For more on the West End Beaches of the North Olympic Peninsula, see our West End Beaches page.
   Older Entries

02/02/20 - Winter Tides at Dungeness Spit

In January, we had take a walk at the Dungeness Spit with the tide nominally at five feet. We usually recommend hiking the beaches of the North Olympic Peninsula when the tide is down around three feet or so, but it was a mild day, and we found lots of sand on the beach and easy going. Not so on our most recent five foot tide visit. The tide tables told us the same tide height, but the tides begged too differ. Recent rains, storm winds and evil gremlins gave us a lot more wild sea and a lot less walkable sand.

There will be some better tides later in February. We'll aim for three foot tides and report back.

A local salamander to brighten our day

Not much to walk on

That's the 1/2 mile stake.

Another view of the spit and rollers

The wintry sea

Keywords: beaches, dungeness spit, tides

07/12/19 - Second Beach - Low Tide

There have been some really low tides at the West End beaches, but road work at Lake Crescent has made it difficult to get out there except on weekends. This time, however, time and tide did wait for us, so we made our way out to Second Beach at an extreme low tide. According to the GPS, most of our walk was underwater, though with the low tide we were always on dry sand. We made our way out to the big seastack that is usually cut off by water and explored. This time, we didn't even have to wade, and we were able to make our way almost all the way around the seastack.

The big news was starfish everywhere, but more on that in another post. For this post, the big news was a journey out to a usually inaccessible sea stack and getting a chance to explore its caves, beaches and tide pools.

GPS map showing us walking on water

Stairs to the beach

The seastack at extreme low tide

At the seastack

Hidden cave on the far side

One of the sea birds

Exploring the far side

Another view from the far side

The seastack via land bridge

Barnicles on the rocks

Exploring the seastack, misty skies

The near side of the seastack

Mysterious caves

The main seastack is on the right.

Across the beach

Sea, sand and seastacks

Algae on the rocks


The candelabrum tree, a happy mutant, with three branches again

Keywords: beaches, birds, lake crescent, second beach, tides

01/17/17 - Dungeness Spit - The New Year

The Dungeness Spit is a five mile long sand spit that juts out into the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. It's basically a beach without anything inland. Unlike the littoral beaches of the east coast that parallel the mainland, the spit heads away from land and then turns east. Hiking the spit is always an otherworldly experience. There is salt water on either side and just a long, wild beach littered with driftwood that runs for miles. There are spectacular views of the the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Mountains and often the Cascades. Otherwise, it is sky and salt water.

The spit varies greatly with the tide. The gap between low tide and high tide is often six feet of water. At low tide the beach can be broad and easy going. At high tide it is narrow, just a bit of sand and lots of driftwood to clamber over. In the autumn, the tides make hiking the spit difficult. There are some nice low tides, but only at night, but as winter sets in, the low tides cycle into daylight. By early February there are long low tides, under three feet, right in the middle of the day, so we expect to visit the spit more often as the season progresses.

A winter sky

More winter sky and driftwood

Definitely driftwood

The Olympic Mountains as seen from the sea

Another sand and sky picture

Rocks and driftwood

The spit from the climb out

Keywords: autumn, beaches, dungeness spit, winter

10/12/16 - Second Beach

With the Elwha Valley trails and the Spruce Railroad Trail closed we’ve been getting back to the west coast beaches. We had explored Rialto Beach and made our way to the coast at Third Beach, so this time we checked out Second Beach, which is probably our favorite. The day was bright, and the tide was low, so we made our way through the forest, down the bluff and then south along the beach to the sea cave and tide pools. It was an easy, relaxing walk, though we were both tired on the climb back.

The view to the north with the Hole in the Wall

Our first look at the beach

Sea stacks - Second Beach has a lot of them

Another view of the sea stacks

A sea stack reflected

Anemones - the green ovals - but no star fish

Another sea stack reflected

The driftwood where the trail meets the beach

The treasure tree, nicely fed

Forest trail …

… and more forest trail

Keywords: beaches, second beach, trails

09/27/16 - Third Beach

There area three beaches near the mouth of the Quillayute River near La Push. Rialto Beach to the north is the most accessible. The road goes right to the water. Second Beach just south of La Push is a 3/4 mile hike from the parking lot and offers a broad expanse of beach to explore. Third Beach, a few miles south of Second Beach, balances coastal forest and beach walking differently with a smaller beach, but a full 1 1/2 mile walk from parking lot to water.

