3 Tips for an Awesome Hike on the Olympic Peninsula Coast

In April, I took a trip to the Olympic Coast with two of my friends. We were blessed with out-of-season weather (seriously, it felt like summer), and it ended up being one of my favorite hikes in recent memory. We completed the Ozette Triangle loop trail, along with a fair amount of additional exploration up and down the beach.

Keep reading to learn three things that will help make your trip to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula a success.

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If you’re on the fence about whether or not a hike on the Washington coast is for you, just do it. There’s a little something for everyone, and if it’s your first time visiting, you’ll leave with a new appreciation for the area.

Here are a few things that stood out to me from my trip. I hope they help ensure your trip is a success.   

1. Getting there can be an adventure of its own

The Olympic Peninsula coast is farther away than most people who don’t live there (myself included) might initially guess. This means that you’ll have to get out of bed a bit sooner, plan time for the drive, and maybe make a few stops along the way.

Adventure awaits: roll your lazy ass out of bed

If you don’t live on the peninsula, you’ll either have to drive up it or take a ferry across. I took the Edmond-to-Kingston ferry, and many people will probably do the same. If you’re not sure how to get there, use a map or throw it in Google Maps.

Here’s the ferry schedule.

Remember, if you want to camp overnight, you’ll have to stop at the Port Angeles ranger station for a permit. They open at 8:00 a.m.

Don’t miss the world’s best cinnamon rolls

Maybe the most unexpected surprise on the trip?

First Street Haven in Port Angeles.  

After eating there just once—we stopped for breakfast before hitting the ranger station—it has become a must-stop for every trip through the area. Why? Their cinnamon rolls are absolutely phenomenal.

But you’ve gotta get there early: First Street Haven bakes fresh cinnamon rolls every day, and if you’re not there quick enough, you’ll miss your chance. The best part? Each breakfast order includes your choice of baked good as a side, so you don’t even have to make the agonizing decision of cinnamon roll vs. a traditional savory breakfast. You get both.

(If you needed another incentive to get out of bed and catch the early ferry, this was it.)

Adventures sometimes make you sick

Highway 112 = very windy; much carsick

If you’re like me, you might not deal well with windy roads. Even though I was sitting in the front passenger seat, I still got carsick. If you’re prone to motion sickness, you’ll want to take the usual precautions:

  • Be the driver if possible, and if not, sit in front seat
  • Consider taking motion-sickness medication (although I’ve always found its sleep-inducing properties to be too much of a nuisance when taken in the morning)
  • Be prepared

If worse comes to worse, as it did for me: just puke and rally, man! You’ll have time to recover on the beach. Because that’s where you’re going.

2. Walking on sand is no joke

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I was reminded (once again) that walking on sand is no joke. We definitely felt more tired than this trip’s elevation gain and mileage would suggest.

I was curious to see if any studies had been published about the effects of walking on sand vs. a hard surface. The internet helped me out.

Here’s what I found: walking on sand has a profound effect on your body’s ability to effectively locomote itself. (In other words, it’s not just you: science says walking takes more energy than other surfaces.)

A core efficiency in the human body is the conservation of energy from one step to another. This is due in large part to the rubber band–like tendons in our lower legs and posterior chain. Walking on sand hurts this process’ efficiency. Instead of conserving energy from one step to the next, you have to reload the rubber band every time.

Just how much harder is it to walk on sand?

According to the study linked above, 2.1 to 2.7 times more energy is expended when walking on sand than hard surfaces.

It makes sense for hikers to fall on the upper end of that range, as the added weight of a heavy pack would cause them to sink farther into the sand, causing more inefficiency and requiring more total energy to move forward.

At the end of the day, just remember that it’s harder to walk on sand.

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You’ll want to keep this in mind when estimating your movement ability. Since the beach near the Ozette Triangle trail features areas that become impassable during high tide, a poor estimate could lead to you miss your window and get stuck waiting for low tide.

Besides the effects of walking on sand, there are sections of beach covered in slippery rocks. These areas require extra attention and slower going to minimize injury risks.

Sand demons, man. Trynna suck your energy.

Plan plenty of time for your trips!  That brings us to our next item, anyway.

3. Take time to relax

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On our trip, we completed the Cape Alava (Ozette Triangle) Loop and camped at the South Ozette River site. I’m kinda glad we didn’t camp at one of the “right there” spots at the end of the loop, like Cape Alava. These spots are nice, yes, but there are tradeoffs:

  • You miss out on a lot of hiking and exploring on the way to our site, which in our case was a couple miles farther.
  • You’re guaranteed to be surrounded by people
  • There’s more traffic through your site, as day hikers complete the loop and people mill about.

That’s not to say that the sites up or down the beach are remote or will lead to solitude. But if you’re like me, being around other people can make it a bit harder to relax. I’m glad we ended up where we did.

As it is, we were hit with moments of profound peace on this trip—moments we only got to experience because we had plenty of time and space to enjoy them.

I’m not opposed to hiking hard and fast, but if you ask me, a trip to the Olympic Peninsula Coast would be wasted if spent worrying about whether or not you could make it on time.

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Unless you’re a local, I guarantee you have better hikes closer to home for training. Don’t treat your hike on the beach as a training trip, or risk missing what makes it so special. This was my first time visiting the area, but I know I’ll be back. And when I do, I might even pack in a book and a few more brews. I think the extra weight is justified here.

Remember: you’re on the beach (!!!).

The Washington coast is supremely beautiful, in a wild sort of way—take some time to appreciate it.

 

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