US National Parks, West Coast US

Sand and Solitude – Olympic National Park, Washington (part II)

When we planned a vacation to Washington in June, we expected lots of rain and minimal sunshine, so we were fortunate to only have a couple gloomy days the entire vacation. The unfortunate part is that they fell on the days we were out at the beach. On the plus side, though, the drizzle scared everyone else away so we had most of the beaches entirely to ourselves.

The coastal portion of Olympic National Park is disconnected from the main section and requires a short detour off of Highway 101 onto WA route 110. The road forks part way down; the right branch (Mora Road) leads to Mora campground and Rialto Beach while the left (La Push Road) dead ends at the village of La Push on the Quileute Indian Reservation. We went right first, setting up camp at Mora and then heading out to the beach.

Dickey River at Mora

From the Rialto Beach picnic area, we could walk quite a ways in each direction. To the left, a rocky strip of land stretches out towards James Island – which is not actually an island during low tide – and often provides an opportunity to see seals. To the right, we walked as far as Hole-in-the-Wall, which must have been at least 1.5 miles (2.4 km) , though the beach stretches northward far beyond. Rialto beach is littered with driftwood, tide pools are visible during low tide, and sea stacks rise up not far off shore, making for a unique hiking experience.

We woke the next morning to cloudy skies and drizzle, so we donned our rain jackets before heading off to La Push. First Beach is located at the end of the road in La Push, while short hikes at mile 14 (km 22.5) and mile 12 (km 19) off La Push Road led us to the creatively-named Second Beach and Third Beach, respectively.

First Beach
First Beach
Second Beach
Third Beach
Third Beach

By the end of the day, the rain stopped and the clouds began to lift, giving way to the sunshine that would be with us for the rest of our trip!

The Important Stuff:

  • Getting there: Follow Highway 101 towards the northwest corner of Olympic National Park, then take WA Highway 110 towards La Push
  • Fees & passes: $25 per car for a 7-day pass; Interagency Annual Pass accepted
  • Camping: available inland at Sol Duc (reservations accepted) and near the beach at Mora (reservations not accepted); $20-23 per night
  • Hiking: Sol Duc Falls plus 4 backcountry trails depart from Sol Duc; walk along the beach in either direction from La Push
  • Other: rain, mist, and fog are common on the Olympic Peninsula – don’t be caught without a raincoat (but do leave the umbrella behind, nobody uses those in Washington)

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