Hiking Rocks on the Olympic Peninsula’s North Coast

Olympic National Park is, as you might expect, located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, a vast area of mountains, rainforest, and shoreline, interspersed with national forests and wildlife refuges, a complicated area with almost every type of outdoor experience imaginable. Climb a rock, sit by a lake, hike up a billion miles, drive straight to the scenery, stroll by the coast, camp for a night, camp for weeks, do something easy, or do something hard: you want it, it’s there. Over 900,000 acres of literally everything. The wilderness trail map shows how much there is for the backcountry adventurer. The park is plenty popular but that popularity is well-diffused based on a hiker’s time and desires.

Embarking upon the North Coast route, from Shi-Shi Beach to Rialto Beach, meant not much information to go on for hiking in May. The Ozette Triangle between the highway, Cape Alava, and Sandpoint is well-trafficked; beyond that I knew to expect ropes, boulders, and not much else.

The biggest surprise, apart from when I nearly died, was the morning I left. I had planned five nights on the trail (well, really four; the last, a mile of easy walking from the parking lot, was more a scheduling convenience), then out to a bus stop to whisk me back to Port Angeles. It would have ended on Sunday, and double-checking the bus schedule almost literally on my way out the door I noticed Clallam County Transit has no Sunday bus service. Whoops. At that stage the only thing I could do was cut a day out of my itinerary and finish Saturday instead, which worked out pretty well but set up some serious coastal hiking, when the hours you can hike are dictated by the tides and sometimes you have to go fast like it or not.

I think I did like it. It’s an interesting, beautiful place. Not the West Coast Trail, no, but with its own character, at once popular and primitive, with great crowds one moment and that “am I the only one here?” the next. Wild, rugged. Difficult enough. Worth a look.

Never miss a ramble

Ben will hike to your inbox! New posts and nothing else.