Mount Storm King is a place you might have seen on social media without even realizing it. It’s a beautiful, breathtaking mountain top overlooking Lake Crescent in the glorious Olympic Peninsula. With such a grand name, it kind of has to be amazing. One of my friends commented that it looked like the Crater Lake of Washington. In a word: iconic. I knew I had to get over there as soon as I could. But I was also worried that the hike wouldn’t live up to the hype. I’d even read a post saying the hike itself was boring until the very top. Thankfully, I did not feel that way and thought the entire hike was enjoyable.
Mount Storm King Trail Review
- Hiked: late January
- Distance from Seattle: 3+ hours
- Accessibility: All paved highway, plus a ferry ride
- Length: 4 miles without Marymere Falls, ~6 with the falls
- Difficulty: 5/10*
- Crowds: 5/10
- Trail views: 10/10
- Water features: 8/10
- Overall: 10/10
*Considering the unmaintained portion, the difficulty level would increase. More on the scramble below.
Mount Storm King Trail Guide
I picked a day that had a sunny weather forecast to hike Mount Storm King, and I recommend you do the same. You want a clear day for these views. Part of me hates having to wait until the last minute to confirm the hike (literally one night before) but the other part of me is getting used to it. You don’t want to commit to a big hike if the weather isn’t likely to be nice, especially when it’s a big drive! I always keep a couple options as back ups in case weather changes, and I recommend that for anyone planning hiking excursions.
It’s a real commitment to do Mount Storm King from Seattle, but definitely doable in a day. I woke up at 4 am to hit the road by 5. I picked up my friend, Madison, at 5:15 and we headed to Edmonds to take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. We bought the ticket online the night before for the first ferry of the day, at 6:10 am. Edmonds to Kingston was about $25 for driver, vehicle, and passenger. Kingston to Edmonds it was $16. It’s recommended to arrive 20 minutes before departure to load onto the ferry, so be sure to account for that in transit time. Apparently, it’s about the same time commitment to drive south around the sound through Olympia as it is to take the ferry when you add on the ferry wait time. Given that I left home at 5 and arrived at the trailhead at 8:30 am, the route around through Olympia is probably an additional 20-30 minutes.
I was super stoked to be on a ferry again because I hadn’t been on one since about a year ago when I was simply visiting my sister in Washington, but bummed to realize that it was completely dark so we wouldn’t be able to see anything! It was a quick 20-30 minute ride across the water and into Kingston. We unloaded from the ferry and headed to grab a coffee at a local coffee shack. There were seemingly endless coffee shacks in a few towns on this road. The one we visited was called The Cup & Muffin. They had an amazing pumpkin cinnamon scone and, according to Madison, the best vegan sandwich she’s ever had (it was the hummus and red pepper one sans cheese)! It’s right off the road to the left shortly after you leave the ferry.
From Kingston, it’s another nearly 2 hours to the trailhead. It was still pretty dark for a chunk of our drive, but when the morning light did start to show itself it was lovely. Pink morning light and beautiful mountain views made for quite the start to our day. We immediately perked up and started getting even more stoked!
After a pretty, relaxed drive, we arrived at our destination: the Marymere Falls trailhead. The parking lot was very large and there were just a handful of cars there when we arrived. This is where you start the Storm King hike. There’s a restroom with flush toilets and running water that you can use before setting out.
The trail passes around the edge of the lake briefly before going through a tunnel under the road to head up. It’s flat and wide and tree-filled for about 5-10 minutes until you reach the turn off for Mount Storm King. It’s well-marked with a sign and a massive boulder you can’t miss. You’ll turn left and the climb begins in earnest. The hike is short, but has some steeper sections.
I really enjoyed the ascent. It’s heavily forested, and the sunlight streaming in through the trees was stunning. The trail itself is a mix of softer dirt and roots on the bottom portion and rockier, dustier soil in the top portion. There are a couple of spots where the trail opens up a bit and you can see glimpses of the surrounding peaks and/or the lake. It just keeps getting better and better the higher you climb!
