Griff Peak seen from Hurricane Hill
For those who frequent the Olympuic Penninsula, but have exhausted the the popular trail to Mount Angeles, Griff Peak and adjacent Unicorn Peak are a a sure way to spice things up. The winter is probably the preferable time of the year for Griff because during the summer you can expect to cross some steep scree and dirt slopes. There are also a lot of downed trees to deal with when passing through the old Griff Burn. With enough snow, the approach is easier but lengthy and includes frequent ups and downs. Although there is considerable loss and gain of elevation while following the ridge, the summit is just barely higher than the summer parking area.
The vast majority of the route follows a number of ridge tops which make the trip worthwhile. The proximity of Griff Peak to the town of Port Angeles provides on of the best views of the port and the Straight of Juan de Fuca. On a clear day you will see the mountains on the other side in Canada.
Following The Ridge
The main draw of this peak is that the route follows high alpine ridge-tops where wildflowers
are abundant in the summer and snow capped peaks
surround you in the winter. Starting from either parking area, the first objective is the summit of Hurricane Hill
at 5757 feet. It's 3 miles to Hurricane's summit from the visitor center. Follow the winding ridge-top northwest as it passes through patches of forest. From Hurricane's summit you can see Unicorn Peak
and Griff Peak down below. It's another a mile and a half to get to the Unicorn/Griff ridge-top.
From Hurricane Hill summit, go a quarter mile east to where the northeast ridge starts dropping down steeply. This is the only crucial point of the route where you don't want to make a mistake. It's also the only section where you want to leave the top of the ridge. Those who have tried to stay on top of the northeast ridge of Hurricane Hill have found that it becomes quite narrow and cliffy. To avoid this, drop down into a bowl just east of the ridge and skirt along the bottom of the cliffs in a descending traverse
traveling north. There might be some avalanche danger on these slopes during the winter and in the summer finding footing on loose dirt and grass can be challenging. Regain the top of the ridge around 5200 feet and follow it down to the saddle between Griff Peak and Hurricane Hill.
Right before the saddle you will enter the remnants of the Griff Burn which was caused by a lightning strike in 2003. With enough snow most of the downed trees should be covered up, but in the summer there are many logs to step over. Continue following the ridge as it ascends above the saddle to 5000 feet where it intersects another ridge running between Griff Peak and Unicorn Peak. From here, it is not far to the summit of Griff Peak which is less than a quarter mile to the east. The summit is partially forested but I suspect there is a view (I couldn't tell when I was there because of low clouds). Most of those who have ventured this far will also take the time to follow the ridge west to the summit of Unicorn Peak which is only a mile from the summit of Griff.
From Seattle, take one of the ferry rides over the Sound to the Peninsula and catch Highway 16 up to Highway 3, to Highway 104 west to Highway 101. Wherever you are coming from, head towards Port Angles.
From Port Angeles, go south on Hurricane Ridge Road to the Park entrance. (There are signs in Port Angeles that direct you there). The visitor center is 17 miles from Port Angeles. This is where you will have to park in the winter. During the summer, take the Hurricane Hill Road beyond the visitor center for another 1.3 miles to a turnaround and parking lot.
Griff and Unicorn seen from Port Angeles Bear Sighting
Entrance Fees to Olympic National Park:
One Week - $15
One Year - $30
One Year to All National Parks and Recreation Areas - $80
NOTE: You didn't hear it from me, but often in the wee early morning hours and also sometimes in the winter, nobody is checking for permits at the park entrance.