Rialto Beach Hike
Washington State Coast
Olympic National Park
Rialto Beach is located on the West Coast of Washington in the Olympic National Park. It is known for its hiking trails, tide pools, and “Hole in the Wall, a sea arch that is literally a hole for you to pass through (only during a low tide) to continue on to the trail. The trail to Hole in the Wall is about a mile and a half.
(Edmonds Beach, Ferry)
To get there I chose the northern route. From Edmonds to Kingston (ferry), then through Port Gamble (which I found to be a very quaint little town), Sequim, Port Angeles, into Olympic National Park, and continued on until we reached the coast about 12 miles north of Forks. It was a very nice drive through places I hadn’t been in quite a few years.
(Port Gamble sunrise)
I found this beach while looking for photos of tide pools, and stumbled upon a wonderful photographer who had taken beautiful shots of the beach at low tide. One particular photo stood out in my mind and I had to keep going back to view it. The photo was of a large boulder completely covered in colorful Ochre Sea Stars. There were dozens of purple, orange and red starfish clinging to this rock like they were trying to desperately hang on while uncovered and exposed to the air. The morning fog hadn’t lifted yet, and a monstrous sea stack is standing quite a distance behind shrouded in the fog. If you would like to view this photo here is the link:
I was so struck by this photo I knew I had to see this amazing place. I researched it and found quite a bit of information along with many photos by professional photographers. Obviously this is a popular site for photographers.
I made immediate plans for the following weekend to drive out there for the day (I know, I can be quite impulsive when I get the chance to visit incredible places) and tried to schedule it for the lowest tide of the day which was at 9:18 am. I mapped out my trip and chose the Edmonds Ferry to Kingston at 5:45 am. It gave us an hour to get to Edmonds which I thought was much more than we needed until I saw the construction traffic on I-5. Yes, we missed the ferry.
(Probably the ferry we misssed on its way back to Edmonds)
I wasn’t worried since I thought another one left at 6:30 am, but soon found out that the next one was at 7:10 am since I missed the little dot on the schedule indicating that on Saturdays they do not run the 6:30 ferry. *Another lesson learned, pay attention to the asterisks and dots on the ferry schedule.
So the driving time from Kingston to Rialto Beach was about 3 hours. The lowest tide ( a modest 1.6) was at 9:18 and our missed ferry caused us not to get to the beach until 10:30 am. We also needed time to actually hike the mile and a half to the tide pools. So my perfect day was obviously not going as planned, but I still remained eager to see this beautiful beach.
We arrived about the time I anticipated and we immediately started our short hike to “Hole in the wall.” There were quite a few backpackers which created an instant jealousy since I would only be there for the day and probably wouldn’t venture onto the longer trails.
I forgot to mention that Rialto beach is the most accessible of the beaches in this area. There is a paved parking lot that leads right to the beach and leads you north on the beach trail. There was a park ranger instructing people of the tides and when they should return in order to not become stuck past Hole in the Wall, which I am sure everyone who didn’t have a tide table appreciated greatly.
There are other wild beaches (First beach, Second Beach and Third Beach. Couldn’t they think of more dramatic names? ) along this stretch that are only accessible by trails and they are as amazing as Rialto Beach as well as adventurous.
Not everyone headed for the sea stacks and tide pools, there were many folks content with being on the beach watching the pelicans and the waves crashing. I took my mother and oldest daughter with me that day and we decided it would be best for my mom to remain at the beginning of the trail near the parking lot and bathrooms. I was worried that she would become bored but to my surprise she had a wonderful time looking for colorful stones, and enjoying the magnificence of this beach.
We headed down the beach with our cameras and our enthusiasm only to find out that the tide was coming back in quite quickly. I asked someone on their way back if the tide pools were still visible and they said there were quite a few especially by Hole in the wall. We picked up our speed and eventually made it to some large rock formations that had been smoothed by the ocean.
There were small gullies in the rock that contained some starfish and some bright green anemones. Not as much as I was expecting but still very cool. At this point the sea stacks are towering over us and the waves are crashing against the rocks.
The fallen logs were strewn about the beach and it looks as though they were windswept by the violent pacific storms that are so common here.
Did I mention the pelicans? There were so many pelicans diving into the water for fish. This was an amazing sight for someone like me who grew up in the dry old Valley in California and never saw a pelican before.
As we got closer to Hole in the Wall it became evident that the tide had made it impassible. We tried to be daring by climbing along the rock as the waves crashed at us but I regained my senses after my North Face hiking shoes became submerged in the ocean. Fortunately these shoes are so amazing that I didn’t feel the wetness at all. I bought these particular shoes for small hikes and for outdoor use. I use my REI hiking boots for more rugged hiking and I am very satisfied with both. I highly recommend both brands.
My daughter trying to reach Hole in the Wall.
After telling ourselves that it was okay that we didn’t reach our destination since we would definitely be coming back for a backpacking trip, we headed back. We took our time and enjoyed the beach, took some photos and had a wonderful time watching the professional photographers (my dream profession) with their first rate equipment and amazing cameras.
My daughter taking some great photos
The tide was coming in very quickly and a few moments of inattention caused us to again be caught off guard by waves. Never turn your back on the ocean when the tide is coming back in.
Ultimately the day turned out not how I planned but amazing even so. I can’t describe in words how incredible the beach is even though it was overcast and not so favorable for photos. The towering sea stacks with a tree perched on the top is a site you have to see for yourself.
The sound of the crashing waves progressively getting more violent is a sound I wish I could bottle up. The overall feeling of being on what they call a “wild beach” was thrilling. I can’t wait until I can be one of the many backpackers we saw heading out over the headlands to venture as far up the beach as they care to. In fact, I already have plans to be there for the lowest tides next May and June when they will be as low as -2.7. I might actually get to see that amazing boulder covered with Ochre Sea Stars.
* For tide tables click the tide predictions link under blogroll. This particular tide would be listed under La Push/Quillayute River in the Grays Harbor category.