15 Things to know before hiking Mount Storm King in Olympic National Park

Rachel HannahAugust 7, 2023

Mount Storm King is one of the most attractive-looking hikes in Olympic National Park and one of the most epic places to visit on an Olympic Peninsula road trip. The summit offers incredible views of Lake Crescent and on particularly clear days you can even see the Strait of San de Fuca.

However, there are a lot of things to know before hiking Mount Storm King. Even though the length of the trail isn’t that long, the verticle 2-mile (3.2 kilometers) journey to reach the top brings about a lot of questions – most of which are related to the intensity and risks involved.

This blog will give you the answers to these top questions along with answers to all of the other possible questions you might have. By the end, you’ll have all the information needed to be able to make an informed decision on whether Mount Storm King is the hike for you!

Coming from someone who isn’t a daredevil at heart I feel like I have the perfect perspective to read from if you are on the fence!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

About Mount Storm King

aerial view of lake crescent
  • Distance: 4.1 miles (6.6 km) round trip.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,106 feet (642 meters)
  • Difficulty: The hike is considered strenuous due to its steep and sometimes challenging terrain.
  • Trail Condition: The trail starts in the forest and then ascends steeply with sections of switchbacks, rocky terrain, and exposed areas. The last part of the trail is unmaintained and involves climbing using ropes.

Set in the Olympic Mountain Range, Mount Storm King in Olympic National Park is undoubtedly one of the most unique trailheads you’ll find in all of Washington – that’s saying a lot considering that Washington has three National Parks to explore!

There is actually an interesting old legend about Mount Storm King that has been passed down from the tribes that used to live in the area thousands of years ago. At the time the landscape looked a lot different, it was just a large valley that had formed because of melting glaciers.

Apparently, the Klallam and Quileute people had been involved in an ongoing battle and Mount Storm King didn’t like the discord so he flung a boulder right in the middle of Lake Cresent that divided the two tribes and ended the war.

Today, Mount Storm King is a very popular hiking trail that is visited by visitors from all around the world. To summit, you will need to hike a little over 2 miles each way, overcome a quick elevation gain of approximately 2,106 feet (642 meters), and brave an unmaintained section that requires using ropes and climbing a narrow rocky section with drop-offs.

15 Things to Know Before Hiking Mount Storm King

girl standing at halfway point lake crescent overlook
canadian jay sitting on branch on mt storm king trail in front of lake crescent

In my experience, Mount Storm King has been both the scariest and most exciting hike that I have ever done and the views of Lake Crescent were amazing!

It is a beast and there are there are lots of things you should know before hiking Mount Storm King so below I will give my insights and tips, and let you decide if the effort and risks are worth the views based on my own experience.

1. Where is the Mount Storm King Trailhead located?

Mount Storm King is located 30 minutes west of Port Angeles right off of the Olympic Highway (101).

If you are driving from Seattle you’re looking at a 3 hour and 15 minute drive.

2. Where do you park to access the Mount Storm King trailhead?

If coming from Port Angeles you’ll turn right onto Lake Crescent Road and the parking lot in front of the Storm King Ranger Station is the first right turn. The Marymere Falls Trailshead is actually the start of Mount Storm King so you’ll see signage indicating you’re parking at Marymere Falls.

3. Do you need a National Park pass in order to park?

The Mount Storm King parking lot is inside of Olympic National Park so technically you are supposed to have a National Park Pass displayed in your car even though there is no official entrance fee booth enforcing this.

We hadn’t purchased our National Park Pass yet as this was our first stop inside the park but nothing happened to us for not having it. We went the first week of May so I’m not sure if anyone checks the cars during the busier months.

But if you are exploring other popular sites in Olympic National Park such as the Hoh Rainforest or Sul Duc Falls you will be stopped at a booth so you could always buy your pass online to avoid the risk of getting a ticket.

4. How long is the hike to the summit of Mount Storm King?

signs marking the start of mount storm king trailhead

From start to finish, it is a 4.1 miles (6.6 kilometers) round trip.

It takes those with an average fitness level around 4 to 5 hours but those who are skilled hikers could finish in around 3 hours. As mentioned, the beginning of the trail starts out as the Marymere Trail and about a half mile in you will find where the trail diverts to the left which becomes Mount Storm King.

The way up will take significantly longer than coming back down because the trail has a continuous incline the entire way up. It took us nearly 3 hours to the summit and only around an hour to come back down.

5. How hard is the Mount Storm King hike?

girl holding two large walking stick on mount storm king trail
switchback on mount storm king trailhead

I would consider myself to be in pretty good shape but I’m not going to lie, it was hard! The unrelenting incline in the beginning really tested my endurance. We took lots of breaks to catch our breath and when we caught on to the switchback pattern we started challenging ourselves to finish a certain amount of them before resting which really helped us keep a good pace.

