Monday, December 2, 2013

Winter RV activities in the Olympic National Park

While many of us associate winter RVing with Arizona, Texas, and Florida, even the Pacific Northwest has its share of places and activities that lend themselves to RVing. The folks at Washington's Olympic National Park would love to have more company this winter, and put together a few suggestions on what might draw you to their little corner of the world.

Winter offers a wide variety of opportunities for visitors to Olympic National Park. For those who enjoy indoor comforts, options include ocean storm-watching from your RV (or alternately the Kalaloch Lodge along the park’s Pacific Coast) to lakeside dining at Lake Crescent Lodge to weekend day trips to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center on snow-covered Hurricane Ridge. Outdoor opportunities abound too, from camping to hiking to snowshoeing, states a park press release.

"Every season at Olympic brings its own magic, and for the prepared visitor, winter can be an excellent time to experience the many facets of the park," remarked Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. "I encourage visitors to take advantage of this special season at Olympic National Park – beginning with checking the weather forecast and preparing for cold, wet or snowy conditions."

Current information is available at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The visitor center will be closed on Dec. 25 for Christmas. "However, given the ongoing uncertainties about our budget this year, it’s essential that we use a great deal of caution in spending," Creachbaum continued. "When the government shutdown ended, Congress provided funds to operate the parks through Jan. 15. Final funding for Fiscal Year 2014 will not be resolved before then."

With all of that in mind, the park staff are aiming to shuffle what money they know about around so as to cover the largest ground, in terms of visitation. Don't expect as much in the way of services as you may have seen in the past – particularly while the park is counting on having to make do with less when the summer visitor hoards arrive. Nevertheless, here's what you can still do.

Visiting the Coast

johan weiland on
Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette campgrounds are open throughout the winter. Both Kalaloch and Mora campgrounds have running water and flush toilets; vault toilets are available in the Ozette campground. From personal experience, we can vouch for how great taking in a winter storm is from the bluffs above the ocean at Kalaloch campground. Down the block the Kalaloch Lodge is open year-round and offers overnight lodging, a dining room and gift shop. More information is available at

Beach combing and storm watching is great, but it is wise to always check a current tide table and weather report before heading down to the beach. Stay far away from beach logs, which are easily tossed by waves.

Visiting the Forests

Martin LaBar on
The Hoh Rain Forest area, with walking trails and a campground, remains open throughout the winter, weather permitting. Running water and flush toilets remain in operation in the Hoh Campground. The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center closed for the season on Dec. 2, 2013 but will reopen in early March. Lake Crescent Lodge has extended its season this year and offers overnight lodging, a dining room and gift shop through Dec. 31, 2013. More information is available at

There are other woodsy campgrounds, too. The Quinault Graves Creek Campground is open through the winter, with vault toilets available. If you're really prepared for winter, the Sol Duc Road and Campground remain open, weather and road conditions permitting, throughout the winter. Snow accumulations may cause the road to be closed for extended time periods. Vault toilets are available in the campground. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is closed for the season and will reopen in March.

The Elwha Valley and Elwha Campground remain open; vault toilets are available at the campground. Heart O’the Hills Campground is open with running water and flush toilets available. Snow accumulation may cause the campground to become walk-in only. The Staircase area is open; the campground is open for walk-in camping only. Vault toilets are available in the campground.

Visiting the Mountains

National Park Service
Leaving the rig down below and taking the toad or the tow vehicle is probably your best bet when you want to head up to the higher elevations in the park. Winter road access to Hurricane Ridge is always dependent on safe road and weather conditions. Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open Friday through Sunday and Monday holidays through March 30, 2014.

Whether to open the Hurricane Ridge Road is a decision made each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the winter season and is based on staff assessment of road and weather conditions, along with forecasts and information from the National Weather Service and the Northwest Avalanche Center. Current information about the Hurricane Ridge Road is posted on the Olympic National Park website ( and is available via the park’s Road and Weather Hotline at 360.565.3131. People can also follow “HRWinterAccess” on Twitter to receive road condition updates.

All vehicles, including four wheel drive, must carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart O’the Hills entrance station between Nov. 15 and April 1. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is open when the road is open, with restrooms, exhibits, park film and a warming area. The Hurricane Ridge snack bar and ski shop, with both ski and snowshoe rentals, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays beginning Saturday through March 30, 2014.

The Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays from Dec. 7 through March 30, 2014. More information about the Hurricane Ridge downhill ski and snowboard area is available at

Opportunities for cross-country skiers and snowshoe walkers range from open meadows near the visitor center to extreme terrain in the park’s wilderness backcountry. Anyone skiing or snowshoeing beyond the immediate Hurricane Ridge area should sign-in at the registration box in the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and be prepared for steep terrain and the possibility of avalanches. Ranger-led snowshoe walks will not be offered this winter.

Although close to town, Hurricane Ridge is subject to extreme winter conditions, including sudden storms, white-outs and avalanche, making planning and preparation for winter conditions vitally important. Information about ski and snowshoe routes and trails is available at park visitor centers, the Olympic National Park website or the park’s visitor newspaper, the Bugler.

A little snow, a little rain – okay, a lot of rain – or some fine winter storm action, there's plenty of opportunity to catch your favorite winter RV activity in the Olympics.

Source: Olympic National Park and