Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
912.00 ft (277.98 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
22.80 mi (36.69 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.

The Olympic North Coast trail is a beautiful and rugged trail that stretches 23 miles along Washington's Olympic Coast between Rialto Beach and Cape Alava. There are many challenging elements to this trail such as navigating tidal restrictions, walking over rocky beaches, and using ropes to climb headland trails. But those who decide to embark on this trail will be rewarded with amazing views of the Pacific ocean, chances to see amazing marine wildlife, and stunning beach sunsets. 

Before setting out on this trail, there are a few logistics you must organize. First, you must decide if you want to hike north, starting at Rialto Beach, or hike south, starting at Ozette Ranger Station. Unless you want to turn around and hike the trail again once you reach the end, you will also need to arrange for a friend or shuttle service to pick you up at the opposite trailhead. Also, be sure to reserve or pick up a wilderness backcountry camping permit from Olympic National Park. If you pick up the permit in person, this is also a great chance to pick up a bear canister from the ranger station as they are required for food storage along this trail. If you are parking at Ozette Ranger Station, you will need an America the Beautiful/National Parks. No pass is required to park at Rialto Beach as long as you park in the overnight parking lot (not the day use lot).

Finally, make sure you have a tide chart and a topographic map before setting out. There are a few areas along the trail that become impassable during high tide. These areas are known as tidal restricted areas. Use a map and tide chart to ensure that you can safely pass through these areas before the tide is too high. There are also certain areas, headlands, which are always impassable. In order to get over them, you will need to climb a steep hill (there are ropes installed for assistance) and walk a short distance through the forest before descending onto the next beach.

This adventure description follows the Rialto Beach to Cape Alava route. 

Rialto Beach is the perfect place to start this amazing journey. The black sand beach stretches for several miles and offers amazing ocean views. At the north end of the beach is a tourist attraction called "Hole in the Wall." During low tides, people can walk through the hole in the cliff. There are also many tide pools around this area. If you decide to explore, you will likely find many green sea anemones and orange starfish! Rialto Beach and Hole in the Wall may seem a bit crowded, but once you are past Hole in the Wall, you will likely be one of few continuing north.

After leaving Rialto Beach, the nice sandy beach will soon give way to rocky beaches or small boulder fields as you continue along the coast. Take care not to twist an ankle on this terrain.

The first major tidal restricted area is Cape Johnson. There is no headland trail, so be sure you can pass through this area while the tide is low. If you have some time to explore before going around the cape, look for the Chilean Memorial hidden in the forest. In 1920, a vessel was destroyed in a storm near this beach and most of the crew perished. The memorial was built in their memory. Once you are around Cape Johnson, continue north, navigating rocks, boulders, and driftwood brought in by the tide. 

Though many of these beaches are rough and rugged, there are a few beautiful, wide, sandy beaches, such as Kayostia Beach, that offer great campsites. You can camp on the beach if you want, but be aware of the high tide line before setting up your tent. There are also campsites tucked in the woods that offer a bit more protection from the wind. Every beach that allows camping has a freshwater creek that flows through the forest and into the ocean. Be sure to filter or treat this water before drinking it. Even after filtering the water, it may have a yellow hue. This is due to the tannins, or plant tissue, in the water and is perfectly safe to drink.

At the north end of Kayostia Beach, you can search for the Norwegian Memorial. This memorial honors those who died in a shipwreck at this beach in 1903. 

The section of trail between Kayotia Beach and Yellow Banks is the most difficult section of the trail. You will need to navigate through and around boulders and rocks covered in slippery sea growth. Go slowly to avoid falling. There are also many tidal restrictions in the section, so you will need to move through the area efficiently to avoid getting caught by the tide. Even though this section is challenging, it offers many opportunities to see crabs of all sizes and colors. If you listen closely, you may hear them scuttling under and around rocks. 

Yellow Banks and Sand Point are two lovely, sandy beaches that are separated by a headland. Both offer excellent campsites. Be aware, however, that campfires are not allowed at either of these beaches or at Cape Alava farther north.

After camping or taking a break at either Yellow Banks or Sand Point, continue north along the final section of beach towards Cape Alava. Halfway between the two beaches, you will pass the Wedding Rocks. This area was sacred to the Native American tribes who once inhabited the land: the Quileute and the Makah tribes. You can still find petroglyphs on the rocks. 

Once you reach Cape Alava, bid farewell to the beach and head into the forest for the final stretch of trail to the Ozette Ranger Station. Part of this trail contains wooden boardwalks, constructed to protect the fragile ecosystem. Be sure to enjoy the tall trees and luscious green ferns, a stark contrast to the past 20 miles of rocky beaches. 

Finally, arrive at Lake Ozette next to the Ozette Ranger Station. Take a few minutes to enjoy the natural beauty of the lake before heading home. 

The Olympic North Coast is rugged, wild, and not for the faint of heart. But, if you decide to take it on, you will be rewarded with amazing views, wildlife sightings, and a chance to really immerse yourself in nature.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Spring
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

3

Pros

Ocean views. Marine wildlife. Solitude.

Cons

Rocky beaches. Tidal restrictions. Busy campsites.

Trailhead Elevation

5.00 ft (1.52 m)

Highest point

240.00 ft (73.15 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Fishing
Vault toilet
Native artifacts
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

Yes

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

No

Location

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