Then came the end of the maintained trail which brought about its own unique challenges. At this point the intensity of the hike plateaued and it was about taking our time to carefully navigate rugged and exposed sections before tackling the rope sections and then scaling part of a cliff to reach the top.

Note: If you have bad knees don’t forget your trekking poles, especially for the load from gravity on the way down.

6. How dangerous is the unmaintained section of the Mount Storm King trail?

aerial of girl climing mount storm king rope section with view of lake crescent
girl holding rope to climb cliff on mount storm king
girl hiking narrow path on mount storm king trail

Since the trail and ropes on the unmainted section are NOT maintained by the National Park System they are not officially monitored by anyone other than the hikers so you choosing to trust the pathways and ropes is at your own risk.

During the time of my hike (May of 2023) the old skinny ropes that had been there before (found this out from past reviewers) had been replaced by thicker more durable ropes.

Once I got up to the tree that the ropes were attached to I could see that they were securely attached and had been wrapped around the trunk several times. This was the same for the other rope sections following the first main one. Obviously, over time they will begin to wear down so if you are reading this somewhat in the future I would make sure to read the most recent review on AllTrails to see what condition they are in before starting.

A lot of reviews suggested bringing gloves to prevent the rope from hurting your hands but I accidentally forgot mine in the hotel room and didn’t have any problems! However, why not bring them just in case?

7. Can you hike Mount Storm King if you’re afraid of heights?

hikers legs on edge of halfway viewpoint of mount storm king
The view of Lake Crescent about 3/4 of the way up is a good place to turn around!

Yes, but if you are afraid of heights I would stop once you get to the end of the maintained trail. Even if you don’t make it to the top you will get a few nice views of the lake without having to scale rocky cliffs and face exposed edges.

I personally am not someone who loves heights but I try not to let it stop me from epic experiences so I try and push myself to try new things. Before hiking Mount Storm I was super hesitant about if I would be able to summit so I did a lot of research including watching YouTube videos to get a feel for what the end of the trail looked like.

I ultimately decided that the risks of the trail seemed minimal enough as long as I was well-prepared and careful. It seemed like the perfect hike to push me outside of my comfort zone but one that wasn’t overly technical.

The rope section which a lot of people mentioned being iffy felt very safe to me and was actually one of the funnest parts of the trek!

girl scaling rocky a cliff on mount storm king trek
The bear crawl to the top
two people sitting at the summit of mount storm king olympic peninsula
Sitting here was breathtaking!

After the ropes, you will pretty much have to scale part of a mountain to get out to the overlook that you see in all of the photos. I was so scared to do this but I was determined to finish (thanks to adrenaline for kicking in so I didn’t overthink it).

Man, I am so glad I did because the feeling was like nothing I’d experienced before!

8. Has anyone died while hiking Mount Storm King?

Yes, there have been a few recorded deaths but it is not common at all. In fact, the last reported death in 2017 happened when a 21-year-old man decided not to use the assistance of the ropes and one of the rocks he stepped on came loose causing him to fall 30 ft (9 m) on the slope and then another 100 ft (30 m) which led to his death.

I don’t bring this up to scare or discourage you from doing this hike but to show you that situations like this can be easily avoided if you wear proper shoes, take your time, test your footing, and don’t try and take alternate routes. Also, if you ever just feel too unsafe to continue just stop and turn around! Don’t let someone peer pressure you into doing something you aren’t comfortable with!

9. What time of the year can you hike Mount Storm King?

view of lake crescent from mount storm king trail in washington state
the views are worth hiking mount storm king in olympic national park, washington

Mount Storm King can be hiked at many points throughout the year but ideally, the best time to go is between the months of May to October.

The main factor on if you can hike Storm King will depend on whether there is snow and/or ice on the trail so make sure to check the trail condition reports leading up to when you are planning on hiking.

I hiked the first week of May and the trail was perfectly clear and dry!

10. Is it worth hiking Mount Storm King on a cloudy day?

girl sitting on edge of mount storm king with misty background
The clouds and fog added an eerie element
selfie of two girls on a hike with hands up
There was no view but we were proud to have made it!

If it is cloudy or overcast I would not recommend hiking Mount Storm King because you will not get any views of Lake Cresent which is the point of this trail. If there is rain projected I would also avoid this trek altogether because the could put you in danger if the trail becomes slippery.

On the morning of our hike, I woke up to an overcast sky and rain. I was so disappointed when the forecast for the rest of the day didn’t look any better so we initially decided not to hike Storm King and instead opted to hike to Marymere Falls. But by the time we finished, I was starting to see some parting of the clouds and there was no rain in the forecast. Because the Marymere Falls trail connects to Mount Storm King we thought hey, why not go for it?

