Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Olympic Coast Backpacking

Post by Henry

Four Days of Coastal hiking with Erik, Philip, Harold, Corey and Henry

Rugged Olympic Coast

We had a day off from backpacking between the High Divide Loop and the Olympic Coast hike and we spent it in the small town of Forks. We had a hotel reservation for the night so we could shower, get our equipment cleaned up and repacked, and sleep a night in a bed. Oh, and eat some 'real food'.

While in Forks we went to the local grocery/shoe/clothing/hardware/outfitter all-in-one store to pick up a few things. The outfitter portion of the store had a surprisingly good selection of outdoor related items at very reasonable prices, so I decided to check out the rain gear since mine was kinda leaky. I bought a Frogg Toggs rain suit that I had read good things about. They're cheap, lightweight, and breathable. Two not so good things are - they're not very durable and kinda ugly.

Next morning at breakfast 'weather' was the topic. We were looking at a 100% chance of rain to start the hike and an 80% chance the second day. A look at the radar showed a huge green blob headed our way. Oh boy.

On this hike we needed a shuttle. We'd park our rental car at the Oil City trailhead, where our hike would end, and get shuttled to the start of the hike at Third Beach. The guy we hired to shuttle us arrived right on time, with a nice big van to easily handle 5 guys and their gear. So far so good. It was an hour ride to our starting point and about halfway there it started to rain. As we got closer, it progressively rained harder until we arrived and it was pouring. Great. By the time we got on our rain gear and backpacks, the rain had let up quite a bit. The first mile or so of our hike was a trail through the woods leading to Third Beach. 

Wet Start to our Hike

Now I need to explain something about this coastal hike. It's not all a 'walk on the beach'. Here on the rugged Olympic Coast, there are headlands and pinch points to deal with. Headlands are where the land juts out into the sea and are impassable via the beach and require hiking over the headland. Getting up the headland can be tricky. Some are accessed by a steep trail, and others are even steeper, and require wooden ladders and ropes installed by the park service. Pinch points are where a stretch of beach is only passable at a lower tide, so a map and a tide chart are important on this hike. 

After the hike through the woods, we arrived at Third Beach. Other than the fact it was raining and 'gray', the pounding surf and smell of salt air was exhilarating!

Gray but Beautiful Third Beach

The exhilaration didn't last too long, as less than a half mile down the beach we ran into a pinch point that wasn't shown on the map and it was absolute high tide. We ended up hanging out in that one spot for 3 hours, in the rain, waiting for the tide to go out enough so we could get by. 

Waiting on the Tide

After we finally got by, we immediately came to the first headland to get over. Getting up was a series of wore out ladders and ropes, made more difficult because of the rain, but do-able. Once on top we had a little over a mile of muddy ups and downs to get to the next stretch of beach. 

We had a second headland to get over today and getting up it was much worse. This one was a muddy, rain slick, nearly vertical climb up with just a rope to assist (no ladder). I put on quite a show for the rest of the guys here as I slowly made my way up, twisting and falling every few steps, while frantically holding on to the rope lest I plummet back down to the beach. When I finally got to the top, I was totally exhausted and covered in mud. 

When we arrived at Scotts Creek, our beach campsite for the night, the rain had stopped. After the day we'd had this made for a much needed, pleasant evening for setting up camp and relaxing.

Scotts Creek Campsite

Scotts Creek before the BIG Rain

During the night it rained a lot more, but stopped before daylight, making for a nice start to the day. Our hike today first required getting to the other side of Scotts Creek, which had grown with the overnight rain. Before we headed out, I checked a bunch of fallen logs over the creek as an option to get by. I carefully walked across the wet logs to the other side, felt good that this would be the way to go, turned around and WHAM! In an instant I was down and partially dangling between logs in the creek. I came away with a big bruise on my leg, a bloody nose, and a headache. It could have been much worse. I ended up crossing Scotts Creek by sloshing through the middle of it. 

Nice Outfit for Creek Sloshing

The rest of our coastal hike went a bit more smoothly. About the worst thing we encountered was a creek to ford that looked deceivingly deeper than it turned out. 

You Go First

It rained briefly the second day, but mostly the rest of the trip was partly cloudy. 

We don't Care about No Stinking Rain

Day at the Beach

Getting on and off the remaining headlands was easier, though crossing them was always challenging with mud and nearly constant ups and downs. 

Up One Hill

Down the Next Hill

Furry Boardwalk

Our second night campsite at Mosquito Creek was spectacular, and both of our last two nights ended with an amazing sunset. 

Mosquito Creek Campsite
Pacific Sunset

Dinner at Sunset

We had one more headland to get by our final morning. This one was only passable at low tide, which conveniently came at 9 am and then required navigating a quarter mile stretch around and over wet boulders. After that was a short section of beach to the Hoe River, where we turned and followed it back to the Oil City trailhead and our rental car. 

Beautiful Olympic Coast

Strolling Down the Beach

After hiking with the constant vibe of the ocean for four days, it was now replaced with the hum of the highway as the scenery whizzed by on our ride to Seattle.

Post Hike Celebration

Two good backpacking trips, offering quite a variety. Mountains, rivers, forest, ocean, rain, sun, sand, mud and 5 guys having a great time. The question now is, where to next year?

Best Trip Photo Award goes to Corey!


  1. Wow, that was quite the adventure! We've stayed at Neah Bay (in our COZY trailer) and hiked down cliffs to the beach by rope—but it was nothing compared to what you did. I'll bet it felt good to get cleaned up, warm, and dry. :-)

    1. Yep, this hike was quite the adventure. Felt like some kind of military training course but with better scenery. The hot shower and cold beers at the end topped off the trip nicely.