Olympic National Park Rock Climbing

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Rock Climbing

For those who enjoy climbing and mountaineering, the Olympic Peninsula and National Park provide a wide range of options including many that demand a high level of climbing skill. Read More

  • Sport climbers will find a number of excellent places to expend some energy, including several routes on the Elwha Wall and in other locations like Steeple Rock near Hurricane Ridge. 
  • Mountaineers looking for a scramble or two should check out Elk Mountain, an easy climb, or slightly more difficult Buckhorn Mountain, both of which offer stellar views.

Where can I go climbing?

Climbing on the Olympic Peninsula is, thus far, limited to the great outdoors. Currently, the closest indoor climbing options – such as rock climbing gyms – are as far away as Olympia or Seattle, at least a 2-hour trek from most of the areas on the peninsula. However, enthusiasts can find plenty of spots where they’ll enjoy “trad” or traditional climbing.

The Elwha Wall
This has been dubbed an easy/moderate sport climbing wall with more than two dozen routes from which climbers can choose. 

  • Type of Climbing: sport 
  • Difficulty: 25 routes that all hover around 5.9 to 5.12 
  • Location: Because the Elwha Dam has now been removed, easiest access to the wall is via the Olympic Discovery Trail parking area on Route 112. Once you’re on the trail, the route to the wall is quite obvious. Walk the mile or bring your mountain bike.

Hurricane Ridge Area
Steeple Rock, which is about 2 miles from Hurricane Ridge, provides 5 climbing routes and some scrambles, with some routes that are suitable for beginners and are likely to take less than 30 minutes to complete. Check out Wings (5.8) for the most interesting and challenging climb. 

  • Type of Climbing: sport 
  • Difficulty: 2 to 5.8 
  • Location: From Port Angeles take South Race Road to the Olympic NP Ranger Station and make a right on Hurricane Ridge Road. Follow it for 17.3 miles to where the road intersects with Obstruction Point Road on the left. Take Obstruction Point Rd. 2 miles to where the Cox Valley Trail begins. There’s a parking area at the base of the rock.

Where can I go mountaineering?

Mountaineering in the Olympic Mountains can be quite challenging. The National Park Service points out that the rock formations are shales, sandstone, and pillow lava, making the rock loose, fragmented, and chossy and, therefore, dangerous to climb. Nonetheless, advanced mountaineers take on the area’s best mountains each year and survive, but the utmost attention to detail is necessary as is good safety training. Mount Olympus and Mount Deception are the two most challenging and should only be attempted with guides. Others include:

Elk Mountain
This lesser-known peak in the Olympic Mountains still offers a great scramble, with the mountain topping out at more than 6700 feet. Though it’s not included among the major snow-capped peaks in the area, it still provides wonderful views of the interior of Olympic National Park. 

  • Trailhead: Best accessed from Obstruction Point trailhead. Take Hurricane Ridge Road to Obstruction Point Rd. to the trailhead (about 8 miles) Follow the signs towards Deer Park. Elk Mountain is on the left side of the trail about 1.8 miles from the trailhead. 
  • Distance: 2 miles 
  • Elevation: 6,764 feet 
  • Difficulty: easy

Buckhorn Mountain
Not far from Quilcene, this is a moderately difficult peak that actually has two summits that differ slightly in difficulty. The southwest summit, considered a Class 2 scramble, requires some use of your hands. The northeast summit has some Class 3 sections where you may want to rope up. 

  • Trailhead: Drive US 101 to Big Quilcene River Road (FS Road 27), about 2 miles south of the town of Quilcene. Follow FS Road 27 about 7.1 miles, then take FS Road 2750 down across the river and up about 4.8 miles to the trailhead at the Big Quilcene River crossing, just outside the park boundary. Hike up the Big Quilcene River about 5.5 miles to Marmot Pass. From the pass, leave the trail and hike cross-country up the gentle southwest ridge of Buckhorn Mountain. 
  • Distance: 6 miles 
  • Elevation: 6,988 feet/6,956 feet 
  • Difficulty: moderate