The Best Beaches of Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park (ONP) in Washington State is home to many incredible beaches. But which one(s) should you visit?

We’ve created a comprehensive breakdown of all the main beaches to help guide you. Determining which specific beach to visit will depend on what you’re looking for, but rest assured – there is something for everyone!

Driftwood on ONP beaches

 

Rocks and water on ONP beachesWoman sitting on driftwood log at Rialto Beach

Kalaloch Beach

Distance from Port Angeles: 1 hour 45 minutes

Hiking Distance to Access the Beach: 0 miles

Kalaloch Beach is a frequently visited beach in ONP. It is easily accessible off of highway 101 and has a beautiful lodge to stay at nearby (Kalaloch Lodge). The convenience of the Kalaloch Lodge is what attracts a lot of the beach visitors. Additionally, this beach is also home to the Tree Root Cave. The Tree Root Cave is commonly referred to the Tree of Life. With roots stretching to both sides of the eroding river bed, it appears that the tree is hanging in mid-air. Asides from the Tree Root Cave, this beach offers the classic sea stacks, rocky shores and driftwood. The beach is accessible via a short walk from the parking lot, ending with stairs down to the beach.

Ruby Beach

Distance from Port Angeles: 1 hour 35 minutes

Hiking Distance to Access the Beach: 0.5 mile

Ruby Beach is arguably one of the most popular (and family friendly) beaches in Olympic National Park, and for good reason. This beach is 8 miles north of Kalaloch Beach and also located right off of highway 101. Furthermore, this beach does not require any hiking to access. This beach has the rocky shore, iconic driftwood and seastacks you’re looking for. This is one of the few beaches you can still enjoy at high tide, so if you want less crowds or to see two beaches in a single day trip, this is a good one to add.

From the highway, you’ll pull onto a little dirt road that leads into the parking lot. The parking lot is relatively small and runs the risk of being full. We arrived close to high tide, in off-season, and did not have any issues with finding a spot. However, we imagine this is not the case during peak season. From the parking lot, there is a small trail that takes you down to the beach. The trail is relatively easy, but steep in some sections. So, while I would not bring a stroller, you can definitely bring small kids. Once on the beach, head left to explore along the beach. At low tide you can walk quite far, but always keep an eye on the tide time tables as you can easily get trapped in some sections.

Couple holding hands at Ruby beach

Man standing on driftwood log on Rialto BeachA view of the ocean and sea stacks on ONP beaches

La Push Beaches

Distance from Port Angeles: 1 hour 30 minutes

A short drive down the road from Rialto Beach are the La Push beaches. The first, second and third beaches are side by side and make up the La Push beaches. First Beach is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation, while Second and Third beach are part of Olympic Wilderness Park. All three beaches are within a 15 minute drive from Rialto Beach. Unfortunately, first and second beach were closed when we visited or else we would have made the trek over as well. The Quileute tribe closed both first and second beach during the pandemic and as of June 2021 they remain closed. For the most up to date information, the National Park Service keeps a running list of closures.

First Beach

Hiking Distance to Access the Beach: 0 miles

First beach is easily accessible from the parking lot. You can drive right up to the parking lot and access the beach via a short walkway. There are many tide pools to explore and sea stacks to view at the beach.

Second Beach

Hiking Distance to Access the Beach: 1.4 miles roundtrip

Second beach is the most popular of the three La Push beaches. The well mapped out 1.4 mile hike to the beach weaves you through forests and offers stunning views. The hike is relatively flat and easy. Once you get to the beach, there is plenty to explore. You can hike along the beach further or simply sit and enjoy the stunning sea stacks. You can also camp at Second Beach if you’re able to obtain a pass.

Third Beach

Hiking Distance to Access the Beach: 3.6 miles roundtrip

Third beach is the least popular of the La Push beaches. The beach is accessible by a 3.6 roundtrip hike, which is relatively flat and easy overall. The hike is most likely the answer to why this is the least popular La Push beach. However, if you are up for the adventure, you will be rewarded with classic PNW coastal views without the crowds. This beach is often covered in fog as well, which truly adds to the classic Washington Coast feel.

