The Olympic National Park is remarkable in its beauty with lots of trails. Try the Heart of the Forest Trail for a fine sampling of the lowland wilderness. It is a great option for those itchy feet at the beginning of the season when snow keeps us from higher elevations.
The high point on this hike is about 1,900 feet – and that’s at the trailhead. You will be hiking down and then up as you come back out but with a steady diet of minor ups and downs.
The hike begins in second-growth forest but moves into old growth. Skunk cabbage, hemlock, salal, ferns, bunchberry, huckleberry and trillium carpet the forest floor. Boardwalks and short bridges lift the trail up over the many marshy spots where you’ll see the skunk cabbage a bit after you start smelling it in the spring. The boardwalks are slippery when wet.
The trail goes from the campground to the park boundary, following Lake Creek most of the way. There are two water crossings which require some rock-hopping or wading in shallow water. The second crossing makes a good stopping point for families for lunch by the babbling brook before retracing your steps. In mid-April 2009 there were several slides and major blow-downs along the farthermost section of the trail making the route hazardous in spots, hence the recommendation to make the second water crossing your turnaround point.
Directions: Take U.S. 101 to Port Angeles, then go 5 miles south on Hurricane Ridge Road to Heart O’the Hills Campground. The trailhead is at Loop E. Day parking is on the left just before Loop C. In the winter only Loop A is open. Park by the gate and walk to the trailhead.
Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest)
Miles round-trip: 4 Elevation: 500 feet
Best time of year: April to November
Green Trails 103 – Port Angeles; Custom Correct Hurricane Ridge
Pass: Olympic or national park day or annual pass
Info: Olympic National Park, 360-565-3131, www.nps.gov/olym/; “Olympic Mountains Trail Guide,” by Robert Wood, Mountaineers Books
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee. For other hikes, visit www.thenewstribune.com/hiking.