Olympic National Park

Hiking the Coastline

Easier Hikes

Kalaloch
Short beach trails lead from U.S. 101 to sections of beach. Ruby Beach is the northern most trail with six other trails to the south. Each beach is distinct. Some offer tide pools and others clamming (in season and with license).

Lake Ozette to the Pacific Coast
Two trails to the coast begin at the end of the Lake Ozette road. The Cape Alava Trail, the northern trail, is 3.3 miles and the southern trail, the Sand Point Trail is 3.0 miles to the beach. Both are nearly continuous wooded boardwalk and are tide and weather dependent. Current tide chart and weather is posted at the trailhead. A three mile walk on the beach makes a 9.3 mile loop. Along the coast you will see marine life, Ozette Island, and Cape Alava, the western most point in the contiguous United States.

Mora - LaPush
Third Beach Trail begins at the LaPush road, twelve miles west of U.S. 101. A sandy beach is 1.4 miles from the trailhead. Second Beach Trail begins on the LaPush road, fourteen miles west of U.S. 101. The trail goes .8 mile to a sandy beach with tidepools and views of sea stacks. Rialto Beach Trail is .1 mile (paved) from the parking lot to a view of the beach, James Island, and Cake Rock. Beach walk 1.5 miles to Hole-in-the-wall. Accessible for wheelchair travel.

Best Bet Hikes
Cape Alava-Sand Point Loop
(9.3 miles)
NPS trail for foot travel. Receives high use. Both the Ozette-Cape Alava and the Ozette-Sand Point trails are puncheon boardwalks the majority of the distance. They are relatively flat and dry. They go through coastal forests and open areas of cedar snags and fields, and are connected at the coast by a 3 mile beach hike of rocks and sand. Be prepared to hike over headlands during high tides.

Points of Interest: The Indian Village Archeological Site at Cape Alava has been closed down and is currently patrolled by the Makah tribe. Ahlstroms Prairie along the Cape Alava trail was cleared by an early homesteader. Eagle viewing and tide pools are especially good around Cape Alava.

Maps Custom Correct - North Olympic Coast
7.5 Custom Correct - Ozette Beach Loop
Green Trails - Ozette, Wa. #130S
7.5 min USGS - Ozette
15 min USGS - Ozette Lk.

Access: The trailhead is at the Ozette Ranger Station, which is at the north end of Lake Ozette, at the end of the Hoko (Lake Ozette) Road, 17 miles paved, 4 miles unpaved, from State Route 112. The Hoko-112 junction is 4 miles west of Clallam Bay. There is a comfort station and small primitive campground at the trailhead.

Trail Use: Primary camping destinations are Cape Alava and Sand Point. Both get heavy use. There are some other campsites along the 3 mile stretch of beach. Camping along either of the 2 boardwalk trails is difficult because of wet brushy ground and poor water sources.

3.3 Ranger Station to Cape Alava
3.0 Ranger Station to Sand Point
3.0 Sand Point to Cape Alava
9.3 Loop trail

Off Season Use: As with other coastal routes, the beach section is subject to high winter tides. The boardwalks get very slippery when wet or icy. Crepe Sole boots, caulks, or tennis shoes are more advatageous than regular lug-soled hiking boots on the slick boards.

Management Concerns: This is the most heavily used and visited of all the Olympic backcountry areas; 1/3 of the total usage. Sites at Cape Alava and Sand Point are limited and are managed accordingly. Heaviest use occurs on weekends, holiday weekends (Presidents' day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving weekend, etc.) and all through the summer.

Reservations are required for camping along the coastal strip from Yellow Banks north to the Ozette River from Memorial Day (late May) through Labor Day (early September). Reservations may be obtained at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles, phone (360) 452-0300.

Possible bear vs. people conflicts, especially at Sand Point. Racoon problems are chronic: use care in hanging food and storage of garbage. Wood gathering is limited to beach driftwood. Additional information may be obtained in the pamphlet, "Olympic Coastal Strip."

North Coast Hike (Rialto Beach to Sand Point , 15.5 miles)
Coastal route (no regular maintenance) of moderate to high use. Hiking is difficult along the route due to areas of large, slick rocks and unsure footing. Use a tide chart to avoid tragic results in rounding numerous small headlands. See "Olympic Coastal Strip" brochure for essential information. Eagles are common along the coast, as are many shore birds. Harbor seals can be seen on off-shore rocks (binoculars help) and tide-pool life is close at hand. Sea otters are often seen east of Jagged Island, and gray whales are sometimes observed in March/April and October.

