|Total Mileage||17.5 Miles|
|Total Hiking Days||2 Days|
|Hiking Time / Distance – Day 1||6 hours 0 minutes/ 11.5 miles|
|Hiking Time / Distance – Day 2||2 hours 52 minutes / 6 miles|
|Date Hiked||4/1/2017 – 4/2/2017|
|NWS Forscast||Seven Day|
|Greentrails Map||La Push, WA – NO 163s|
We stayed overnight in Forks at the Olympic Suites Inn, leaving one car at the La Push trailhead and starting from the Oil City trailhead.
Pros: Coastal trail and woods, sea stacks, wildlife (especially starfish and bald eagles), old growth.
Cautions: mud, some parts of the trail can only be crossed at low tide, slippery ropes, potentially difficult river fording.
Requirements: Olympic National Park camping permit, tide table, bear cannister, 2 cars or shuttle.
Other Gear Recommendations: work gloves (to help with the slippery and rough ropes), rain protection.
Of Washington’s many hiking terrains, none may be as wild as the Pacific Coast. With a mixture of annual hiking availability and constant – albeit wet – weather, the Trails of the Western Shores of the Olympic Peninsula are perfect for an early-season backpacking trip.
Because this is a thru-hike, you will need to make a few special considerations. Most importantly, you’ll need a ride back to the other trail after you’re done. After you’ve covered that (our’s was named Chris), you will have to decide the direction in which you are hiking. We decided on Northbound on the recommendation from the Mountaineer’s Backpacking Washington book. This seemed to definitely be the right choice with the tides, as we could get most of the major low-tide considerations taken care of early on the first day.
We started hiking around 7am on Saturday morning and immediately ran into some slippery boulder hopping and driftwood logs to climb over. Use caution, this section should be done at low tide because at low tide the easiest way to cross the drift wood is by heading directly towards the ocean and walking on the log-less beach and the head at Diamond Rock is impassable during high tide.
Throughout the hike, the trail switches from being on the beach to up in the woods, with ropes to help climb up into and down out of the woods. The first case of this is to go up and around Hoh Head. We brought gloves to help with the ropes, but only ended up using them once or twice. The next three miles will be through the woods, which seem almost permanently wet whether or not it’s rained recently. Also enough mud to satisfy our inner 8 year olds. Other highlights of the woodsy part of the trial include old growth, enchanting moss, and bright yellow flowers.
Of the three river fords on the trail, Mosquito Creek was the most difficult, with the water rushing pretty quickly and deep in certain spots. The next ford was the South crossing of Goodman Creek and was deep and wide (approximately 2.5 ft. deep at it’s deepest). The final ford was the North crossing of Goodman Creek and was just above ankle height. We saw some bald eagle fledglings at this final crossing.
After the fords, we went back up into the woods for a bit before coming down to the Toleak Point camps. We saw more people here than we expected for it being so early in the season (Toleak Peak is also a destination from the North end), but were still able to secure a decent, somewhat private camp. We made camp, had something to eat, and then explored the coastline and watched the bald eagles soaring above us before dinner and a show – the sun setting over the ocean. We were happy to have extra layers at this point.
After a good night’s sleep with the ocean serving as our real-life sound machine, we had some oatmeal and packed up camp. The morning proved to have some nice sun and we got started just as the tide was going out, so we were able to drop our packs, take off our shoes, and check out the tidepools a Strawberry Point and then again at the beach off of Giant’s Graveyard. Here we saw more bald eagles, bright purple and orange starfish, hermit crabs, small fish, and crabs. Again, our inner 8 year olds very happy to be barefoot and tromping through the water.
The trail to bypass rounding the head at Scott’s Bluff is a little tough to find, and it is past the little creek that is flowing there. At low tide, this muddy trail can be skipped by rounding the head, but it doesn’t appear to change the time by and substantial amount. Coming down Scott’s Bluff is the nastiest mud hill that will try to steal your boots from your feet with each step. Going down this instead of up this hill makes going Northbound worth it.
After this, you’ll have only about three and half miles remaining and a few more ropes to climb. After an easy day of hiking and playing in tide pools, it’s almost like the trail’s last-ditch effort to tire us out. The elevation change does not last for long, and you’ll be on Third Beach before you know it.
Nearing the end of the trial, we ran into several day-hikers making their way to Third Beach that seemed surprised by and unprepared for the mud. I don’t think we eased their worries since by this point, we were pretty head-to-toe covered in it.
Overall, this hike was a great way for us to get ourselves back outside after a long winter and really get to experience the wildness of the coast.