Cirque Rim Trail Guide

One of the most popular trails on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park is the Cirque Rim Trail.  The trail is an easy loop that includes an overlook with wonderful views of the Olympic Mountains and the ocean beyond. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Cirque Rim Trail, including tips, what to wear and what to expect as you hike the trail.

TOP TOUR: Book a small group tour now
TOP HOTEL PICK in PORT ANGELES: Check availability now
TOP HOTEL PICK in FORKS: Check availability now
FIND THE CHEAPEST CAR RENTAL: Search Discover Cars for the best deals
FIND THE CHEAPEST FLIGHTS: Search Skyscanner for the best deals
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE: Get insured with Travelex before you go

No time right now to read this Cirque Rim Trail Guide? Pin It and save it for later:

Please note this post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at zero cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full Disclosure for more information. If you have any questions, please contact me.

Subscribe to regular updates with tips for planning, travel inspiration and trip ideas and get instant access to the free PDF of this
Cirque Rim Trail Guide

*** As of May 2023, the Hurricane Ridge area is closed indefinitely due to a fire that completely destroyed the Visitor Center and essential infrastructure ***

Cirque Rim Trail Details

Distance: 0.5 miles

Type: Loop

Elevation change: 44 feet

Time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead:  Either end of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center Parking lot (connects with the High Ridge Trail and the Big Meadow Trail)

Highlights: Panoramic views

Fee: There is no special trail fee but you do need to pay the Olympic National Park entrance fee. To avoid long lines and save money, if you are planning to visit more than just the Olympic National Park this year, it can be great value to purchase an America The Beautiful pass.   

Open: All year (but see Tips below for road openings and closures).
The road up to Hurricane Ridge is open throughout summer. In the winter season (typically late November – late March), the road is scheduled to be open Friday through Sunday and holiday Mondays, but this is dependent on weather and road conditions.  From late fall – late spring, the trail is covered in snow.

Tips for Hiking the Cirque Rim Trail

  1. The trail can be hiked by itself, but is easily combined with the Big Meadow Trail, which runs roughly parallel but lower down below the ridge, and/ or the High Ridge Trail (with a side tail to Sunrise Point), which is short but somewhat steep.  For an even shorter version, you can cut straight up from the parking lot to the overlook.
  2. If you plan to combine the Cirque Rim Trail with the Big Meadow Trail (the easier option), I recommend hiking the trail clockwise.
    If you combine the Cirque Rim Trail with the High Ridge / Sunrise Point Trails, I recommend hiking it counterclockwise.
    If you are only hiking the Cirque Rim Trail, either direction is fine.
  3. The area is open all year, though the road up to Hurricane Ridge is only open on weekends (from 9:00AM to 4:00PM Friday-Sunday) in winter (typically late November – late March).  The rest of the year, the road is open 24/7, though all road openings are dependent on weather and road conditions.  Check with the NPS for current road conditions
  4. The trail is often covered in snow from October (or even September) until late June so microspikes or snowshoes are advisable at this time of year. 
  5. The parking lot at Hurricane Ridge fills up by mid-morning, especially in summer.  This can lead to long waits at the Heart of the Hills Entrance Station at the bottom of the mountain.  Try to get there as early as possible (well before 10:00AM) or after 3:00PM.
  6. This hike is best done on a clear day so you can enjoy the views.  The weather at the top of Hurricane Ridge is often very different than the weather down in Port Angeles.  There is a webcam you can check out before heading up.
  7. There is little shade, so be sure to be sun sensible.
  8. Keep an eye out for marmots, black bears, and deer, which are often seen on the meadows in this area, especially in the summer.

Trees and grasses and besides are aerial view of mountains in Cirque Rim Trail Hurricane Ridge Olympic National Park

Map of the Cirque Rim Trail

Hurricane Ridge Map Olympic National Park

The Cirque Rim Trail Description

This is an easy trail that is paved and even possible in a wheelchair, though you would need some assistance, as there is some elevation change. 

You can hike this trail in a clockwise or a counterclockwise direction.  If you hike it clockwise, you’ll start at the far end of the parking lot. 

I’m describing it in a counterclockwise direction, so the trailhead is at near the beginning of the parking lot, as you arrive from Port Angeles.

From the trailhead, head up the paved path.  After a very short distance, you’ll pass the junction with the Big Meadow Trail on your left.

