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Olympic National Park: Hoh River to Third Beach

Trace the rugged coastline past dozens of sea-carved rock formations on this five-star weekend trip along the Olympic Peninsula.

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Is it a hike or an Army obstacle course? Both, actually, which you’ll find out as you negotiate ladders and ropes through upland rainforest and rocky beach on this 16.1-mile trek. At the Oil City trailhead, take the South Coast Trail along the river. Two rights lead to the coast; cruise past a bleached driftwood graveyard to Jefferson Cove. (Note: Cross the area at tides lower than two feet; get charts at the ranger station.)

Head inland near a small waterfall) and scale a 60-foot cliff on two fixed ropes. The 3.5-mile upland trail winds through a high-canopy forest, and begins a roller-coaster section up log steps and down into the mossy forest. Take the boardwalk over the marshy area to Mosquito Creek and camp on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.

Next morning, don your sandals and ford Mosquito Creek at its mouth. Walk the beach north for two miles past sea stacks ). At low tide, hike on the beach to the left side of the rocky sea stack. At high tide, clamber over driftwood on the right. Turn inland at bull’s eye marker, head up a hillside, and hike through a leafy trellis of salal, salmonberry (edible but bland), thimbleberry (rich and juicy), and devil’s club.

Stay straight to ford 20-foot-wide Goodman Creek, and re-enter the woods; pass massive red cedars to Falls Creek’s low cascade. Descend a 30-foot trail ladder and head north to Toleak Point, watching for bald eagles. Traverse a rocky stretch, and head past Giants’ Graveyard, a cluster of sea stacks and pinnacles.

Ford Scott Creek and traverse a forested hillside (use trail ropes, if needed) to the beach. At the bull’s eye trail marker, climb 90 steps into the forest. After 14.2 miles, descend to Third Beach on stairs and ladders and pick up the dirt path to Third Beach parking area and your shuttle.

Permit Wilderness camping is $5 plus $2/person per night. Bear canisters ($3 rental at ranger stations) are required on the coast.
Shuttle Willie Nelson’s All Points Charters and Tours: (360) 460 7131; Coastal shuttle service costs $150 for six. 
Gear up Brown’s Outdoor, 112 W. Front St., Port Angeles, WA; (360) 457- 4150; 

-Mapped by Kari Bodnarchuk
At miles 5.6 and 8.7, it’s literally time to test the waters. Depths at Mosquito and Goldman Creeks vary from ankle-deep to thigh-high due to heavy rain and tidal shift. Ford them safely: 
Pack right Wear sandals or athletic shoes rather than going barefoot; use trekking poles for balance. 
Assess Cross streams at wide points where the current moves slower. Washboard ripples indicate shallow water. Use a hiking pole to test depth, or chuck a rock into the stream’s middle—a hollow “ker-plop” indicates deep water. Never cross whitewater or at depths deeper than mid-thigh.

Prepare Unbuckle your pack’s hipbelt and sternum strap, and loosen the shoulder straps to enable a quick exit. You want to jettison your pack if you get swept away.
Execute Face upstream with your trekking poles out front and sidestep across, yielding slightly to the current. Maintain two points of contact and a wide base; never cross legs. 
At Toleak and Strawberry Points, receding tides leave islands of sea water, rich with life-sustaining nutrients from Pacific up-welling, a process that carries deep-sea particulates to the surface. Tide pools support an amazing diversity of sea creatures—including the sunflower starfish (right) the world’s largest sea star, anemones, mollusks, multicolored sea slugs (nudibrachs), and plantlife—that you’d normally need scuba gear to view. Tip: The lower the tide, the more sea life exposed in tide pools. Consult a tide chart to find the lowest tides, and prepare to spend hours inspecting these natural aquariums. Don’t forget to look up: Rogue waves can strike at any tide and drag unsuspecting hikers out to sea.
Three Rivers Resort Restaurant is known for its “World Famous River Burgers.” Lick your chops for the “Werewolf Burger,” made with a half-pound patty and double ham, bacon, and cheese. 7765 La Push Rd., Forks, WA; (360) 374-5300 
Local Quileute Native Americans describe a mysterious figure known as “Q’waeti,” or the transformer, who wandered the Olympic Peninsula instructing tribes how to live—and morphing animals into humans. According to legend, the Quileute were transformed from wolves to people by the powerful medicine man, giving rise to the werewolf myth and legion creature flicks— most recently the Twilight series, which is set in coastal Washington. 
Aire Natural, 117 E. 1st St., Port Angeles, WA; (360) 452-7175

To Trailhead

Start: From Port Angeles, WA, head SW on US-101. In 70 miles, turn right onto Lower Hoh Rd./Oil City Rd. Go 10.3 miles to parking area. End: From Port Angeles, WA, head SW on US-101. In 54.2 miles, turn right onto La Push Rd./WA 110. Go 11.6 miles to parking lot.

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