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 (1), take the South Coast Trail along the river. Two rights lead to the coast (2); 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 (3) 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 (4) to Mosquito Creek and camp on a bluff overlooking the Pacific (5). Next morning, don your sandals and ford Mosquito Creek at its mouth. Walk the beach north for two miles past sea stacks (6). 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 (7), 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 (8), and re-enter the woods; pass massive red cedars to Falls Creek’s low cascade. Descend a 30-foot trail ladder (9) 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 (10) 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 (11) and pick up the dirt path to Third Beach parking area (12) and your shuttle.
The Way From Port Angeles, go southwest on US 101 for 70 miles. Turn right onto Oil City Rd., and go 10.3 miles to trailhead parking.
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; goallpoints. com. Coastal shuttle service costs $150 for six.
Gear up Brown’s Outdoor, 112 W. Front St., Port Angeles, WA; (360) 457- 4150; brownsoutdoor.com
Trip data backpacker.com/hikes/55411
KEY SKILL: CROSS A RIVER
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 thighhigh 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.