While the crowds are at Rialto Beach and Cape Alava, head on over to Third Beach Trailhead for a remote wilderness experience. Located on the southern coast of Olympic National Park, this 6.8 mile out-and-back route (13.6 miles round-trip) offers views of the rugged rocky Pacific shoreline, tide pools, and a chance to see bald eagles and seals.
Take Highway 110 and drive west until you see a wide parking lot to park your car. This is Third Beach Trailhead, and it is easy to spot.
The first 1.4 miles of the route is easy walking through the coastal forest and is a popular destination for day hikers. The trail will eventually descend 400 feet and pop you out on the beach where you will see and hear the roaring waves of the Pacific Ocean. It is actually pretty amazing how powerful of a sound these waves produce!
Do not be discouraged by the number of people you see because once you get to the southern end of Third Beach, most of the day hikers will be gone and your backcountry experience will begin. At this point, you will see your first rope ladder. The NPS has constructed these to help people travel up and down the steep, rocky, and muddy terrain of the headlands. Carefully travel up this ladder being aware that the rungs can be loose and in bad condition. Whatever you do, don't let go of the rope.
After a series of these ladders, you will eventually get to a mostly flat forested trail that travels around Taylor Point. This will be easy walking for a half-mile until you reach the southern end of the headland where you will begin another descent to the shoreline. There will also be another rope ladder waiting for you. This part of the trail is in a rather poor condition so take your time descending.
At low tide, traverse across the beach and go up the rope ladder located at the end of the shore. This route will traverse around Scotts Bluff and will be the last of the long rope ladders you will encounter until you head back. Once you get around Scotts Bluff, you will reach one of two pit toilets on the route (the other one located near Toleak Point). The trail will pop you out of the forest at Scott Creek - a beautiful clear water creek flowing into the Pacific Ocean with a view of the Giants Graveyard - a field rocky outcroppings jutting from the ocean. The view from here is stunning and is one of the highlights of the trip.
Once at Scott Creek, the route will stay on the flat shoreline and will offer beautiful views of sea stacks. You will follow the shore to Strawberry Point - a huge rock formation worthy of its name and then continue on to Toleak Point. Feel free to explore past Toleak Point. Otherwise, head back the way you came to Third Beach Trailhead.
If you've never done beach backpacking before, starting with Third Beach just might get you hooked. The expansive views combined with the fantastic and plentiful camping opportunities make this trip a must.
A permit is required for all overnight trips in Olympic National Park, but permits are unlimited for this section of the coast and can easily be acquired at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles on the day of your trip.
Be sure to bring:
Tide chart to know when you can safely cross the shores/headlands. The permit office should give you this sheet and explain to you the window of time that will be optimal to cross.
Bear canister (available for rent at the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles)
Being stranded when crossing a shore/headland at high tide. Follow the tide chart that the NPS provides you.
Falling off one of the rope ladders that the NPS has set up to go up / down steep terrain. None of the ladders are in fantastic condition and the rungs on the ladder can be loose.
Shoot to do this trip anytime from June through September for the best weather.
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