Olympic National Park includes the longest stretch of wilderness coastline in the lower 48 states, some of the most rugged and picturesque coastline anywhere. The most popular backpacking section is the 23-mile trek between Rialto Beach and Lake Ozette, spread over two and a half days. The distance doesn’t sound like much, but many parts of the hike go slowly over difficult terrain. The reward comes in the form of spectacular scenery: beautiful remote beaches, misty vistas of sea stacks, and strange rock formations carved out by the ocean.
Except for a few miles, there is no trail; the route follows the beach, climbs over headlands, or progresses through the intertidal zone at low tide, sometimes hundreds of yards from shore. Hiking this coastline requires careful attention to the tide chart -- some sections can be traversed only when the tide is out. Saturday is a travel day, with about a 300-mile drive to the Park Service's Mora Campground west of Forks, where we will car camp overnight. On Sunday and Monday we will hike 8 or 9 miles each day and on Tuesday morning finish with a 6-mile hike to the cars, leaving the remaining half of the day for the drive home.
This outing is a thruhike with a car shuttle distance of about 60 miles. If we have eight people going, we will need three drivers. I will be one, and the other two drivers must be able to carry four people each, plus their backpacks, from the exit point back to the start.
Difficulty: moderate to hard, requiring agility with a heavy pack over slippery rocks and seaweed. This is not an outing for novice backpackers. We will be on the move only during the tidal windows, leaving plenty of time to enjoy in camp.
Expenses: reimbursing drivers plus the campsite fee plus $2 per day per person that the Park Service charges to backpack the coast. The amount of driver reimbursement will be up to each driver, not to exceed 10 cents a mile.
Gear: the Park Service requires the use of hard-sided bearproof food containers. If you don’t have your own, they loan them out free of charge at the ranger station, although their loaners are rather large and unwieldy. They say the problem is raccoons, not bears. Be prepared for any weather – rain, misty fog, cool overcast, or (if we’re lucky) hot sunshine.
Participate at your own risk: Northwest Wilderness Group organizers are unpaid volunteers. We make every effort to ensure everyone’s safety, but there are inherent risks in outdoor activities including but not limited to adverse weather, difficult terrain, being unable to contact emergency responders, actions by other persons, and your own prior health conditions and experience. By signing up for this event you assume full responsibility for your own health, safety, and well-being for its entire duration, including traveling to and from both the meeting place and destination.