Mount Storm King: otherwise known as the hike that defeated us. If you went by the online advice, Mount Storm King (in Olympic National Park) is a short, steep uphill walk - but achievable for most people.
Well, if this is what Washingtonians consider as a hike that’s achievable for most people, I’d dread to see the one which they consider truly difficult!
In short, this hike is an uphill slog. That doesn’t sound too bad on the face of it, but unfortunately the worst lies just below the very top. You’ve walked for miles - and are tantalisingly close to the summit - and then you see it. The slope with the ropes…..
We’ll let you make up your own mind on whether this is a tough hike or not, but hopefully this will give you a rounded guide of what to expect from the Mount Storm King Trail.
Mount Storm King Trail, Olympic National Park
Distance: 2.5 miles (4km) each way
Elevation: 1870 ft (570m) to the ropes and 2000ft to the summit
Time taken: 3 hours return
Trail type: Out and back
You may look at the info above and wonder what the fuss is about.
At 2 miles each way, Mount Storm King doesn’t sound hard. It’s when you add in almost 600 metres elevation that you realise that the climb is an average incline of 18%!
Be prepared as there is next to no flat sections to catch your breath but it’s pretty nicely shaded through forest much of the way so it’s not too bad.
The trail starts at the Marymere car park and heads along the lake before ducking under the road. The first 0.25 miles are completely flat until you see an overturned tree with a sign for Mount Storm King.
If you wanted to add a short detour on you could stop by and see the falls, normally we would have but we were heading up for sunset so we didn’t have enough time.
This is the beginning of the uphill climb that continues to the very top.
The first 0.5 mile is pretty steep with a layer of loose gravel. On the way up this makes for a steep climb that really gets your heartbeat going, but on the way down it can make for an incredibly slippery descent that is hard work on your knees.
We recommend bringing hiking poles.
Through the forest
The trail is a series of switchbacks which eventually goes deeper into the forest.
The first half mile is alongside a steep drop, but then it will head inwards where the path doesn’t seem quite so narrow or steep either side.
At this point you can take in the beauty of the forest in Olympic, with its huge pine trees, some of which lay like fallen giants across the path. The trees are so big that they block out the sun and create a mysterious atmosphere.
After the halfway mark you’ll suddenly see a couple of gaps in the forest that look out to the surrounding tree covered mountains.
One looks back over Lake Crescent and gives you an idea of just how high you’ve climbed! We had a really cloudy day but even then it was beautiful.
The end of the maintained trail
After two miles you’ll reach a sign which states “end of the maintained trail”.
Until now the track has been fairly hardwork and steep, but in pretty good condition. From now, things get trickier.
The track turns into a ridge that is rocky and really narrow. It has a couple of uphill sections which require a little scramble, but overall it’s very doable.
We were feeling 100% confident at this point and then we saw it. The steep slippery cliffside and the rope.
Mount Storm King Ropes
The roped section of the trail might not worry a lot of people but to us with the huge steep drop off if you slipped looked pretty daunting.
The ropes looked in good condition but as it’s an unmaintained track you aren’t supposed to rely on them and use them only as a back up.
As a trial, I decided to climb up and see how it was. Getting up the first section (the first rope to the ricketty tree it’s attached to) wasn’t too bad, you have rocks underfoot which are slippery, but there is some grip.
The second was enough to put me off - the trail gets steeper, the rocks disappear and all you have is an old rope for balance.
This wouldn’t be as bad if you didn’t have huge, steep drops either side of this narrow path. If the path was wider without a huge drop, I may have gone for it, but it was hard to remove the nerves about slippery which actually gave me vertigo (something I virtually never get).
In the end we were resigned, we didn’t want to risk it, especially as we’d underestimated this trail and knew we’d be coming down the first part in blue hour and the rest in the dark.
We met four other people on the trail, all of whom managed to complete this section (so don’t let us out you off), but the people we saw slowed down a lot, stopped in the middle and had a long discussion as to whether to continue. It is a section of hiking that seems to give the jitters to most people!
The main thing to consider is the getting down, it’s much harder than getting up. The terrain on the roped section is incredibly slippery and the rope helps, but not enough to mitigate the horror of feeling your feet start to slide around.
As we said earlier, we don’t want to put you off doing it! We just wanted to give our opinion of this section as we’d only read accounts of people having no problem with it and we figured if we had issues then others might too and find it useful.
Even if you don’t make it to the very top, the views from the trail by the ropes are stunning. We recommend taking time to absorb it all, even if this is the place you choose to turn around.
It isn’t the uninterrupted view you’d get from the summit, but you’re high enough to take in the beautiful Lake Crescent and mountains surrounding it.
You can see why Olympic National Park is so popular - views like this are pretty rare. We were gutted not to make it to the top, especially when we could see it just above us, but we don’t regret giving it a go.
You’ll want to have bug repellent if you’re going to sit for a while though as the mosquitos at Mount Storm King are baaaaaad. Really bad.
This surprised us as it was so high up, but even at the summit Washington’s finest were happily biting through our clothes.
The climb down Mount Storm King is one of the few trails where the descent takes as long as the climb up. This is mainly because the steep trail becomes pretty slippery on the way down and hard on your knees.
The last mile is the worst the loose gravel on the track makes it more slippery. We were coming down in the dark which probably makes it tougher but we’d have been slow descending even in day light on certain sections.
If you plan on doing this hike for sunset, you will need a head torch. The forest gets really dark, really quickly. We had poles as well which made things a little easier.
Finishing the Mount Storm King trail
Despite not reaching the very top, we enjoyed Mount Storm King. It is a trail that was really quiet, very beautiful and a fun challenge.
The views from the top are incredible and even the forest is pretty enough that it will distract you on the steep climb.
However, we recommend working out whether you’re the kind of person who will be ok with the roped section.
It isn’t easy as a lot of people say and if you get summit fever, not completing this section may leave you disappointed.
We enjoyed the hike regardless, but keep in mind that not everyone will be able to get to the very top.
Getting to Mount Storm King
The start of the trail to Mount Storm King isn’t labelled on Google Maps, so you’ll need to park at the car park for Marymere Falls (see on the map below). The trail weaves under the road before a left turn marks the uphill hike to Mount Storm King.
The Marymere Falls car park is near Lake Crescent - in the northern part of Olympic National Park - and is a 30 minute drive from Port Angeles.
Entrance Fees for Mount Storm King
As Mount Storm King lies within Olympic National Park, you will need to pay an entrance fee before commencing the hike. It is $30 for a 7 day entry to the whole of Olympic National Park or $80 for the annual pass (which is superb value and worth doing if you plan on visiting three or more parks in a year).
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Are you planning a trip to Olympic National Park? Would you take on the brutal climb and ropes to the top of Mount Storm King? Let us know in the comments below!