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Pets allowed
No
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
One-way/Shuttle
Distance
17.50 mi (28.16 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Without a doubt, this backpacking trip should be on every hiker's bucket list. It's an incredible, challenging, and serene adventure.

Two sections of the Olympic Peninsula's coastline are completely undeveloped and uniquely spectacular. The first is a section of the Olympic North Coast Wilderness Trail that runs nearly 21 miles between Rialto Beach and Ozette. The second is this southern section that runs between La Push (Third Beach Trailhead) and the Hoh River (Oil City Trailhead) and totals 17.5 miles. Although this section has a nominal net elevation gain, the diverse terrain and trail requirements keep the hike in a moderately difficult category; between hiking on sandy beaches, climbing up rope ladders, ascending bluffs on your hands and knees, and waiting for an outgoing low tide to make headland crossings, this trip is far more challenging than it may appear on paper. The trip can certainly be done in two days, but giving yourself three days will provide flexibility.

Highlights along the route include:

  • Giants Graveyard: This is a cluster of roughly a dozen dramatic sea stacks that loom off the shore near Scott Creek.
  • Tide pools: At low tide, the ocean recedes to reveal an incredibly diverse mini-ecosystem in the rocks and shore. Tide pools are best at Strawberry Point and Toleak Point, where purple sea stars, giant green anemones, crustaceans, mollusks, mussels, crabs, and various other sea-creatures cohabit.
  • Sea Birds: Beyond the countless western gulls you'll see, watch for bald eagles, black oystercatchers, pigeon guillemont, common murres, and cormorants that call the countless offshore sea stacks home. Binoculars are a great idea.
  • Old-growth Forest: For the entire length of the hike, the boundaries of Olympic National Park protect a roughly 1-mile wide swath of forest that runs adjacent to the coastline. Eight-foot thick western red cedars, massive Sitka spruce, and western hemlock dominate the forest, particularly the section of trail between Mosquito Creek and Jefferson Cove.
  • River Crossings: Be prepared to ford several large creeks, including Scott Creek, Mosquito Creek, and two crossings at Goodman Creek, which can produce thigh-high waters during spring runoff.

Permits, Tide Charts and Shuttle Services

Wilderness Camping Permits are required for overnight stays in Olympic National Park, and permits are limited in some areas. Check here for more information, or call 360.565.3100. Bear canisters are also required, and having a tide chart is a must for this adventure. Both can be picked up at Kalaloch Ranger Station near Kalaloch Lodge or the Sol Duc Ranger Station just north of Forks.

If you don't have two cars, a shuttle service will be necessary to drop you off at your starting trailhead. Leave your car at your end destination. All Points Charters & Tours offers shuttle services for hikers, at roughly $150 for six people. Call 360.460.7131 for details.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Pros

Wild and scenic section of Olympic coast. No roads. Few people.

Cons

Numerous headland crossings require low tide. 4 river fords. Requires a shuttle.

Trailhead Elevation

10.00 ft (3.05 m)

Net Elevation Gain

370.00 ft (112.78 m)

Address

Pacific NW Trail
Forks, WA 98331
United States

Features

Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Wildlife
Whale watching
Bird watching
Wildlife
Big Game Watching
Big vistas
Old-growth forest
Big Game Watching

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

07/24/2017
I hiked this July 24-26; it was incredibly beautiful. I had sunny, warm weather for almost all three days. The hiking was a combination of flat stretches of beach, steep vertical climbs to the forest, and relatively flat forest hiking- so not too hard overall. The trail was a little muddy; if it had rained, I can see how ascending the cliffs with the ropes would have been much more slippery.

The highlight was the tide pools- they were bursting with all kind of marine critters including many starfish. I also saw a river otter with a baby, and there was a whale carcass on the beach as well.

I took 3 days to do this hike. I stopped at Quinault Ranger Station on my drive up from Portland to get a wilderness camping permit, tide chart, and bear canister. Also, the Mountain Shop in Portland rents bear canisters too. I started at Third Beach and hiked south to Toleak Point where I camped the first night. It took me about 4 hours to hike to that point going at a medium pace and including a 1-hour break to wait out a high tide. (Definitely bring a book for waiting out the tide!) The second day, I left my tent at Toleak Point and day-hiked to Mosquito Creek, and then returned to my tent. The third day I hiked back to Third Beach and drove back to Portland. I did this because I didn't have two cars and didn't want to pay for a shuttle, and it was definitely doable! I would recommend this approach. Also, I chose to do the hike north to south (as opposed to starting at Oil City and heading north) because of the tides- there wasn't a 'caution' tide crossing until later in the day, which lined up better with my hike.

Tides- It wasn't too difficult to figure out the crossings, and Scott Creek was the only location between Third Beach and Toleak Point that required a relatively low tide. It was really helpful to get a topo map at the Quinault Ranger station of the Olympic South Coast (it was like $6) because it detailed the height of the tide needed to cross certain sections. For example, Scott Creek crossing could be crossed with a 4 foot tide, whereas other stretches of beach required a lower tide- 2 feet or even 1/2 foot. The topo map clarified all of this.

Camping- there were a lot of spots between Strawberry Point and Toleak Point. The sites were up a few feet from the sand, under the cover of trees, but still within view of the water. Not too busy because I was there midweek. The campsites at Scott Creek were a little more sheltered in the woods, and the campsites at Mosquito Creek were the most sheltered- those were way up on the cliff in the forest.

River fords- Goodman Creek was only ankle deep, the current must have slowed down from the spring. The ranger said that it was around knee-deep in late June when he last hiked it. It was pretty easy to cross for me on this trip.

Shoes- really glad I had sturdy water shoes for exploring tide pools and potentially to cross the creek, even though the water level was lower than I was expecting.

The wilderness camping permit was $8/night, and it was the only pass that I had to obtain to do this trip. Warning, the Ranger Station/Information Center (Quinault) was very busy and there was a long line even when I arrived at 8:30am, so get there early.


Hi Amanda, If you download our field guide, the map indicates potentially impassible locations with a red dot. Hope that helps.
07/14/2017
Can anyone tell me the points that you must have low tide to cross? Thank you.
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