Try This Trail: Grand Ridge

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: Up to 15 miles round trip

What's the best way to describe the views and overall experience of Grand Ridge, the highest maintained trail in the Olympics? Yep, it's grand. Reaching an altitude of 6,600 feet, the trail rarely dips below a mile above sea level. The scenic Grand Ridge route provides looks at jagged glacier-covered peaks, deep valleys of old-growth forest, and miles of open slopes.

At nearly 7.5 miles long, the entire trail may be too much for most hikers, so consider just traveling the first 3.5 miles to Maiden Peak. Either way, you'll start from the appropriately named Deer Park, then slightly descend before climbing in open forest. At about 2.0 miles, emerge in resplendent meadows around Maiden Peak. Drop into another saddle and climb again, this time up steep Elk Mountain. Traverse alpine tundra as you feel mountain breezes and soak up the vista. From the sparkling waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the snowy summit of Mount Olympus, the view is glorious. Throughout the summer, the trail is lined with flowers, and the gentians give the final show in September.

The trail descends Elk Mountain before terminating at Obstruction Point. Turn around and enjoy the views one more time—you have another grand walk back to the trailhead.

Watch For: Horned larks that nest in the meadows of Grand Ridge

Getting There: Take the Edmonds Ferry to Kingston and follow SR 104 to US 101 to Port Angeles. Then follow Deer Park Road for 16 miles to trailhead just beyond Deer Park Ranger Station.

Notes: There is an entry fee for the Olympic National Park. The access road is steep and narrow and dogs are prohibited.

Craig Romano is the author of nine Washington hiking books, including Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula.

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