Northwest Hiking Trails

Olympic Beach Hike Rialto Beach (Mora) to Cape Alava (Ozette)

Trip report by Dan Fye and Shelley Sims-Fye

Norwegian Beach Photos: [Top]: Dan at Norwegian Beach with camera pointing north, and Kasolta Head in background; [Bottom]: pointing south at the headland leading to Cedar Creek. Dan Fye photos, July, 1997.

"The wildest, the most remote and, I think, the most picturesque beach area of our whole coast line lies under a pounding surf along the Pacific Ocean in the State of Washington. It is marked as Cape Alava on the north and the Quillayute River on the south. It is a place of haunting beauty, of deep solitude."
My Wilderness , by William O. Douglas

This classic hike on the wilderness beaches of Oympic National Park, is an experience every citizen should be able to say "I've been there, done that." The shoreline is rugged, overnight camping is primitive, weather in April is totally unpredictable, sunsets are usually gorgeous, wildlife is abundant, party members are fine companions.

In January, 1999, we will start planning a Spring hike. If you would like to be a party member, e-mail - Cool Trails. This trip report (in six parts) describes the 1998 trip.

I first hiked this trip in April 1972 (my first backpack) as an adult chaperone for a Jr. High School outing club. Since then I've repeated the trip at least 20 times, and have spent countless other days in the area.

The backpack my wife, Shelley, and I   will lead in April, 1998, is planned with dates having been selected for favorable tides (out most of the day). The hike is going to be SLOW, with time for tide pooling, relaxing, and tall tales.

Trip Plan:

Day 1 :   Leave Seattle Sunday, 4/19, and be on board the 6:00 AM Edmonds ferry to Winslow, then drive to Rialto Beach before noon. The first night's camp will be near or at Chilean Memorial (3.7 Mi.).
Day 2 :   Then leaving camp early after high tide (6:53 AM) for a rounding of Cape Johnson when the water is low enough to clear the final cove, then a breeze walking to camp Monday at Cedar Creek (8.4 Mi.) or Norwegian Creek.
Day 3 : Starting early again the next morning to clear the Kayostla bluffs on an outgoing tide (8:17 AM high). Then spend a lot of time plodding the ball bearing beach leading to Yellow Banks (14.3 Mi.). I plan to pass Yellow Banks' rocks before the incoming tide, with camping Tuesday at Sand Point (16.9 Mi.) or maybe 1/2 mile short.
Day 4 : Wednesday, is a leisurely walk to Cape Alava (21 Mi.) and camp.
Day 5 :   Then on Thursday morning, a short boardwalk trail to Lake Ozette (3.1 Mi., 23.1 Mi. total) trailhead.

General Observations:


Getting ready for a 5 day hike requires packing light, checking all the old gear for functionality and repair or replace when necessary, being positive nothing has been forgotten, buying and bagging food into planned meals, dividing up community stuff for who's pack it will go in, wondering if enough fuel is carried and will the toilet paper last. Finally the packs are stuffed, last minute changes figured out, hit the cash machine, and to bed for needed rest. [Shelley had to prepare for Dan's pack also; he was traveling on business until Friday, leaving only Saturday for helping.]


The efforts of many farsighted individuals resulted in these beaches becoming the Olympic National Park Coastal Strip. The Park staff and Superintendent are doing a superior job of preserving the wilderness for future generations to enjoy. The rules are very simple, backcountry permit required, 12 persons maximum party size, no firearms, no dogs, stoves only in selected areas, a modest fee is being collected. Camping reservations are in effect Memorial Day to Labor Day; these can be reserved 30 days in advance Detailed information can be obtained by calling Olympic National Park Visitors Center.

Dan and Shelley:

I would like to introduce myself and my hiking, life, partner. I am Dan Fye and my wife is Shelley Sims-Fye. We live in Seattle, with three incorrigible, but loving dogs. We have 5 adult children-step children. Shelley is a native of NY and I am one of the few who were born here. Shelley first hiked "our beach" in 1987, this trip is her eighth. Shelley will provide a detailed hike log. I first hiked what then was "the beach" in 1972, this trip is my twentieth, I will provide historical and anecdotal comment.. I first hiked the beach as a chaperone to a group named JAPOS (Jane Adams Philosophical Outing Society) a junior high school club formed and lead by French teacher, John Reiman. The clubs purpose was to provide an outdoor experience and cultural opportunity for students. The Seattle community lost an outstanding teacher and leader with John's early death from cancer.

Shelley and I began planning this hike in January 1998, as soon as tide tables were available. Historically, we have always hiked the beach to coincide with school spring vacations, normally early April. At this time of the year, the weather is unpredictable, but the major winter storms are over and our beach is renewed. We plan 5 days driving from Seattle, hiking, and returning home, hiking time on the first and last day is short, the driving time long. This year we chose dates based on the best tides. With dates established, companions were invited, vacation arrangements made, dog sitters contracted, equipment inventoried and checked, meals planned. CoolTrails published our plans and an invitation to join our party. I thought the response would be overwhelming, but there were only a few inquiries and no committed hikers. Virtual hiking will never replace doing real hikes (similar to sex). As the time approached our committed friends drifted away for warmer climes (Maui, ect), in the end leaving only Shelley and I to complete the plan. Fine, except our photographs could not include others.

Stats: 23.1 mile one way, no elevation gain, high point 40' above mean sea level.

Note :   This is backcountry wilderness travel. Any trail can become very dangerous in winter conditions. You are responsible for informing yourself of the hazards and taking the necessary precautions.

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