The word "Weatherwax" sounds more like a brand of automobile polish rather than a peak. But at least the latter definition holds true. Weatherwax Ridge is a low-elevation mountain, one of the southernmost peaks in Olympic National Forest, located in Grays Harbor County, Washington. But don't be fooled by the peak's elevation. Weatherwax Ridge is actually quite prominent for its stature. With 1696' of prominence, it is actually the most prominent peak in Grays Harbor County.
That is perhaps the most important peakbagging fact about this mountain. Although some peakbaggers seek mountains that have at least 1000' of prominence, Weatherwax Ridge has the extra distinction of also being a county prominence point.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon how one looks at things), the mountain is mostly a drive-up, especially during weekends in late Spring and Summer months after snow is no longer on the mountain. Although the mountain officially has its highest elevation recognized as 2736', there are technically three different areas that could contain the true highest location on the peak. To officially consider the peak as summited, all three locations must be visited. Here are general coordinates for the three areas that are contenders for Weatherwax Ridge's highest point:
47.33714, -123.59003 ("Officially" recognized highpoint location on maps)
47.33693, -123.59280 (Area located a short distance due west of previous location)
47.33369, -123.58254 (Area located southeast of previous two locations, on a separate hill near the highest section of FS-2371)
Westernmost Contender For Summit Area
A major downside for summiting the peak is that none of the summit contenders have outward views. However, several great views can be found with some effort through forested areas.
Eastern View From Near Middle Summit Area
Weatherwax Ridge is named after John M. Weatherwax, a pioneer who arrived at Grays Harbor during the 1880s and built a successful lumber mill in Aberdeen. He then took part in the local real estate and construction industries, built a lumber schooner (which he named after himself), and built a local hospital. A community named Weatherwax was established (but now defunct) northwest of Weatherwax Ridge. Later, one of the local high schools was named in honor of his accomplishments in the region. It is fitting that his namesake peak is the most prominent point in Grays Harbor County, because at one time John Weatherwax was perhaps the most prominent man in the area.
FROM HIGHWAY 12 NEAR MONTESANO, WA:
1) Take the Montesano/Raymond Exit off Highway 12.
2) Turn north on the main north-south road.
3) After 0.1 miles, turn left at Pioneer Avenue, the first major intersection in Montesano.
4) After 1.1 miles, veer right onto Wynoochee Valley Road.
5) Follow Wynoochee Valley Road for 32.2 miles.*
*NOTE: As of May 2010, Wynoochee Valley Road, also known as FS-22, is paved for the first 27.6 miles until after the Save Creek Bridge. However, a road paving project is currently in place to pave the rest of Wynoochee Valley Road/FS-22 to the Wynoochee Dam area.
6) Turn right onto FS-23.
7) After 0.8 miles, the road splits. Take the right (straight) road.
8) Only 0.1 miles further, FS-2371 is intersected on the right (south) side of the road.
DRIVING UP WEATHERWAX RIDGE:
1) Turn right onto FS-2371.
2) A gate is passed shortly after entering the road, and another gate is passed after 3.2 miles.
3) The first two highpoint contenders are located on a hill. There are two options for attaining them, either from the east (not recommended) or from the west (recommended):
3a) EASTERN APPROACH TO TWO AREAS
: After 4.6 miles along FS-2371, park at a small open area (~2450') next to the road. Steeply ascend west up slopes through very thick brush (including a lot of Devil's Club!!!) to the easternmost of the two highpoint contenders found on the same hilltop. An old, overgrown road connects the two hilly highpoint contenders, both of which are littered with old logging debris.
3b) WESTERN APPROACH TO TWO AREAS
: After 4.8 miles along FS-2371, turn right (west) onto Forest Road 210. Head west until beyond the hillside containing the two highpoint contenders found on the same hilltop. Continuing west along 210 would lead to the mountain's communications towers. Hike east through regrowth forest, but without the thick brush of the alternate approach listed above. An old, overgrown road connects the two hilly highpoint contenders, both of which are littered with old logging debris. This is the preferred route to reach both of the highpoint contenders located on the same hilltop.
4) The third highpoint contender for Weatherwax Ridge is accessed by driving 5.2 miles along FS-2371 (or 0.4 miles from the Forest Road 210 intersection). After this point, FS-2371 begins to head downhill. Park at the small grassy area (~2550'), which used to be the entrance to an old logging road many years ago, on the left (west) side of FS-2371. Hike up the old overgrown road to an open area, and the highest point on the hill is adjacent to that open area.
No permits or fees are required to drive or hike Weatherwax Ridge.
FS-2371 is maintained fairly well, as road access to the communications towers is necessary.
The road allows public access year-round, although during months of snow-cover the gates might be locked. It is best recommended to visit Weatherwax Ridge during weekends in late Spring or Summer months while access is optimum.
The access road (FS-2371) is a single-lane gravel road. There are few places to completely pull a vehicle off the road to allow other vehicles to pass by. Use caution while driving or hiking the road.
Single-Lane Road FS-2371
As of May 2010, Wynoochee Valley Road, which turns into Forest Road 22, is already paved for its first 27.6 miles to a small bridge crossing over Save Creek.
In addition, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Forest Road 22 is in the process of having a five-mile stretch paved between Save Creek and Forest Road 2284. In other words, soon most of the drive to Weatherwax Ridge will be paved. However, during the road paving project, access to Forest Road 22 beyond Cougar Smith Road (18 miles from the start of Wynoochee Valley Road near Montesano) will be closed Tuesdays through Thursdays every week.
People can monitor the progress of the road paving project here
No camping is allowed on Weatherwax Ridge. However, Camp Grisdale is located northwest of the mountain.