Olympic Coast - North (Backpacking)

Shuttle • 24 mi • 600 ft

The wild Olympic coast is a national treasure. With most of our country’s shoreline altered by roads, cities, and mobs of tourists, it’s a blessing to have this stretch of wilderness beach to remind us of what we’ve lost. The wild coast is broken by roads on either side of the Quillayute River, but north and south of this obstacle stretches the most spectacular wild shoreline in the United States (outside of Alaska, of course). Both the north and south sections of the Olympic Coast have popular and highly rewarding hiking routes, and the hiker with adequate time and energy is encouraged to do both sections. On either trip you will see crashing waves, scenic offshore rocks, dense inland forests, and abundant wildlife. The north section is longer but less rugged than the south, with fewer dangerous headlands to round or scramble over, less severe tide problems, and no difficult stream crossings. On the down side, there are more miles of slippery rocks to traverse and the wildlife here, especially raccoons, is notoriously aggressive and will happily steal any food left unprotected for more than a few minutes. To protect your food the Park Service requires that all hikers hang their food in hard-sided containers. These can be rented for very low cost at either the Lost Resort near the Ozette Lake trailhead or the Three Rivers Resort near the Rialto Beach trailhead. This section is also more crowded, which has forced the Park Service to impose a mandatory reservation and permit system in the very popular Sand Point/Cape Alava area. Note: Hikers with only one vehicle can use a shuttle service to move their car between trailheads while they hike.
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Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Forks
Length: 24 total miles
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Trail Type: Shuttle
Skill Level: Moderate
Duration: 3-4 days
Season: Usually open all year, but best April to November
Trailhead Elevation: 200 feet
Local Contacts: Olympic National Park, permit required for backcountry camping
Local Maps: Custom Correct Map - North Olympic Coast
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Recent Trail Reviews


Gorgeous trail, if you don't mind clamoring over rocks, hopping from rock to rock, and wading in algae thick tide pools. We had the bad luck of rain on the first two days (day 1 was a half day only), meaning we were averaging 1M per hour because of the slickness of the rocks after the 1.5M mark north of Rialto Beach. I'd recommend starting at Rialto and going north -- get the tough parts done first and then enjoy sandy, gorgeous stretches after Yellow Banks. I went into this thinking there's some kind of hewn trail. Not so. The coast and however it meanders is the trail. Pay attention to the tides and plan your day's hike the day before. It is only 25 miles, and I initially thought to do 2 nights. I'm glad I made it 3 nights now, though it may be worthwhile to do 4 nights at a leisurely pace as well.

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