Maps: Custom Correct - North Olympic Coast
Green Trails - Ozette

Access: Rialto Beach is located at the end of the paved Rialto Beach Road, 13 miles from US 101. Mora Ranger Station and campground are 2 miles east of the beach. The campground has flush toilets, and a trailer dump station, but no hookups. There is day use parking and picnic area at Rialto Beach. Overnight parking is at the Dickey boat ramp, one mile from Rialto Beach.

Trail Use: Primary destinations are Chilean Memorial, Cedar Creek, Norwegian Memorial and Sand Point. There are many other established campsites in the woods along the coast. Some water sources exist year-round. Purify all water.

0.0 Rialto Beach
6.8 Cedar Creek
7.5 Norwegian Memorial
15.5 Sand Point

There is no trail on the coast. Hiking is on the beach itself except for short trail segments that cross headlands that cannot be rounded at sea level. These trails are quite steep and can be hazardous, especially when carrying a large pack.

Off-Season Use: Winter tides are considerably higher than summer tides. During storms, hikers may only be able to travel on the rocks and beach logs at the head of the beach. Be sure to allow ample time to round headlands and count on tides turning sooner than expected. Contact Mora, phone (360) 374-5460, or Ozette, phone (360) 963-2725, ranger station for winter conditions and backcountry registration.

Management Concerns: Camp lightly in major use areas: Chilean and Norwegian Memorials, Cedar Creek, and Sand Point. Fires should be built in a scooped out hole in the sand below the high tide line. Do not construct rock fire rings. Use small pieces of driftwood instead of logs, and cover ashes with sand before you leave. Dismantle and scatter all driftwood furniture and shelters. Be safe: take a map with tide levels and tide table. Reservations for overnight camping are required form Yellow Banks north to the Ozette River during the summer. Reservations may be obtained at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles, phone (360) 452-0300.

South Coast Hike (Oil City to Third Beach Trailhead, 15 miles)
Coastal route (not a trail; no regular maintenance) of moderate use. Three overland trails must be used to round impassable headlands. All three have stair-like sand ladders, are steep and can be very muddy. Coastal routes can be difficult hiking due to slick rocks, sand and cobble sufaces, and steep overland trails. Tide tables are necessary to avoid incoming tides. The South Wilderness Beach Hike offers many views of sea stacks (off-shore land formations). From Third Beach to just south of Toleak Point are beautiful sand beaches. There are excellent opportunities to view bald eagles and seals, and bird life is common on sea stacks. Whale migration occurs in March/April and October.

Maps: Custom Correst - South Olympic Coast
Green Trails - La Push

Access: The Oil City Road (15 miles south of Forks on US 101) is a gravel road for the final 10 miles. The road ends 1/4 mile inside the Park; from that point a trail is followed 2 miles along the Hoh River to the beach. Third Beach trailhead and parking are is located 12 miles from US 101 on the LaPush Road. A maintained 1.5 mile trail proceeds to the beach from the parking area. Don't leave valuables in your vehicle. A NPS campground at Mora, and a DNR campground on the Oil City Road at Cottonwood are the nearest camping facilities.

Trail Use: Primary destinations along the route are Mosquito Creek, Toleak Point and Scotts Creek. There are numerous other campsites and year-round fresh-water sources, especially on the Goodman Overland Trail, and between Toleak and Scotts Creek. Purify all water. Weather can be wet and cool on the coast when it is mild everywhere else. The Hoh River cannot be forded at any time.

0.0 Third Beach Trail
1.0 Third Beach
1.5 Talor Point
2.9 Scotts Creek
5.5 Toleak Point
10.1 Mosquito Creek
14.5 Mouth of Hoh River
15.0 Oil City Trailhead

Off-Season Use: Winter tides are considerably higher than summer tides and can isolate hikers between protruding points for extended periods. Goodman, Mosquito, and Falls Creeks can be difficult or impossible to ford during storms and high tides.

Management Concerns: Third Beach, Scott Creek, Toleak and Mosquito Creek are the main use areas. Fires should be built in a scooped out hole in the sand, below high tide line. Please do not construct rock fire rings. Use small pieces of driftwood instead of logs, and cover ashes with sand before you leave. Dismantle and scatter all driftwood furniture and shelters. Be safe: take a map with tide levels and tide table.

