|Olympic Coast near Stawberry Point|
Access: Paved road to trailhead, no pass required
Seven miles from the nearest road, Toleak Point provides an exemplary wilderness beach experience along Olympic National Park's rare stretch of wild Pacific coast. Toleak Point is usually approached as a backpacking destination due to the multiple low tide crossings necessary to reach it but a number of stops along the way (Third Beach, Taylor Point, the beach below Taylor Point) are viable day hiking destinations. Here, the waves of the Pacific Ocean break on sandy beaches, craggy sea stacks, and tidepools brimming with marine life. Lining this coast are rocky headlands and silent rain forests: this is one place where the beach doesn't mean a carnival. Despite the relatively tame elevation gain stats for this hike, expect a fairly difficult hike: when the trail isn't following beaches, it skirts impassable headlands, making steep climbs requiring the use of rope ladders, which can be challenging with 30-pound backpacks.
I hiked to Toleak Point over three days at the end of June, taking some time off during the week to accompany a good friend who had just finished his intern year as a medical resident. We camped for two nights at Scott Creek, breaking up the hike into very manageable short segments. It's important to understand that there are two points on this hike that are impassable at high tide: hikers should consult tide charts and plan out their schedules accordingly.
From Seattle, we drove out first to Port Angeles, where we stopped at the Wilderness Information Center on Race Street to pick up backpacking permits and borrow a bear canister. We then continued west on US 101, dealing with a bit of construction traffic around Lake Crescent before turning right onto Highway 110 just north of Forks to drive out towards La Push. We parked at the Third Beach trailhead, about two miles short of La Push.
The Third Beach Trail left the parking lot and plunged into the forest. The forest was largely uneventful and flat, exhibiting the typical moss-covered character of the rain-soaked Northwest. After a mile and a quarter, the trail began to descend into a gully carved by a small creek and followed this gully out to Third Beach. The seastacks of the Olympic South Coast and the sandy beach were visible before we got onto the beach itself; a high pile of logs at the high tide mark of the beach presented a substantial obstacle course to cross to reach the beach itself. We scrambled over the logs and made good use of our poles for balance to drop down to Third Beach.
|Third Beach Falls|
While crossing the headland, the trail dropped at one point to cross the stream which fed Third Beach Falls. Here, a short unmarked spur trail broke off to the right and led to the top of the waterfall. We made a brief stop here, walking out to a view of the falls tumbling into the Pacific. The top of the falls also offered an excellent view back over all of Third Beach; we spotted a bald eagle flying below from this vantage point.
|Third Beach Falls|
|Coastline south of Taylor Point|
We spotted another bald eagle here (one of about ten bald eagle sightings on our three day trip) as we were walking along the beach.
|Bald eagle in flight|
|Campsite near Scott Creek|
|Sunset at Scott Creek|
This stretch of beach- a maze of rocks- also required a low tide crossing. This was the last tide-dependent crossing point for the hike out to Toleak Point. Past the tide crossing point, we followed the beach for a mile out to Strawberry Point, admiring the procession of seastacks marching along the coast to the rhythm of the surf.
We spotted numerous bald eagles, crabs, sea snails, and the carcasses of a stingray and a seal.
|Witch's Hat near Toleak Point|
|Looking south along the South Coast from Toleak Point|