A Stoned Hiker’s Handbook to Mt. Storm King
If you’re anything like the team here at Walden then you’ve been waiting patiently for the weather to flip its script so you can dust off your hiking boots and lean into all of the beauty here in the PNW! Each week in April and May we’ll be rounding up one of our favorite hiking spots out of Washington’s six land regions. From Forks in the Olympic Region and Enumclaw in the South Puget Sound Region to Okanogan County and Clark County, we’ve got something for everyone. Each week we’ll be sharing our own personal insight, tips and tricks and other knowledgeable nuggets with our Walden Cannabis community.
- Mt. Storm King
- Clallam County
- Olympic Region
- Elevation – 4500 ft.
- Elevation Gain – ~2076 ft.
- Route Type: Out & Back
- Hiking Distance from Trailhead – 5.3 miles
- $30 / vehicle
- $25 / motorcycle
- ONP annual pass accepted
- National Parks annual pass accepted
- Dogs – No
If you opt to begin at the Mt. Storm King Ranger Station as many do click here. The ranger station has picnic tables, potable water, restrooms and garbage receptacles. It’s about a three hour drive from Seattle and you have the option of either taking the Edmonds-Kingston ferry to Kingston or the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry to Bainbridge. The trailhead is about 30 minutes from Port Angeles.
Once in Port Angeles you’ll want to drive 20 miles west on Highway 101 to the Storm King Information Center. You’ll then follow the nature trail headed south along Barnes Creek and reach a fork. At the fork continue left to the Mt. Storm King ranger station. There are quite a few parking spots but as any seasoned hiker knows, showing up early is key during spring and summer months when parking lots fill up fast.
Once you’re at the ranger station you’ll want to get on foot and follow signs to Marymere Falls Nature Trail and begin your ascent. After walking for about 10 minutes you’ll come across a small, decrepit sign that says Mt. Storm King Trail. Keep your eyes peeled for the sign that’ll be on your left. Follow the Mt. Storm King Trail and begin your ascent. Enjoy the warm-up section of the trail because you’re about to climb!
Located on the Olympic Range’s north slope Mt. Storm King is surrounded by Branes Creek on the south, Lake Crescent on the northwest and Lake Sutherland on the northeast. While trekking up Mt. Storm King can be done during any season this is an especially beautiful hike in the Spring and Summer months. While there are a few routes that will get you to the top we recommend taking the west route via the Mount Storm King Trail. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to avoid some weekend foot traffic consider taking the high logging road or the north route to the final east ridge. If you can break away and get there on a weekday you’ll likely run into very few fellow hikers.
This time of year you can generally expect the trail to be free from snow but potentially slippery if it’s rained recently. Loose rocks and soil are common so be sure to wear the appropriate footwear and stay alert. Parts of the trail, especially after you’ve passed the maintained section, are wide open and free from the cover of trees. On a particularly windy day or when the sun is out in its full glory you’ll want to have layering options and plenty of sunscreen. Once you’ve reached the end of the trail you’ll have the option of traversing up the rope section which we highly recommend! At the top you’ll be fully exposed to the weather so pack accordingly. A windbreaker is a necessity and while you’re at it you may as well throw in a beanie and a pair of gloves (those are handy on the rope section). We don’t particularly recommend attempting this hike between the beginning of November and the end of March unless you’re a seasoned trekker with the proper gear and know-how.
What to Expect
This trail isn’t long but most consider it difficult. A group of us trekked Mt. Storm King last summer and even those who were out of shape made it to the top. You may need to take a few breaks along the way, catch your breath and give your legs a rest. If you’re motivated and have been working on your fitness you can easily complete this trek in 2.5 hours. If, like us, you want to take a few breaks, enjoy the scenery and lunch at the top then you can expect to spend roughly 4 hours out and back. The best way to prepare for any hike is to ensure that you have the ten essentials. Some people scoff at this especially when the hike is on the shorter end of mileage but it really is critical to pack properly. Plus, most of these items can live in your hiking backpack year round and not given much thought. We rely on mountaineers.org for its thorough list of essentials.
- Navigation (map, altimeter, compass, GPS device, or something similar + batteries)
- Headlamp + batteries
- Sun Protection (sunglasses, hat, SPF)
- First-Aid kit
- Fire (lighter, waterproof matches, tinder)
- Shelter (a lightweight bivvy is as small as a soda can and weighs < 3.5 oz.)
- Extra food
- Extra water or ability to purify
- Extra clothes
Traversing the Mt. Storm King Rope Section
If you’re a little leary of heights be warned that the rope section can be a little hairy especially on the descent. The best thing that you can do to prepare is bring a pair of gloves and wear the proper shoes. If it hasn’t rained for awhile this section of the trail is dusty and slippery. Don’t be deterred! If you’ve made it this far you can definitely climb the rope section and it’s worth it. The views at the top of Lake Crescent and Barnes Creek Valley are picturesque especially on a clear day.
Once you’ve ascended all six ropes you’ll veer to the left and have to scramble up a short section before reaching the rocky outcropping where there is room to rest, snap photos, have a bite to eat and make new friends.
There are generally a bunch of camp robbers at the top who are keen on sharing your snacks. Don’t be alarmed if one of these brazen birds lands on your head or arms. They aren’t shy. While many people opt to feed the Canada jays, for their sake, it is best to keep your snacks to yourself. Experts say that feeding the jays causes dependence on humans.
Often this is the easiest aspect of a hike but not in this case. The trail can be slippery and it’s steep. The rope section can also get clogged up so be sure to give yourself plenty of time and relax. Watching people ascend and descend the ropes is fun and if you watch carefully you can learn what not to do on your way down. Hiking with poles is an option and most people we passed on this hike had at least one hiking pole in hand. Have fun and take your time!