Parts of it also reminded me a bit of Californian mountains. There were manzanitas, but they were actually more like trees than the Californian bush-style manzanita. The higher we climbed, the drier it got, and it was very reminiscent of the Sierra Nevada range. Madison and I, both being Californians, felt right at home.
The trail officially ends where there is a nice view of Lake Crescent and the surrounding mountains. There’s a sign that indicates that beyond, the trail is not maintained. It’s a “proceed with caution at your own risk” type of situation. While this lookout is lovely and perfectly respectable, we wanted to get to the very top of Mount Storm King.
The unmaintained section of the trail was definitely a bit gnarly. Even my adventurous spirit was a little bit nervous. The first part of the scramble, where the first couple ropes are, is definitely the worst. The terrain is slick because of the steep angle and the slippery rocks. Going up is also easier than going down; it’s important to remember this if you decide to attempt the summit so you can know your boundaries.
As you can see from the picture and video, it’s a slick slope and a bit of a drop off on the right side of the trail as you finish the final ascent. But it’s so exhilarating, too, for those of us who like a bit of adrenaline. When we got to the top, it happened to be just women, which felt amazing! Power to us ladies hauling up the mountain earlier in the morning. It turned out we had all been on the same 6:10 am ferry.
It was also awesome that we were there at the time we were (around 10:50) because on our way down we encountered so many more people! On our way up we saw maybe 3 groups ascending and 2 descending. The later you go, the more likely you’ll have to share the space at the top with a bunch of other people. And there isn’t a ton of space up there. We enjoyed the summit for about 45 minutes before heading down lower to eat. You don’t want to eat at the top because of the insane grey jays that will seize your food if you lose vigilance for one moment. I’m not joking here–even where we ate, we covered our food with the tupper ware top between bites and we still had a close call! While it was irritating in the moment, we were laughing about it on the way down, thinking how funny it was that we thought there was any way we would have a peaceful lunch.
On our way down, we felt euphoric. It was a quick jaunt back to the junction with the Marymere Falls trail. We decided to check it out since the Storm King hike wasn’t very long anyhow. I didn’t love how crowded the Marymere Falls area was; there were lots of families with small children, which is lovely to see but also not very peaceful to hike around. The color of the river in the area was out of this world, too!
Marymere Falls was cute and it had a nicely constructed, short trail but I wouldn’t make a trip to this area just for the falls. Mount Storm King, on the other hand, was certainly worth an exclusive trip.
Finally, on our way back to the car, we stopped to take a couple pictures by Lake Crescent. I kept imagining what it would be like to swim here in the summer…I think we will just have to come back to find out!
We enjoyed some final views of Lake Crescent before heading back home. We made it to Kingston about 35-40 minutes before the 4:00 ferry…just in time to watch sunset on the boat! It was totally freezing but we bundled up in all our layers and stayed on the deck the entire ferry ride, taking in the gorgeous sunset views of Rainier and Baker and the cotton candy colored skies.
Key tips for Mount Storm King
- Confirm the night before you hope to visit to make sure it’s still supposed to be a clear and sunny day.
- Take the earliest ferry (6:10 am from Edmonds!) if you’re driving from Seattle so you can arrive before more hikers do. It’s a pain to wake up at 4 or 4:30 but truly worth it for this one.
- Bring gloves for the ropes section if you plan to summit. Attempt to summit at your own risk.
- Wear sunscreen. Enough of this trail is in the sun that you’ll want to be covered.
- Grab coffee at one or two of the small drive-through shacks in Port Angeles and/or Kingston. I did so both on our drive in and our drive out! With such a long day, it was helpful to have the caffeine boosts.
2 replies on “Hiking Mount Storm King in Winter”
Another amazing hike! Okay, not so close to the cliff when you’re taking pictures at the summit, okay?
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It just looked close to the edge but it was really quite safe 😀
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