Land meets the ocean at the Olympic Peninsula, abruptly and dramatically. Mountains rise almost from the ocean's edge. The coastline on this peninsula is a very different world -- an ever-changing exhibit of nature and a place for endless exploration.
Ocean beaches on the western edge of the Olympic peninsula are rugged and spectacular -- an area of exceptional beauty with a character of its own. The interior of the peninsula is characterized by forests and snow-covered mountains. The coastal region is an art exhibit where the pounding storms and waves ocean waves constantly lithograph the coastal cliffs to create stunning arches and eerie sea stacks.
Forks is an ideal base camp for exploring the wonders of the western region in Olympic National Park. The beaches on the northern side of the peninsula are just 15 miles from here. The Hoh Rain Forest is about 20 miles east. Some of the world's largest trees, Sitka spruce and Douglas fir -- about 300 feet high and several hundreds of years old -- can be found here.
Hiking one of the many beach trails in the Olympics is an unforgettable experience. From Forks, route 110 leads to the ocean on the western edge of the peninsula, where three Indian reservations, the Makah, Ozette and Quileute, are located.
The fishing village of La Push is the center for the Quileute Indians. It is surrounded by beaches with an enormous number of offshore rocks and sea stacks. They are remnants of eroded coastal cliffs that once existed here.
Near La Push are three beach trails: the First Beach Trail just south of the village, the Second Beach Trail about half mile further south, and the Third Beach Trail about 3 miles south. These trails reach the beach through wooded coastal forests. The Third Beach Trail is a mile-long sand beach with winding curves. It ends near Taylor Point where a waterfall drops off a bluff.
Second Beach Trail
The Second Beach Trail passes through dense, marshy forests. Carrying a tide table (available in the Hoh ranger station in Forks) is a must, as incoming tides can be very dangerous and have been known to trap people against the steep cliffs.
Hiking during the evening hours is the best due to the remarkable sunsets. It is important to carry a powerful flashlight -- when returning, the trails will be completely dark.
Low tide exposes colorful sea urchins, anemones and limpets. Black oyster catchers and sea gulls can be seen foraging on the beaches. Bald eagles fly high above. An astonishing number of huge tree logs can be seen pounding against the rocks. Trees that fall down in the interior forests are dumped into the ocean by rushing rivers.
The sculptured arches and sea stacks stand like pillars guarding the coastline. When the sun sets, they form a eerie background to the reddish sky. Sea level along this coast varies about six feet each day. The changing scenery create memories which will last a lifetime.
Best time of year: Late spring, summer and early fall.
Maps: Trail maps can be obtained in the Hoh Ranger Station at Forks.
Getting there: From Seattle, I-5 south to Olympia and Route 101 toward Port Angeles and west on 101 to Forks. From Forks, west on route 110 to La Push village.
Entrance Fees: $5 per vehicle payable in the entrance to the national park.
Useful Phone Numbers: Hoh Ranger Station in Forks can be reached at (206) 374-6925. Olympic National Park Headquarters in Port Angeles (206) 452-4501.
Lodging: Forks has several motels, bed & breakfast inns and resorts. Call the Forks Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-44FORKS or (360) 374-2531.
Camping: The Mora campgrounds are the closest to La Push village and Second Beach. Nearly 90 campsites are available with all the basic facilities. Fee $10 per night.
Caveats: High tides can cover beach trails. Tides can move tree logs and create dangerous hiking conditions when they hit against rocks and sea stacks. Tide timetables are available in the ranger station and should be consulted before hiking.