It is a pretty, easy path through forest and fern. There are ups and downs, then a descent to the sea. The beach is guarded by a barrier of driftwood, so be prepared to clamber a bit. You can head north to the headland there or south as we usually do. This means crossing the little stream that runs from the forest and across the sand to the sea. The best hiking is at low tide, below three feet at La Push, but we made our way south towards the high headlands there to see the little waterfall.

We didn’t make it as far as sometimes. The tide was a bit high, and we had left our shoes at the stream. We also had some company. A large cat had crossed the beach not long before us. That was our excuse at least.

The forest trail

The driftwood barrier

The mighty stream

Third beach, looking south

Our feline friend

The headland and seastacks

A hazy closeup of the waterfall

The view north

The forest experience

Green and twisted branch

Forest punctuation

Keywords: beaches, third beach, waterfall

06/05/13 - China Beach on Vancouver Island

We made a brief trip across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca and wound up exploring China Beach. It's the first access point for the coastal trail, but we didn't have time to explore far. Still, we did get down to the beach and wandered a bit. It's pretty country, so we're hoping to get back and explore more.

The forest

The trail down to the beach

A glimpse through the woods

The beach, looking one way

The beach, looking the other way

A stream heading down to the beach

View of the headlands

Local wild life

More wild life

A sea star

Leaving the beach

Keywords: victoria, beaches

07/12/12 - Second Beach

Second Beach is just south of La Push, and it's one of our favorite beaches. We took the 3/4 mile walk through the rain forest down to the beach. The trail was a bit muddy and the air still. As we approached the beach the air freshened, and we were greeted by the driftwood wall. There was a fair bit of driftwood, but a lot less than on our last visit. We had to climb, but a lot of the really big logs were washed back out to sea.

The beach was easy walking, just a broad sand plain. There seemed to be more sand than usual, and some of the rocks we'd see along the shore appeared to be more deeply buried than we remembered. This was particularly noticeable on narrow section of beach towards the sea cave with many familiar rocks less visible and a deeply cut stream channel running through the sand.

In contrast, the entrance to the sea cave was rocky. All of the sand there had washed out. The tide was low, but not a real low low tide, so we didn't visit the hidden beaches past the cave, though we could see a lot more rocks and a lot less sand.

We had a nice picnic lunch on the beach, and made our way home through the forest, pausing to admire the Treasure Tree which was sporting a variety of pretty stones, bright red berries and feathers. We're not sure who contributes, but they've done a great job. Unlike Rialto Beach nearby, Second Beach is a hidden beach, not visible from the road and a special treasure because of this.

Seastacks across the driftwood

Seastacks and the hole in the wall

Tide pools and lots of sand

Approach to the sea cave

A stream makes a deep cut in the sand.

The rocky sea cave entrance and more seastacks

View from the sea cave entrance

Staircase home

The Treasure Tree with feathers, berries, stones

More of the Treasure Tree, the main stash

The big candelabrum tree - impressive, even with one arm broken

Keywords: beaches, la push, second beach

07/26/10 - Sand Reckoning

We noted a while back that this does not seem to be a good year for sand on beaches, or on the Dungeness Spit. Still, the low tides tantalized us, so we went back, and this time there was a lot more sand. That made for easier walking. On our previous visit, we stumbled over rocks and stones. This time, we could just walk. Like many things this year, the sand was delayed.

The Dungeness Spit

Keywords: beaches, dungeness spit

03/27/10 - Long Beach, Astoria and Environs

We recently took a trip to Long Beach in southern Washington, not far from the Oregon border. We took some pictures, ate some good food and learned a lot about the Columbia River, the Coast Guard and the Lewis and Clark expedition. Follow some of the links to the right to see some of our photos.

A glimpse of the beach

The long beach at Long Beach

A wilder day

Leadbetter Point State Park - a forest walk

Astoria, Oregon, from a pier

The lightship Columbia at the Columbia River Maritime Museum

The river inlets near Fort Clatsop

Trilliums at Fort Clatsop

The barbequed oysters of South Bend

Keywords: oregon, oysters, restaurants, beaches, trillium

11/13/09 - Second Beach and Winter

We took advantage of a brief break in the clouds and a good afternoon tide to visit Second Beach, one of our favorite West End beaches and well under a 90 minute drive from Port Angeles. We made our muddy way through the woods and encountered our first surprise at the beach. We had been expecting the usual clamber from the trail access to the beach proper, but all but a few of the logs were gone. Just as they had been mysteriously washed ashore some years back, they had been washed out to sea some time since our last visit in July.