Notes on Beach Hiking
Some of the last wilderness beaches in the conterminous United States are found between Shi Shi Beach and the Hoh River. Their remote wilderness atmosphere, changing views of ocean, cliffs, headlands, islands, and seastacks, coupled with the lure of beach combing have increasingly attracted hikers in recent years. The rising number of visitors requires greater vigilance to ensure the protection of the environment and safety of the visitors.

Pets, vehicles, and weapons are prohibited on trails
This coastal strip of wilderness is a refuge for elk, black bear, and deer to name a few. The presence of pets or mechanized equipment disturbs wildlife in a natural setting. Rights of visitors who come to observe and enjoy the wildlife must also be respected.

Maximum group size
The presence of people also disturbs wildlife and has an impact on the trails. The larger the groups, the greater the long term effect. Group size is restricted to a maximum of twelve hikers. Break down into manageable units of less than twelve and depart from different trailheads. If logistics prevent this, enter trailhead at intervals of at least one hour and establish independent objectives and campsites at least one half mile apart.

Do not build fires in driftwood pile
Build your fire on the beach where the tide will erase the fire scar or in an existing fire ring. Fire built in driftwoodpiles may cause beach fires which are time consuming and hazardous to extinguish. Dismantle driftwood structures before you leave.

Pack out all trash
Do not attempt to burn garbage except for paper. Do not dispose of garbage by throwing it down outhouse holes. Shelters are for emergency use only. Concentrated visitor use in and around established shelters has compacted the soil and threatened watersheds. Also personal safety dictates that you carry a shelter in the event you are cut off from existing shelters by tide or storm.

Prevent pollution of streams
Where outhouses are unavailable, find a private area in the woods above the beach and at least one hundred feet from running water. Dig a shallow trench with the heel of your boot. Dispose of used toilet paper by burying it in the trench. Do not wash dishes in streams. Keep soap away from water sources.

Animal proof your food by storing out of reach
Black bears, raccoons, and other wildlife frequently raid unprotected food. Once an animal finds the way into a food cacheit will return again and again.

Protect your valuables
Do not leave valuables unattended in your vehicle. Likewise, unattended camps are susceptible to theft. Bring only what you will use on your trip to a trailhead. The coastal wilderness hosts its share of environmental hazards. Fill out a backcountry permit for overnight camping but also leave word with a responsible party of your intended route and estimated time of return.

Hike by the tide
Current tide tables are posted at trailheads. Copies are available at coastal ranger stations. Do not round significant headlands on incoming tides. An average high tide will cover most of the beach, making hiking in some areas impossible. Do not camp below the point of high tide on any given day.

Weather conditions can change your hike
Weather is unpredictable along the coast. Storm frontsare usually identified a few days in advance. Forecasts are availableat ranger stations or by monitoring the NOAA Weather Advisory on 62.55mhz. Beware of drift logs in a storm. Streams will generally crest within 24 hours of a heavy rain. Goodman, Falls, Mosquito Creeks, and the Ozette River are best crossed at low tide and may become impassable after heavy rains. Beware of exposure. Hypothermiais the #1 killer in the outdoors. Know weather forecasts before youdepart on a hike, use wool garments, protect the head from heat loss,and make camp early in foul weather. At first sign,treat for exposureby drinking warm liquids and change into dry clothes or get into a sleeping bag.

Watch your footing
Rocks and logs in tidal areas are slippery and unstable. Vibram soles do not give traction on algae-covered rocks. Stay low and keep your hands ready to stop a fall. The rock on headlands is very loose and can crumble beneath your weight. Watch for falling rock from the seastacks. Trails going over major headlands are marked with orange and black targets and are often steep and muddy.

Respect the ocean
Long sandy beaches can develop treacherous riptides. Steep gravel beaches have significant undertow. Be vigilant for large swells or you may take an unexpected swim. The water is too cold for all but the extremely hardy.

Beware of red tide
Seasons are set for the legal taking of hardshell clams and mussels. Coastal ranger stations can provide further information on bag limits, closures, and where to dig. Closed seasons are for the purpose of protecting the public from red tide contamination and/or reestablishing populations. (Razor clams will require a Washington State license when reopened in the future.)

Additional information relative to beachhiking is available from coastal ranger stations and the visitor centers in the park.

More hikes in. . .
Olympic Coast | Northern Olympics | Elwha River-Hurricane Ridge
the Rainshadow | Hood Canal | Western Approaches


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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