Coast Hike at Ozette, Olympic National Park Trip Report
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July 21, 2002
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John is an avid hiker, spending a goodly portion of his time up in the hills, or sitting in front of a computer. Either way, most of what finds his eye is green, or blue, - organic, or lcd. John likes this website, hopes you do too, and invites you to write a review of a couple hikes you've done!
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I live in Federal Way, WA and I enjoy getting out into the great outdoors and hiking and would someday like to make it to the top of Mt. Rainier. When I can't get outside, I'm the IS manager at a marketing firm in Kent.
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From Port Angeles take US 101 west five miles to Highway 112. Follow Highway 112 west for 32 miles to Hoko-Ozette Road, just past Sekiu. Turn left (south) on Hoko-Ozette Road and drive about 20 miles to its end at the Ozette Ranger Station.
Trail notes: The spectacular, triangular Cape Alava/Sand Point Loop showcases the unique elements that make the northwestern Olympic coast a national treasure. Accessible year around, these trails leave the Lake Ozette area and wind along cedar-plank boardwalks through marshy coastal forest and grassland literally teeming with wildlife. Both trails empty onto a three-mile stretch of wilderness beach that forms the triangles third leg. Whichever trail you choose, beware of the wood planks, which (when wet) can be slipperier than the underside of a banana slug. This is one of the few trails in Washington better suited to sneakers than Vibram lugs.
Coming upon the Pacific via the Cape Alava Trail is particularly memorable. The path crosses Ahlstroms Prairie, the site of a Swedish homesteaders cabin, before passing through waist-deep sword ferns and out to the frothing Pacific. You might find the beach area here at the westernmost point in the contiguous United States a good place to camp. You would hardly be the first. Nearby is the site of an archaeological dig of an ancient Makah village; artifacts and remains (nearly 1,000 years old) of tribal longhouses were excavated here and placed on display in the Makah Tribal Museum in Neah Bay. Wedding Rock, where ancient petroglyphs are visible on several rocks close to the high-tide line, is one mile south down the beach. This site is considered something of a holy area by a full range of visitors, including New Age types and various members of other religious sects. Two miles farther south, the Sand Point Trail leads three easy miles back to Ozette. Permit reservations for overnight use are a must here, because the beach is generally overrun by visitors on summer weekends.
Since adding the Shi Shi Beach area to Olympic National Park in 1976, park officials have sought to establish an easily accessible public trailhead. They have not as of yet, which is just fine with persistent hikers who find the Shi Shi Beach Trail and make their way to one of the most spectacular seascapes in the United States. The trail, actually the remnant of the old Sooes Beach Road, winds two miles through mostly level brush to a steep access trail to Shi Shi, with trails leading down to Anderson Point and Portage Head. Local landowners, however, recently ruled the route off-limits for national park trail-building; the Makahs plan to construct a new path of their own from roads end to Shi Shi Beach. When finished, it should be about two miles long and about an hours hike from the parking area. Meanwhile, local residents have turned the trail into a cottage industry, collecting parking fees from hikers. And the Makah Tribal Council says it has no intention to cite hikers walking to Shi Shi Beach. (Olympic National Parks "official" access to Shi Shi, meanwhile, is the southern route, a tricky, sometimes hazardous hike north from the Cape Alava area; see hike number 21 for trailhead information.) Given all that, getting from your car to the beach requires a little route-finding and a lot of diligence. But its more than worth it once you get there. This is one of the Northwests most beautiful ocean beaches, and it offers outstanding exploration potential. At low tide, its possible to scramble north over the rocks near Portage Head and explore the remains of the General M.C Meigs, a World War II-era troopship that broke up here in the early 1970s. From south of the beach/trail junction, it is a 0.9-mile beach walk to magnificent Point of the Arches, a series of pyramidal sea stacks (offshore rock formations) that juts into the Pacific like a gargantuan fossilized spine. Good campsites are available all along the beach, and are likely to be very crowded in summer months. Water is available at Petroleum Creek (if you do not filter your water from this one, you never will) and other small streams.
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Shi shi to Ozette
Reviewed By: M.Allison on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 @ 11:56:29 PM
RATING: 4 stars because it was short and dealing with the tides was a pain. I like traveling long distances quickly and stopping when I have to not need to!
DIFFICULTY: 4 hikers because there's worse out there. Deffinately worth training a bit before going though!
