hiking atop such an open landscape.
|Olympic Mountains view from Elk Mountain|
|Mount Olympus and the Bailey Range from Elk Mountain|
|Elk Mountain views|
At the east end of Elk Mountain, the trail began a steep descent, sometimes with switchbacks, down Grand Ridge. The trail had some exposure and was cut into a rocky slope so this area may be challenging for those who have a fear of heights. As the trail descended, it entered small groves of windbent trees; this was the only point at which the trail was not out in the open.
The trail bottomed out at the Roaring Winds backcountry campground, where a few sites were scattered amongst low trees; at 6000 feet, this is the only sanctioned camping area along Grand Ridge and permits are limited.
|Obstruction Point-Deer Park Trail on my way to Maiden Peak|
At the summit of Maiden Peak, I had a 360-degree view of the mountains and water around the northern end of the Olympic Peninsula. I could see both the Hurricane Ridge Road snake up Mount Angeles and the Deer Park Road wrap up Blue Mountain; Port Angeles and Sequim were visible in the lowlands and I spotted both the Ediz Hook and the Dungeness Spit reaching out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Sunlight reflected off the buildings in Victoria across the Strait and the layer upon layer of mountains on Vancouver Island were mirrored by the layer upon layer of islands in the San Juans and the Gulf Islands. On this exceptionally clear day, I was able to make out the entrance to the Howe Sound and the forms of Mount Tantalus and Mount Garibaldi, both north of Vancouver; stateside, I could see the cliffs on Whidbey Island and the Boeing factory north of Everett in the lowlands. Mounts Baker and Shuksan were easily recognizable in the Cascades, while the serrated alpine ridge of Eldorado Peak was more difficult to discern. Three Fingers, Whitehorse, Dome Peak, Glacier Peak, Sloan, and Pilchuck were also visible.
|Mount Baker, San Juans, Dungeness Spit, and Sequim from Maiden Peak|
|Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island from Maiden Peak|
|Mount Constance, the Needles, and Mount Deception from Maiden Peak|