With sea stacks, sea otters, sea lions, and ocean scenery for as far as you can see, the 9.4-mile Ozette Triangle is one of the finest hikes on the Olympic Coast. Easily accessible and a loop hike, the Triangle (named for the loop’s shape) is a perfect introduction to America’s wildest coastline south of Alaska. You won’t be alone on this section of wilderness beach, however, for Ozette’s admirers are legion. But there’s plenty of room, and if you venture this way on a winter weekday you might just find yourself alone with the harlequin ducks.
From Lake Ozette, one of the largest natural bodies of freshwater in the state, the loop begins its 3.3-mile journey to the sea. Cross the lazy and brackish Ozette River on an arched bridge, coming to a junction in 0.25 mile. Take the trail right (the left trail is your return route), proceeding through a thick forest of western cedar and Sitka spruce. Most of the way is via a cedar-planked boardwalk, convenient for traversing the saturated terrain but slippery during periods of rain. The Park Service has begun replacing many of the rotting cedar planks with nonslippery plastic ones.
Continue through lush maritime forests drenched in sea mist. Towering ferns line the elevated path, and in early spring the boardwalk is lined with thousands of nature’s lanterns: blossoming skunk cabbage. At 2.25 miles pass through Ahlstroms Prairie, an early homestead site long-since reclaimed by the dense greenery that thrives in this waterlogged climate.
Raucous gulls and the sound of crashing surf announce that the ocean is nearing, and at 3.3 miles a slight descent delivers you to the wild beaches of Cape Alava. Now for real fun! Turn south and follow the shoreline for 3.1 adventurous miles. Look out to offshore islands. Search the ocean waters for seals, whales, and scores of pelagic birds. Look in tidal pools for semisubmerged starfish tenaciously clinging to barnacle-encrusted walls. Look for oystercatchers cruising down the aisles of this open fish market. Look up in the towering trees hugging the shoreline for perched eagles.
Search for Makah petroglyphs etched into the Wedding Rocks, a cluster of shore-hugging boulders about halfway along the coast. Respect these historic and sacred artifacts, which predate European settlement in the Northwest. If the tide is low, continue along the surf. If it is high, use the steep but short trails (signed) that bound over rough headlands. Continue on wide beach and approach another spot that may require a detour if the surf is high.
At 3 miles from Cape Alava and after 6.3 miles of hiking, you’ll arrive at Sand Point. Over 2 glorious miles of some of the finest sandy beaches in all of Washington extend south from this point.
When you must relinquish this heavenly environment back to its rightful owners-the seals, oystercatchers, otters, and sanderlings-return to Lake Ozette via another 3-mile-long boardwalk trail through expansive cedar bogs and under a dense canopy of majestic Sitka spruce. The sound of the surf slowly fades in the distance, but the Ozette Triangle will chime in your memories for quite some time.