By Kristin Kruger
After seven years in Seattle, I had never truly explored the Olympic Peninsula until my boyfriend surprised me with an overnight backpacking trip to the coast. Our trail: The Ozette Triangle, an easy nine-mile loop with little elevation gain. The highly-accessible terrain makes it a great trail for families with children and the sights along the way are a terrific introduction to the Washington coastline for hikers of all skill levels. The whole trek can be completed as a day hike and The Lost Resort near the trailhead has cabins available for those who would rather not sleep outdoors.
As with any great escape, half the fun was getting there. Our excursion started with a ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. We parked our car on the lower level and scrambled up to the top deck to enjoy some fresh air. It was a beautiful, blue-sky day and we were treated to the sweeping views of Seattle’s skyline that always remind me just how lucky I am to live in this corner of the world.
Our route took us across Hood Canal and around the northern end of Olympic National Park. We made a quick stop at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles to pick up our camping permit and we were off again, skirting around beautiful Crescent Lake on our way to Ozette.
By the time we got to the trailhead, it was already 7 p.m.. Fortunately, it was mid-August which meant that the sun wouldn’t set for another two hours. The first stretch of the trail was a quick three-mile hike along an elevated boardwalk, designed to protect the rainforest floor from hikers and to protect the trail from intermittent rainforest flooding. We clipped along at a steady pace and soon enough the trees began to part and the smell of brine hung in the breeze. We had reached the ocean.
We had decided to make camp at Sand Point, the first point on our triangle loop. The campsite was already pretty busy for a Friday evening and most designated sites along the tree line were already occupied. Those with permits to Sand Point, however, are allowed to stake out a campsite on the south end of the beach. With all the families and children populating the tree line, the beach option offered a solitude that we were more than happy to accept. We fell asleep to the sound of the waves.
In the morning we peered out of our tent to see a heavy fog surrounding us. We took our time breaking camp, listening to the sound of the waves but not quite able to see them through the fog. The second stretch of our hike was a three-mile hike northward along the shoreline. Stretches of this trail are inaccessible at high tide, forcing hikers to take the alternate evacuation routes along the trees. We timed our hike to set off at low tide so we could take full advantage of staying on the beach.
We spent the morning searching for starfish and hermit crabs in the tide pools. A call from above drew our eyes skyward to spy a bald eagle as he soared over the surf. As we rounded a bend, we pulled up short, not wanting to startle the two deer who lounged on the sand like sunbathers. Sanderlings scattered at our footsteps and flew in erratic patterns along the rocks. The fog shifted throughout the day, clearing the coastline and hovering above the surface of the ocean a few miles off the shore. Toward late afternoon, we sat on the beach listening to the yips and barks of sea lions, playing just beyond our sight in the thicket of the fog bank.
Finally, it came time to leave. As we were picking our way along the rocks back to the trailhead, we came across a group of fellow hikers. “Did you see the petroglyphs?” they asked. I suppose I should have been disappointed that we missed them. But somewhere deep inside, my heart was smiling; They had just given us a reason to come back.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Since the trailhead is on national parkland, there are permits necessary to park at the trailhead as well as permits required for campsites.
- Hard-sided containers such as bear canisters are required for food storage along the coast. These are available to rent at the ranger station when you pick up your permit.
- Be aware of the tide cycles and set your camp above the high tide line. Tide charts are also available at the ranger station.
- No Campfires are allowed at Sand Point so be sure to pack a small camp stove if you plan on preparing a hot meal. If you require a campfire, consider purchasing your camp permit for Cape Alava instead.