Location: Olympic Coast near Forks
Land Agency: National Park Service
Roundtrip: 2.6 miles
Elevation gain: 300 feet
Contact: Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center
Green Trails Map: La Push, WA- No 163S
Notes: Dogs Prohibited
Good to Know: kid-friendly, snow free winter hike; beach walking; exceptional wildlife viewing. waterfall
Access: From Forks, head 2.0 miles north on US 101 to the junction with SR 110. Continue west on SR 110. In 7.7 miles at Quillayute Prairie, SR 110 splits. Take the left fork (La Push Road) and proceed 3.8 miles to trailhead located on south side of highway.
This is a fairly easy hike to one of the Olympic Coast’s famed wilderness beaches. Suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities, Third Beach is first rate and delivers wonderment in every season. Traverse a salt-sprayed forest, wander a wide surf-pounded coastline, and explore rugged headlands sporting showy waterfalls on this classic Olympic hike.
The hike starts on an old skid road through a scrappy maritime forest of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and red alder. After about a half mile of fairly easy going, the trail veers left leaving the old road for a nicer trail and through a more attractive forest.
As the surf becomes more audible the trail begins to descend reaching the wide and wild beach at 1.3 miles. Hemmed in by two imposing headlands, Third Beach extends for about a mile on Strawberry Bay. Where do you want to begin wandering? You can head north on the beach hiking about a half mile towards Teahwit Head. Look for abandoned equipment once used by wildcatters hoping to make a big oil strike.
The more interesting option is to hike the beach south a half mile to an overland trail. But, don’t even think of heading up that steep route over Taylor Point before admiring a waterfall plunging from its heights straight into the pounding surf below. Now if you’re still intent to continue, climb 350 feet via sand ladders and ankle-twisting terrain over the imposing headland. Then traverse a grove of old-growth Sitka spruce and cross the creek feeding the coastal waterfall. Then make a steep descent back to sea level reaching, a quiet and secluded beach after a challenging mile! Who says you need to backpack for days to enjoy such spectacular Olympic coastal wilderness?
For more information (including maps and trip planning) on this hike and other Olympic Coast hikes, consult my best-selling Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula and Backpacking Washington books (Mountaineers Books).
For information on places to stay in the Forks area and other things to do–consult Northwest TripFinder