Watch the weather. It's called Hurricane Ridge for a reason...
The anonymous commenter who made that remark on Friday couldn't have been more accurate. We knew the weather was going to turn on Saturday so we took the 7:10 ferry over to the Olympic Peninsula with the goal of being in the snow by 10am at the latest. The drive north on Highway 101 was beautiful -- the Olympic Mountains were visible from base to peak and the clouds were far off and high in the sky -- and we made the drive up the road from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge (elevation 5,240 feet) by 9:30.
It was very windy on the ridge and it the temps were in the low 20s, but the views were great. The plan was to snowshoe 3 miles to Hurricane Hill and beat feet back to the truck before the snowstorm arrived. We didn't want to just snowshoe on the side of the groomed x-c ski trail so we wandered back and forth through the woods and along the hillsides that paralleled the main path to the proper trailhead and when we did finally reach the start of the more rugged portion of the hike, roughly 1.5 miles from the car, the weather turned nasty.
We started up and over the first knob and the driving snow stopped us cold. Visibility was dropping by the minute, the wind was horrendous, and the snow was coming down in buckets. And we knew we had the most technical and most exposed portion of the trek still to come. Kristin and I were with friends and between the four of us, nobody had any real backcountry snowshoeing experience. Going on simply wasn't safe and we all knew it so we turned around and made our way back to the visitor center atop Hurricane Ridge. The tracks that we had left just 20 minutes earlier were already covered in fresh snow.
The storm rolled in a lot faster and earlier in the day than forecasted, so we only got 2 hours of snowshoeing and 3.1 miles of distance in, but the conditions were far too severe to take any foolish chances. To say the potential was there for this to have been a life or death decision wouldn't be an exaggeration.
I think the following two pictures sum up the experience rather well. They were taken at the same place (facing opposite directions) and were only taken two hours apart.
The four of us set out towards Hurricane Hill at roughly 10am.
Kristin struggling against the wind and snow just two hours later.