10 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain • 2 nights
Two friends and I made the long drive up to Olympic National Park's beaches to take advantage of the weather window over this weekend. It's a long drive, but worth it for the epic nature of the beaches there.
We got to the Rialto Beach parking before noon and started hiking. The coast is not what I expected—steep stony beaches devoid of footprints drop steeply below huge, rough waves break close to shore and seemingly go nowhere. Above the beach, thick old growth forest, reminiscent of the Redwoods coastal forests, begin immediately past the sand. Having grown up on the Oregon coast, this felt like a whole new world.
Having left Portland at 5am to hope to beat high tide past some of the choke points on our way north to the Chilean memorial, I was a bit disappointed to find our path blocked by rising tide just north of Hole-in-the-Wall at only 12:30. We backtracked to a grassy patch of earth sitting just above the beach and waited 3½ hours for the tide to rise and fall again to allow us by. Even then, passing was difficult at nearly high tide, each of us taking turns climbing down and across wet, slick rocks. The area around the Chilean memorial was beautiful. The campsites are set back in a rocky, shallow cove on small patches of grass. We built a small fire and ultimately went to bed.
One of our group had been down to Toleak Point last year though, and while the beginnings of north beach had been beautiful, the ranger had instructed us that north of the Chilean memorial was yet more rocky, slick beach. Eager to do some easy-beach-chillin' and not rugged-beach-hikin', we headed back to the car to shuttle around the mouth of the Hoh River to the Second beach trailhead. A 3¾ mile hike out, a 15 minute car ride, and an easy mile hike through beautiful coastal forest down to second beach was worth it; Second beach is a larger, sandier beach for easy beach hiking and relaxing. Not set back in a cove, the waves were much larger as well. The rest of the day involved setting up camp, gathering the night's fires, and relaxing.
I took my tenkara rod as well (because I always do), and managed to say hello to two small coastal cutthroat trout on the hike out. The first rose to a small elk hair caddis on my first cast. It's spectacular that these fish can live within sight of the ocean, only a hundred yards at most to the edge of the continent in a tiny stream running out of the coastal forests. They were incredibly vibrant fish—a testament to the pristine quality of their habitat.