Starting at Shi shi we soon came to realize that we were flowing in the wrong direction of traffic. Most people hike from south to north but my friend and I decided to go in the opposite direction due to the parking issues. We had a friend drop us off and family pick us up at Ozette 2.5 days and 2 nights later (the drive was so long we lost a bit of time, unfortunately!) The beach was beautiful and breathtaking...the roar of the waves is so amazing! Everything was great until we hit a wall, aka. "headland." A short description: waist deep in ferns with a vertical climb using a small rope attached God only knows where!? So gratifying in the end though! Looking back I believe this was the worst headland we climbed but they each had their own special qualities...coming down from one of these headlands my rope slipped and flung me sideways across a rock face. I was left hanging by my hands to a skinny little rope with my 30 lb. pack and, now broken, water bottle. Speaking of, filtering water was interesting as well. I'm more accostomed to hiking in the backcountry which boasts sparkling, glacier fed rivers. Out at the coast, the water is brown. I read somewhere, "tea colored." My friend and I prefered the term, "chocolate milkshake!" All in all, the hike was amazing and we ended up having great weather though the forecast called for a storm. We set up camp in the sand and had fires every night with dinner and a sunset. Then, we'd listen to the crashing waves outside our tent and try to go to sleep!
Reviewed By: Anonymous on Monday, August 7, 2006 @ 08:58:31 AM
Review: we started at the ranger station and we took the southern trail, Sand Point trail. It comes out right on the beach. We walked about a 1/4 mile on the beach and then up a little cliff to watch the sunset, which was breathtaking. I've never seen a sunset like that one. we camped about a mile and a half south on the beach. the next day we went back to where the sunset was to see all of the tide pools. cool starfish, sea anemones, dungeness crab, muscles and much more. The hike was very easy, and I'm not in shape, so I really mean that. There were school age children and families that were hiking as well. When people say it was crowded, well, we saw about 15 people the whole time we were there. I definitely recommend this hike. It's great for someone who wants to get outdoors and camp, but feels like they're not in good enough shape to go all out. It was amazing.
Great isolated camping in the fall
Reviewed By: Michele and Alan on Saturday, November 19, 2005 @ 10:04:40 PM
Review: We took the Cape Alva trail to and from the beach. The hike there was very easy and well maintained. There are a few stairs here and there, but if you are just an active person (but not someone who works out) you will still find it easy. Additionally, we are inexperienced backpackers, and wanted an easy trail where we wouldn't be bothered by a heavy pack, so this trail was perfect. The way there has some great lush rainforest with nice ponds and streams. When you reach the meadow, you're almost there. When you exit the forest, the ocean view is gorgeous. We tried to quietly sneak up to some deer, but then quickly realized that they were very unconcerned about us! The campsites were nicely nestled along the beach. Any one of them would be nice. Fortunately, we were the only ones there! Great bonus for going during the off-season! It was chilly at night, but managable (35-40F). We explored northward up the beach, and found some neat tidepools with many little creatures. Other cool things were bald eagles, a sea lion pup, and listening to those obnoxious barking sea lions in the distance! By the way, bear canisters are required there, and you will be happy you brought one when you see the fresh bear tracks on the beach! Some bad things were 1) the enormous piles of decaying sea sludge (kelp etc) on the beach. I'm thinking this must've been exceptional (maybe a recent storm?) because no one else has mentioned it. It was often impossible to walk the beach without needing to walk over this stinky fly-ridden stuff. 2) the upper-trail (the one for high tide) is difficult to follow north. Particularly once you go north into the small bit of Makah reservation just north of the Cape Alva trailend. At this point we had a dilemma of choosing unidentifiable trail vs. walking on sea sludge.
My final bits of advice are 1) think about hiking/camping in the off-season, no crowds, no reservations needed 2) avoid the upper trail if you can (hike at low tide) 3) it takes a long time to drive there! (about 6hours from Bellevue) 4) hiking from Ozette to ShiShi could definately take the full 72 hours, especially if you have problems finding a good trail to follow. 5) if you get to the trailhead later than you anticipated, there is also a car-camping site at the Ozette Ranger Station(empty during the off-season) 6)there aren't any open ranger stations this time of year, but some information like tide tables are left outside for you at ozette.
If there weren't any sea-sludge on the beach, we would be 100% satisfied!
Reviewed By: Marne on Friday, July 15, 2005 @ 06:37:15 AM
Review: On the day that we hiked Snow Lake, it was raining in the valley. But once we got to the trailhead the sun was peaking out through the clouds intermittently and we lucked out the rest of the hike being dry. We beat the crowd during a week day by starting out at around 9 am.