In about a minute, you’ll pass the trail to High Ridge on your right (read my High Ridge Trail Guide for full details).  I recommend taking this and connecting with the Cirque Rim Trail after that hike.  

However, if you decide to just do the Cirque Rim Trail, go left and continue up.  A short distance later, you pass the junction with the High Ridge Trail on your right.

If you’re coming from the High Ridge Trail, you’ll turn right on to the Cirque Rim Trail.  If you’re coming up from the Big Meadow Trail or from the parking lot, go left. 

At this point, you’ll be amongst the trees and will pass a Ski Patrol hut almost immediately after the junction.  This area is the main Hurricane Ridge ski area in winter.

There are some more trees to provide some welcome shade on a sunny day.

Giant trees in Cirque Rim Trail Hurricane Ridge Olympic National Park

The path clears the trees soon after and runs along the top of a large bowl.

There are wonderful views on your right.  Keep an eye on your left, too, for marmots and deer.  And don’t forget to look up, as you may see bald eagles soaring overhead.

There’s another short, wooded section about five minutes after the High Ridge Trail junction.

A small climb then brings you up to the Cirque Rim Overlook.  There are stunning views of Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the overlook on clear days.

From the overlook, you can head down the hill.  This shortcut takes you directly back to the parking lot and connects to the Big Meadow Trail for a short loop.

Continuing along the main trail, you’ll pass through more meadows, that are covered in beautiful wildflowers in summer.  In less than five minutes, you’ll end up back at the far end of the parking lot, not far from the Visitor Center.

What You Need To Take/ Wear on The Cirque Rim Trail

  1. Wind breaker.  This area is named “Hurricane Ridge” because of the strong winds that blow here most of the time. The wind can be chilly even in summer. I recommend taking a wind breaker. If you need one, I like this Columbia windbreaker for men and this Little Donkey Andy windbreaker for women.
  2. Binoculars. There are often birds soaring around and wildlife on the meadows, so I like to take binoculars with me when I hike so I can see them up close.  If you’re looking for some, read my guide to The Best Binoculars for the Money or get my top pick here
  3. Sun hat, sunglasses and sun screen.  Most of this trail is in the sun and it is at high elevation, so be sure to wear sunscreen, a good sun hat and sunglasses. 
  4. Bear Spray.  You may encounter black bears on this trail, especially early summer and fall.  Be bear aware and carry bear spray or a bear bell just in case. 
  5. Winter hiking gear.  If you’re hiking in winter (or fall or spring for that matter), you will need good microspikes or snow shoes.  Read my guides to The Best Microspikes for Hiking and The Best Snowshoes for Beginners if you need to buy some.
  6. Day Hike Essentials. Check my list of essential things to take and wear on a day hike to make sure you have everything you need.

Travel Insurance for Olympic National Park

No matter what kind of hiking you do, you should definitely get travel insurance.  This can protect you not only against medical and emergency repatriation, but can also cover things like trip cancellation, loss and/ or theft of property, etc.

A great insurance option is Travelex.  It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can choose the best travel insurance plan for your trip here or get a quote right now:

728x90 Get Quote

You might also like: 

>> Olympic National Park Guide
>> All You Need to Know About Hurricane Ridge
>> Hurricane Hill Trail Guide
>> High Ridge to Sunrise Point Trail Guide
>> Best Hurricane Ridge Hikes
>> Best Olympic National Park beaches
>> How to Get to Olympic National Park
>> Best Airports for Olympic National Park

Do you have any tips for questions about hiking the Cirque Rim Trail?  I’d love to hear about them.  Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more). 

Subscribe to regular updates with tips for planning, travel inspiration and trip ideas and get instant access to the free PDF of this
Cirque Rim Trail Guide

If you liked this post, please share the love and Pin It to your Olympic National Park National Park board!


Are you just starting to think about taking a national parks trip? Get Inspiration
Are you starting to plan a trip to Olympic National Park? Read my Guide to Olympic National Park
Are you looking for a place to stay? Seach accommodation guides
Are you ready to book your trip? Use these Planning and Booking Resources
Do you want to read a book about national parks? Check out my Recommended Reading List

About the Author

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.

He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks. 

Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.

As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.

Read more…

Parks Collecting is a participant in the Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.