We arrived to mixed cloudy skies and a falling tide, but to the west we could see the clouds and pillars of rain closing. We sat on a log and ate our tuna salad sandwiches from Good To Go. A fellow visitor warned us the weather was changing. Then we headed south along the beach. The sky grew grayer and darker. The water was a bit high to make it to the sea cave and the wind was rising from the south. We turned about and headed back. The drizzle started, then turned to rain. At least we didn't have a monkey playground of wet logs to clamber over. We dodged to the muddy safety of the woods and made our way home.

A real weather sky

You can see the rain showers coming in.

The sky was mixed when we arrived.

The sky turned gray as we explored.

More gray skies.

How the trail access looks now - just a few logs

How it looked before - lots of logs

Keywords: beaches, good to go, second beach, weather

09/16/09 - Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach is perhaps a two hour drive from Port Angeles. We haven't been there in fifteen years. For some reason, Second Beach and Rialto Beach, which are closer, keep getting in the way. A few days ago we set out to remedy this and visited Ruby Beach again. It was a gray day, as so many are around here, but the beach was as beautiful as ever. It gets its name from the garnet in the sand there.

Ruby Beach isn't the longest beach in the area. We spent about half an hour exploring. Still, it is one of the gems of Olympic National Park.

The view from the trail down to the beach

The river and seastacks

The view south

The forest meets the sea

The view north

Wild seastacks and driftwood

Abbey Island with its light house

The rain forest

A sunnier view of the scene

Keywords: ruby beach, beaches

07/31/09 - Rialto Beach

Second Beach is probably our favorite beach on the West End, but now and then we like to get down to Rialto Beach for a bit of variety. It's an easier hike. There's no climb through the coastal forest and no clambering over driftwood. You just park, and you are on the beach.

This time the beach was shrouded with Pacific fog, as it often is in the summer. The seastacks were invisible until we were nearly upon them. There was a lot of driftwood, but it was generally piled up high on the beach, even with a high low tide. In another sign of summer, the little river about a mile from the parking lot ran under the sand to the sea. Most of the year we have to ford the stream, but this time we walked right over it without even noticing.

We made it as far as the first headland climb, up into the rain forest. It was almost like climbing a ladder made of tree roots. At the top, we could look through the foliage and see the rocky outcrop that jutted out to the sea like a lost Mayan temple in some adventure romance. We turned around there. We like our adventures, but we like them bite sized.

The view north

Lots of driftwood this year

Our favorite seastacks

The Mayan temple

The trail to the lost temple

Tide pools

The view south

Keywords: beaches, rialto beach, summer, little river

07/09/08 - Second Beach: To The Seastack

We've been visiting Second Beach for a number of years now, so we've been tantalized by the big seastack that lurks offshore just a bit south of the trailhead inland. Since we usually visit Second Beach at low tide, it often seems as if we could just walk right out to this seastack. Of course, every time we have approached we have found a channel of water blocking us. Sometimes it is fairly wide, but other times we are thwarted by a mere ten feet of choppy water of uncertain depth and current.

This July 9th was different. This time no confounding body of water appeared as we approached the seastack. Yes, the sand was wet, but we were able to approach the base of the seastack dryshod. The low tide was 0.8 feet, but we had been to Second Beach with lower tides. It took a combination of low tide and sand flow to create the miraculous sandbar we traversed.

The base of the seastack was a jewel box of mussles and barnicles and lesser shells, here and there decorated with dazzling star fish. There were little caves, some worn into the stone and plain, others decorated like the seastack base. We made our way around the seastack, away from the beach. By carefully timing the waves we made it to the small beach between the large landward seastack and the smaller seastack behind it. We explored a bit, admiring our own adventurousness, our good fortune, and the wonderful scenery.

Not ones to press our luck, we made our way back after a brief sojourn, and explored the beachward face of the seastack. We have seen people climbing seastacks, and we considered climbing this one, but we Kalebergs have more the grace of gazebos than gazelles, so we settled for a sea level tour.

Our return to the beach along the sandbar was straightforward. This is just as well. We always like to be able to retrace our steps. We then explored Second Beach to the south, wandering about the Pirate Cave and gawking at anemones in the various tidepools. When we returned to the sandbar that led to the seastack the tide had risen. A fair bit of the sandbar was already submerged. We had seized our opportunity. Time and tide, we knew, wait for no man.

Our miraculous sandbar

Seastacks are each a little world, isolated from our own. High above us grow forests, grasses, vines and, so we have been told, wild strawberries.

Our treacherous passage to the seaward seastack showing the mosaic of shells lining the base of the seastack.

A mysterious cave

A decorated cave

The surface is studded with shells and adorned with starfish.

More starfish waiting out the tide

Keywords: beaches, second beach, tides, kale

   Older Entries