Operations at Olympic National Park are switching to a winter schedule, even as park managers keep a wary eye on funding.
The park offers a wide variety of opportunities for visitors during the winter. Outdoor opportunities abound, from camping to hiking to snowshoeing. For indoor comforts, options include storm-watching from the Kalaloch Lodge along the Pacific Coast to lakeside dining at Lake Crescent Lodge to weekend day trips to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.
“Every season at Olympic brings its own magic, and for the prepared visitor, winter can be an excellent time to experience the many facets of the park,” superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a news release.
Creachbaum said, however, park managers are working to provide services to winter visitors while ensuring they have adequate funding in reserve for the summer when the park has its highest visitation.
When the government shutdown ended last month, Congress provided funds to operate the parks through Jan. 15. Final funding for Fiscal Year 2014 will not be resolved before then, she said.
One concession to funding cuts, ranger-led snowshoe walks will not be offered this winter at Hurricane Ridge.
Here is a look at operations around the park:
VISITING THE FORESTS
The Hoh Rain Forest area, with walking trails and a campground, is open throughout the winter, weather permitting. Running water is available and flush toilets remain open in the Hoh Campground. The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center will close for the season Dec. 2, and will reopen in early March.
The Quinault Graves Creek Campground, with vault toilets, is open through the winter.
The Sol Duc Road and campground will stay open, weather and road conditions permitting. Snow accumulations may cause the road to be closed for extended time periods. Vault toilets are available in the campground. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is closed and will reopen in March.
The Elwha Valley and Elwha Campground remain open; vault toilets are available at the campground.
Heart O’ the Hills Campground is open with running water and flush toilets available. Snow accumulation may cause the campground to become walk-in only.
The Staircase area is open; the campground is open for walk-in camping only. Vault toilets are available in the campground.
Lake Crescent Lodge has extended its season this year and will offer overnight lodging, a dining room and gift shop through Dec. 31. More information is available at olympicnationalparks.com.
VISITING THE COAST
Kalaloch Lodge is open year-round and offers overnight lodging, a dining room and gift shop. More information is available at thekalalochlodge.com.
Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette campgrounds are open throughout the winter. Both Kalaloch and Mora campgrounds have running water and flush toilets; vault toilets are available in the Ozette campground.
Visitors should check the tide table and weather report before venturing onto the beach. Stay far away from beach logs, which are easily tossed by waves.
The Forks Information Station is closed for the season.
VISITING THE MOUNTAINS
Winter access to Hurricane Ridge is dependent on safe road and weather conditions. Beginning Friday, Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open Fridays-Sundays and Monday holidays through March 30.
The decision to open the road is made each day and is based on staff assessment of road and weather conditions, along with forecasts and information from the National Weather Service and the Northwest Avalanche Center.
All vehicles, including four-wheel drive, must carry tire chains when traveling above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station through April 1.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is open when the road is open, with restrooms, exhibits, park film and a warming area.
The Hurricane Ridge snack bar and ski shop, with both ski and snowshoe rentals, will be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays beginning Saturday and running through March 30.
The Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays from Dec. 7 through March 30. More information about the Hurricane Ridge downhill ski and snowboard area is available at hurricaneridge.com.
Opportunities for cross-country skiers and snowshoe walkers range from open meadows near the visitor center to extreme terrain in the park’s wilderness backcountry. Anyone skiing or snowshoeing beyond the immediate Hurricane Ridge area should sign in at the registration box in the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and be prepared for steep terrain and the possibility of avalanches. The Hurricane Ridge area is subject to extreme winter conditions, including sudden storms, white-outs and avalanches, making planning and preparation for winter conditions important.
In person: Current information is available at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles, open daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The visitor center will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Online: Park information is available at the park website, nps.gov/olym, the park’s Facebook page, facebook. com/olympicnps. People can also follow “HRWinterAccess” on Twitter to receive specific Hurricane Ridge Road condition updates.
Phone: You can call the park’s road and weather hotline at 360-565-3131.