You will always remember the first time you lay your eyes on the rugged and wild Olympic Coast. Your first view of the mighty Pacific as it roars against isolated sea stacks will be a frequent daydream for days to come. As the salty air whips against your face and bald eagles circle overhead, taking in that first glimpse of a new beach is like your first crush all over again. Your head becomes light, your legs start to swoon, all the tell-tale signs are there: This beach has left you speechless.
Seeing a beach for the first time should be special, and the coastline of Olympic National Park never disappoints. From the coast, the spirit of the Pacific Northwest can be felt and heard. The steady drumming of the waves against the tree-lined sea stacks is like a steady heartbeat, rhythmically pounding as it has for millennia—the same heartbeat that ancient coastal tribes experienced thousands of years ago. The pulse of the Pacific Northwest starts at these coasts, and for anyone lucky enough to experience this place firsthand, it is a moving experience. Along the beaches of the Olympic Coast, time is forgotten, city life quickly fades away, and the power of the Pacific takes your breath away.
Olympic has 73 undeveloped, wild, and rugged miles of beaches, all of which can be hiked. And each beach seems more amazing the further north you go.
Not that the beaches of the southern edge of Olympic National Park are anything to overlook; Kalaloch’s beaches are some of the most memorable, gorgeous, and quirky wilderness beaches in America, and Ruby Beach is one of the favorite spots of ONP. But these somehow aren’t quite as stunning as the northern beaches of Olympic National Park.
Your best bet to get to the beach quickly from the Hoh Rainforest or from Hurricane Ridge is to head to LaPush. Located in the northwestern-most corner of the contiguous United States, LaPush is a small unassuming tribal village of the Quileute Tribe that sits quietly where it has for thousands of years. This tiny town of 371 residents, while perhaps best known for its connections to the Twilight books and movies, offers much more character than that. It was one of the last places in America to be reached by explorers or settlers, having never seen European descendants until 1855. It is an extremely important cultural city, home to healthy populations of salmon and tons of eagles. And it’s a beautiful place to stop and explore.
It just shouldn’t be your first view.
Just two miles south of LaPush, about 20 minutes west of Forks, WA, one trail stands out among the rest: the trail to Second Beach.
Simply put, Second Beach is as good as it gets, and it offers visitors a truly unforgettable and unrivaled Olympic Coast experience. The hike to the coast is hardly a hike, getting you to the ocean in just 0.7 miles. Yet, the trail is magical, connecting nearly every traveler on its path to the splendor of nature. From the time it takes to reach the coast from the parking area, hikers are exposed to the beauty of coastal forests and the raw power and rawness of coastal wilderness.
The trail starts at a small parking area, and quickly crosses a small wooden bridge, before heading into the woods. With each step, the forest gets more unique. Giant trees sprout multiple spires, turning views of forests into wooded cathedrals. Every direction you look, branches and roots are grasping everything, large stumps intertwined with the life-force of its neighbors. Many rush down the 0.7 mile trail to make it to the beach, but take your time and make each step memorable. You won’t regret it.
As the ocean draws closer, the roar of the crashing waves increases. On windy days, salty air will coat your face, barely noticeable if you were to lick your lips. From here, the trail starts losing elevation fast, a series of supported switchbacks leading down to the forest wall before the beach officially starts. Even if you peek, the true beauty of Second Beach won’t be visible until you stand on the giant driftwood lining blanketing the beach.
In front of you, towering sea stacks stand, slowly eroding from centuries of storms. To the left, the coast continues, passing sea stacks, tide pools, and miles of hike-able, camp-able coast. The highlight for many is the ridge diving into the ocean to the north, dotted with a few trees clinging to life against the power of the Pacific. Over time, the crashing waves found a weakness in the ridge, slowly chipping away until it created a bus-sized hole right near the crashing waves. Right before your eyes, you are watching a sea stack form, seeing the past, present, and future all timelessly converging at once. For lack of a better term, it’s seriously sensational.
You will always remember the first time you lay your eyes on the rugged and wild Olympic Coast. And if you’re lucky enough to have Second Beach be your first sighting, you won’t regret it.