For the estimated 6 miles roundtrip this hike is so very scenic and not at all as strenuous as one would consider 6 miles to be. The views along the ridge really made the trip a pleasurable one along with providing some sun after many days of rain this summer. Once we arrived at the top of the ridge and started heading down, fog was rolling in from the north over the lake and it got a little more breezy at times, so make sure you are prepared for weather changes up in the mountains for sure. The trail down into the lake are well maintained and gradually descending. Even the hike back up out of the lake was fairly easy. Lunch at the lake provided some great views of the lake on the northside once the fog burned off and the sun showed its face.
Overall, an enjoyable experience and very scenic hike. One of my favorites! The only thing I recommend is trying to beat the crowds, otherwise you lose the solitary, peacefulness of the hike (unless you like the crowds).
Reviewed By: ginny on Tuesday, July 5, 2005 @ 10:55:58 PM
Review: This hike is very cool. The boardwalk path is very green and surreal. We saw dear and birds and a group of fat gardner snakes on the way out to cape alava. We got a beautiful camp site right off the beach and woke up to showers and a low tide that made the beach seem like a completely different place than the place we had hiked to the day before. The hike down the beach was tiring on the legs and the tides came in at just the right time to force us up the two high tide land paths, definitely something to beware of. The second in particular was pretty scary, there were ropes and a good 80% slippery slope to climb. 1/2 way up you had to trade ropes which was particularly terrifying for a person like me who is afraid of heights! it made the trip more exciting though and could have easily been avoided with better timing or more patience so I wouldn't consider it a downfall at all. The tidepools were full of small cute creatures and there were many sea lions on the rocks. When we finally got to the second trailhead there was a huge grassy rock with an easy trail to get up top and the best view imaginable. The walk back seemed even cooler than the trail there because the sun was shining ! the only problem i had with the hike was the crowds and the high ranger presence. it made it seem less remote then it probably should have, plus people in uniforms just make me nervous! This is my new favorite hike, I highly recommend it!
Reviewed By: Mark F. on Thursday, June 30, 2005 @ 10:39:07 PM
Review: This was about the easiest hike I have been on here in the Pacific Northwest, but it is also one of the most scenic ones as well. The climb is nice and steady, then you get to the switchbacks, which consist of rocky terrain and are not very challenging. You reach the ridge proclaiming that you are entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and it is all downhill from there, so probably about two miles of climbing. The view from this point of the lake is amazing and once you get down there, there are numerous places to go and picnic or camp, however there are no fires allowed in the basin area. The views on the trail prior to the ridge are great, usually you like into a valley but on this trail, you look across at an equally high mountain and it feels like you are flying by in a plane. The two things I disliked the most was the constant flow of people and the massive amounts of mosquitoes. If you plan to anytime whatsoever at the lake, make sure to slather yourself in OFF, we felt like we were being eaten alive by those darned mosquitoes! Overall though, a good experience!
Reviewed By: Jon Moore on Monday, April 11, 2005 @ 04:30:17 PM
Review: This was a very good trail and the conditions were good. The trail is very well maintained. The only downfall with this trail is that its very busy. If you continue on to Gem lake the crowds thin out considerably....
Reviewed By: jasfie on Saturday, March 19, 2005 @ 08:17:53 AM
Review: This is a great day hike for beginners. We even brought a poodle and he had a great time! We hiked this trail in March 2005 when the snowfall was nonexistent so this is probably why it was so easy going - but it can get a bit slippery going down to the lake so watch your bum!
Reviewed By: Ryan Falls on Sunday, December 5, 2004 @ 02:11:28 PM
Review: The trail is a fun first day hike on a wooden path throw lush forest. The camp site was great and there were a lot of animals, like deer, birds, sealions, seals, ect. The deer were very friendly and would come right up to you. After the amazing sunset we had a nice camp fire and then went to sleep. I woke up many times that night to the sounds of animals mostly the sealion roaring. The second day was harder than the first because of the sand, mostly because I had gotten my boots wet and sand had gotten in them. By the time we reached the second camp my feet were all banged up from the sand rubing againist them. That night at the second camp there was the most amazing sunset that we watched from a large hill outside of camp. The next day we hiked along another wooden path to the parkinglot. From there we tried to find the nearist Burgerking because the food was so bad I had decided not to eat it on the third day.
Reviewed By: brendan on Monday, August 2, 2004 @ 07:10:16 PM
Review: i started at kape alava and went south along the beach and collected junk or "treasure".i did'nt do the whole hike to sand point and i did'nt have pack either but its a great hike that i recomend!
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