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Olympic Peninsula, Wa

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Close Look at a Higher than Average 2013 Snow Pack on the Olympic Peninsula.

Currently, reports are saying that the snow pack on the Olympic Peninsula is 211% above average. With the colder months coming and the usual steady drubbing of precipitation, we could have quite a snowy year.  Some are saying this is the impact on climate change on the Pacific Northwest. The effects have so far been more snow in the winter, heavier than average rain in the spring and late fall and a dryer than normal autumn.

Snow on the Olympic Mountains: Higher Than Average

Snow on the Olympic Mountains: Higher Than Average

To put last year in perspective, in 2012, Forks Washington saw over 132 inches of rain, this was higher than normal. This is on top of a summer that set a record for longest dry streak of over 50 days without measurable rainfall. The Olympic Peninsula had a fire ban in 2012.

2012 Record Dry Streak in the Pacific Northwest

2012 Record Dry Streak in the Pacific Northwest

The rainforest, averaging over 130 inches of rain, was considered a serious fire risk.


Lake Cushman From Mount Ellinor

A dry view of Lake Cushman Mount Ellinor

Last year saw many good and bad things with the weather, and so far, 2013 looks to be more of the same. Will this year’s snow ruin your plans or make them more epic? We explore the good, the bad and the ugly.



Hurricane Hill Trail

Hurricane Hill Trail

The Good

–          Winter Sports

  • If you are a Skier, Boarder, Snowshoe hiker or just someone that loves snow, the trails right now are just sick. From Hurricane Ridge to Staircase Rapids, snow is present and snowshoes may be needed.  Climbing is dicey with avalanche levels always changing (Check them here) so be aware of them. Also check road conditions before driving up. Man times you will need changes, 4 wheel drive and a little luck.


Snow Shoeing on Hurricane Ridge

Snow Shoeing on Hurricane Ridge

–          Pictures

  • Right now, with snow on every peak, and even snow along low levels lakes and on the trees, the Olympic Peninsula is extremely beautiful. We all see pictures of the mountains with no snow, or the greens of the rain forest, but with snow, the greens are even more dynamic and the peaks even more impressive. Picture wise, winter on the Olympic Peninsula is a time when I am most happy photography wise, so I assume you might be too.


–          Healthy Forests and Rivers, plus a Low Fire Danger

  • With a lot of snow and rain this year, our rivers should be able to handle any drought that Mother Nature throws at us. The salmon numbers will be higher with a good flow, the soil will be healthier and the mountains, hills and valleys will continue to flourish and grow. After the harsh decades of logging, winters like this help repair the damage mankind has done.


Highway 101 Closed in December 2012

Highway 101 Closed in December 2012

The Bad

–          Road Closures

  • The Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park have a limited budget, so when it snows, the snow doesn’t move. Few plows, few employees and low funds mean that with a ton of snow, many of our favorite areas will be closed and impossible to get to unless you want to walk a ton or own a snowmobile. (If you own a snowmobile, please call me!!) In fact Hurricane Ridge only open very few days a weeks this winter. The Ridge is closed in the winter except Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Chains are required at all times in the winter!
    • Here are December stats from the People at Free Hurricane Ridge:

      5 days were open from 9 to dusk as scheduled.
      3 out of 18 scheduled days were closed all day
      6 out of 18 days opened late (not counting one day at 9:07) Average late opening was 10:30
      4 out of 18 closed early due to weather
      2 days of full parking
      15 of 31 days were closed.
      The Park will say that the road was closed 17% (3/18) of the time, better than historical averages.
      In January there are 13 scheduled open days.



–          Late Hiking Season

  • In 2012, the mountain trails were covered in snow through July, making early summer hiking a sloppy endeavor. The rivers were swollen and running high, making many of the river crossing dangerous. In 2012, hiking didn’t get great until nearly August, when crews were able to repair damaged trails and clear the last bits of snow from the roads.



–          Landslides and Washouts

  • The Olympic Peninsula has a history of washouts and landslides. In December of 2012, Highway 101 was closed because of heavy rain, snow forcing mud and tress onto the highway. (Link) The Dosewalips road, leading to the Olympic National Park washed away years ago, and no plans are underway to repair it, causing trails to be longer by around 4 or 5 miles. This is common, and with changing weather and wetter soil and hillsides, more washouts may occur. Some may not impact roads, but may force trails to close due to increased danger levels.



The Ugly

  • If roads do in fact suffer washouts, and trails are destroyed by mud and rock slides, or just wrecked from downed trees or poor conditions, this summer will be a rough one. With over a million people taking advantage of the trails and roads around the Olympic Peninsula



For Up to the Minute Reports and Road Conditions, call us or contact us!!!

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Email: exotichikes@gmail.com

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