The North Coast Route in Olympic National Park was a magnificent start to our coastal backpacking season!
Almost one year ago, while enjoying a picnic at Rialto Beach, we promised to return and backpack along this rugged coastline. After a one-day rain delay in Forks, we began our trip on Easter weekend Saturday in Ozette. Over the next three days, we hiked south 20 miles through wet rainforest, sandy beaches, deep pebbles, and stony shelves. We navigated an obstacle course of tidal challenges, rocky headlands, log piles, seaweed, slippery boulders, and used ropes to climb steep overland trails. Experiencing this pristine marine wilderness refreshed our spirits; we never saw a plane, a boat, or another human the whole time. Finishing the trip along epic Rialto Beach brought us back to the place of our picnic, and we felt grateful to achieve this hiking dream. Olympic National Park is one of our favourite places, and we will be back!
- Take the Coho Ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles – 1 h 56 min (20.2 n.m.)
- Cost: USD$178.00 return for two passengers and one vehicle.
- Drive 1 h 24 min (68.7 mi) from Port Angeles to Rialto Beach. Google Map
Permits & Fees
- Obtain permits at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles.
- Reservations required May 1 through September 30 for camping from Yellow Banks to Point of the Arches.
Books & Maps
- Molvar E. Hiking Olympic National Park – A Guide to the Park’s Greatest Hiking Adventures. Number 62 The Shipwreck Coast. Falcon Guides. Morris Book Publishing; 2008. Page 224 – 228. www.falcon.com
- Olympic National Park Wilderness Map (PDF, 1.7 MB)
Location: Olympic National Park
Route: North Coast Route
Date: April 4-6, 2015
Distance: 20 mi
Duration: 3 days
Peak: 200 ft
Day 1: Ozette to Yellow Banks (4.6 mi)
After heavy rain all morning, the sun briefly showed its yellow face as we arrived at the Ozette trailhead. We dressed in rain gear to the sound of frogs, crossed the bridge over the Ozette River, and stepped onto slick boardwalks. A blustery storm started up as we cruised though the rainforest, so we tested our fabulous $2.99 Forks Outfitters emergency rain ponchos. The wind was cold and strong when we exited the forest at Sand Point Camp. Our bodies moved quickly along the beach, ponchos flapping wildly. We noticed hundreds of thousands of delicate “by-the-wind sailor” jellyfish washed up on the sand. Eventually we entered pebbly beaches and approached our first tidal problem. Waterfalls brown with forest tannins flowed down slopes to our left. We made it about half-way through the Rocky Point headland obstacle before we were stopped by the rising tide. With camp just beyond our reach, we had no choice but to hunker down for 4 hours and wait for nature. A sea otter played in the surf below, a kingfisher hunted nearby, and ravens croaked overhead. At last, we solved the tidal problem, and hiked the short distance to Yellow Banks Camp.
Day 2: Yellow Banks to Chilean Memorial (10.6 mi)
We rose early to a silver moon reflecting on wet sand. Our second day was an exciting obstacle course of rocky headlands, tidal shelves, and rope climbs. We followed a pair of little wolf tracks, passed a whale skull, and solved our first tidal obstacle at Face Point. A second sea otter paddled by, and herons flew back and forth to a nearby sea stack. Breathtaking Kayostla Beach and epic Norwegian Memorial Camp soon came into view. The rest of the day passed as we climbed over Coastie Head, Saddle Rock, and hiked through more slippery obstacles. Great flocks of robins sang and hunted on the beaches. The fresh evening air felt warm and calm, so at low tide we pushed on to Chilean Memorial Camp. The only creatures in the soft dark were tiny swooping bats. After an unexpectedly long day, we ate noodles in peanut butter sauce, then hit our sleeping bags with no stamina to spare!
Day 3: Chilean Memorial to Rialto Beach (4.8 mi)
Our last day was a short hike with only two obstacles to navigate. The tide was rising all morning so we kept a steady pace along the shelves. We passed the headland onto the beach and got our first glimpse of civilization. Our final obstacle was the Hole-in-the-Wall feature, and the tide was low enough to walk right through. Soon we were standing on the beautiful sand of Rialto Beach. The final stretch was peaceful and sunny, as we marched by monster-sized logs to the trailhead. We capped our trip with a visit to the New Day Eatery in Port Angeles for veggie sandwiches. Every time we go, the same nice lady serves us. By now, she must think we are locals. And we pretty much are. Being close to Olympic National Park is one of the reasons we live in Victoria. It’s a world class wilderness, right in our backyard!