We got extremely fortunate because the clouds were still there at the beginning of the hike but most of them went away at the perfect time – when we reached the first viewpoint of the lake! This lasted all the way through the other view of the lake (right before the unmaintained sections) and the rope sections but as we kept gaining elevation we knew that there wouldn’t be a view from the summit but we wanted to do it just to be able to say we summited and I’m glad we did!

Even though there was no view from the top we still had gotten plenty of amazing views throughout the hike so it was definitely worth it!

Because the weather in Washington can be so hit and miss I’d recommend giving yourself a few days in the Port Angeles area so hopefully you will have a day with good weather.

Note: Be advised that the trail could be slick and dangerous if it has rained a lot in the last few days. Avoid hiking in these conditions.

11. Are dogs allowed to hike Mount Storm King?

No, unfortunately, you will need to leave your dog at home for this one!

12. Can kids hike Mount Storm King?

Yes and no. We saw a huge group of middle school kids on a class field trip that only went as far as the maintained trail. I wouldn’t recommend young kids going any further than this.

13. Are there other hikes that you can do nearby?

marymere falls olympic national park washington
girl looking at marymere falls olympic national park

Yes! As I’ve mentioned a few times before in this post, the Marymere Falls Trail is part of the Mount Storm King Trail so if you start Mount Storm King early (to beat the crowds) you’ll be able to tack on this trail afterward because it is only an additional 0.6 miles to the beautiful 90 ft (27 m) tall waterfall.

If you are staying or camping nearby you could always come back and do it on another day.

A few of the other most popular trails in the general area include the simple and paved 2.4-mile (3.9 km) Devil’s Punch Bowl trail, the family-friendly 3.4 out-and-back Hurricane Hill Trail, the moderate and beautiful 7.4-mile (12 km) Stripped Peak Loop Trail, or the difficult Aurora Creek Trail that is 8.9 miles long (14 kilometers).

14. Does the Mount Storm King trailhead get busy?

Yes, in the late spring and summer months when the weather is good, this is one of the most popular trails in Olympic National Park so if you can, hike Storm King on a weekday or early in the morning.

If you can’t avoid the crowds make sure to allot more time because once you get to the rope section there might be a line of people waiting to go up. When it’s your turn don’t let the pressure of slowing others down force you into going faster than you feel comfortable enough. Or simply let faster more experienced hikers pass you.

15. Can you stay near Mount Storm King before or after hiking?

lake crescent lodge lakefront patio
The Lake Crescent Lodge has the dreamiest patio!

Yes! The Lake Cresent Lodge is the most convenient option because it is right next to the Mount Storm King Trailhead. They offer

If you want to have close access to stores and restaurants Port Angeles is the biggest city in the area and it’s only a 30-minute drive to/from the trailhead. We chose to stay at the Aircrest Motel and while it was super simple we didn’t care because it was cheap (under $100 USD/night) and comfortable enough to crash for a couple of nights.

If you are a traveler who enjoys extra amenities the Red Lion Hotel is really the only luxurious hotel in Port Angeles. It is right downtown right across from the water and features an outdoor pool and jacuzzi, a seafood restaurant and lounge, and a fitness center. The rooms are modern and bright and some of them have a private balcony with views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. You can expect to pay around $300 USD a night.

If these options don’t work you can browse the rest of your options here.

My Finding’s Tip: Because accommodations are limited hotels fill up FAST so make sure to book a few months in advance so you don’t miss out. Even if you wait and there are last-minute bookings left the prices will be inflated.

Mount Storm King Packing List

girl with hiking stick and backpack
  1. Water and Snacks: Carry enough water (at least 2 liters) and snacks with carbs and protein to stay energized and fueled.
  2. Appropriate Footwear: Wear sturdy hiking boots with good traction to navigate the rocky sections.
  3. Clothing: Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather. Bring a rain jacket, a hat, and gloves for the ropes section.
  4. Trekking Poles: You will want some assistance and stability for this trek. We didn’t have trekking poles but we found large walking sticks before we began and they helped a lot!
  5. Camera: There are so many great photo ops on this trail! I brought my bulky DSLR and while I am happy with how a few of the shots turned out I ended up using my iPhone most of the time so it would’ve saved some weight in my backpack.
  6. Small Backpack: Just big enough to carry your snacks and water.
  7. Sun Protection: On a sunny day wear sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
  8. Fitness Watch: If you care about tracking your time, steps, and calories you won’t want to forget your watch!

Final Word on Hiking Mount Storm King

Thanks so much for reading! Hiking Mount Storm King is a memorable experience that rewards you with stunning views of Lake Crescent and the surrounding landscapes. Prepare well, stay safe, and enjoy every step of this challenging and beautiful hike in Olympic National Park.

Check out my other Washington content below for more inspiration!

Stops on the drive from Seattle to Leavenworth

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