 

Rialto Beach

Distance from Post Angeles: 1 hour 20 minutes

Hiking Distance to Access the Beach: 0 miles

Rialto Beach was our favorite beach to visit. One of the popular features of this beach is the hike called the Hole in the Wall. Aside from this, the beach offers both rocky and sandy beach shores, giant driftwood piles, tide pools and many sea stack formations. Furthermore, you’re often greeted by surfers in the water.

This beach is close to the town of Forks and easily accessible. To get to the beach you’ll drive down beside the Quillayute River on a nicely paved road. At the end of the road is the parking lot. Equipped with several spots and bathrooms, this is a well visited area for hikers and tourists. The beach is right in front of the parking lot, so no hiking needed to gain access. You will need a National Park Pass to access this beach. There’s no place to buy this at the Rialto Beach, so we recommend buying the pass online or you can visit the Quinault Ranger station. We had bought a park pass the day prior (when we were heading up to Hurricane Ridge), which was good for 48 hours.

Hole in the Wall Hike

Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip    Difficulty: easy

The Hole in the Wall hike is a 3.4 mile roundtrip hike that takes you along the stunning coast of Rialto Beach, ending at a sea stack formation with a hole in the center. This hike is flat and relatively easy. However, some areas along the beach hike have loose rocks, which can be physically strenuous. Take your time along the hike as the scenery is beautiful and should be fully enjoyed! Getting to the sea stack with the hole in it is only accomplishable at low tide, so ensure you are checking the tide times. Furthermore, do not hike past the key-holed rock formation as the tide is coming in. If you get stuck on the other side of the keyhole rock formation at high tide, there is no other way back to the parking lot and you will have to wait it out. It is recommended if the tide is covering the floor of the rock formation, do not cross it.

The keyhole rock formation on Rialto Beach

Woman standing on driftwood on ONP beachesMan standing on driftwood lot on ONP beaches

Shi Shi Beach

Distance from Post Angeles: 2 hours 10 minutes

Hiking Distance to Access the Beach: 4 miles

Shi Shi Beach is tucked up in the northern most area of ONP. The actual beach is apart of the ONP, but the trail is on Makah Nation land. When visiting, you will need both a National Park pass and a Makah Recreation Pass to access this beach. This beach requires a 2 mile hike down to its shores. The hike itself is relatively easy and flat, taking you through a rainforest. Once you reach the end of the hike, it is a steep descent down to the beach, making this the hardest part of the hike. You can camp along this beach as well. The beach provides 2.5 miles of beautiful coastline to choose a camping site. Camping here is quite popular and was closed in summer 2020 to limit visitors. Check the National Parks website prior to planning your trip to ensure its status is open.

Shoreline of ONP beaches

 

Final Tips:

For any of these beaches ensure you are checking the tide times as many hikes will not be possible at high tide. You also do not want to get stuck due to changing tides.

If you’re planning a trip to ONP and its coastline, please be mindful. You are in nature and this area is everyones responsibility to upkeep. As a general rule, bring out everything you bring in. Do not litter, damage the trails, approach wildlife or cause damage to tide pools. This has been a real challenge during the pandemic and ruins the beauty for all future visitors.

In summary, no mater which beach (or beaches) you choose to explore in ONP, you cannot go wrong. With this said, we also highly encourage you to check out the towns of Forks, the hikes and their rainforest. Check out our complete 2-day guide to learn more!

Comments

  1. Lee Stanley

    All beaches near Port Angeles, Wa a beach with sand to lay a blanket on. I’m also 68 and not interested in hiking now

    1. janessaandcolin

      If you’re up for the drive, both Ruby Beach and Rialto Beach are great options to set a blanket out and enjoy (with a short walk there are some sandy areas)! Crescent lake is closer, it has a grassy area on the lake to relax and enjoy the beautiful view.

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