Backpack from Third Beach Trailhead to Toleak Point
Duration: 2 days/1 night, 9/3 - 9/4
Distance: 12.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,028 feet
Trailhead: Third Beach Trailhead
After our hike to Mount Storm King Alex and I drove to the Third Beach Trailhead to begin our 6.4 mile hike to Toleak Point. High tide was scheduled for 2pm so we set out from the trailhead at 4pm. This would ensure the tide would be low by the time we reached a few stretches of beach and the headlands that require a low tide for crossing.
The first 1.35 miles of the hike were spent descending 275' through a lush forest before the trees broke and we found ourselves on Third Beach and were treated to our first views of the stunning Olympic Coast. We walked along the beach until we came to the first headland, which was designated by a target sign on a tree. To pass over the headland we had to climb up nearly vertical bluffs using ropes and ladders provided by the park service. After making our way past the obstacles we were back in the forest again and would spend the next mile there. At 2.8 miles the trail descended quickly to a beach just south of Taylor Point. After the first headland we were grateful to be walking on the level and easily navigable beach again.
This is the portion of the hike that can only be done at low tide. We walked along the beach until we reached the second headland trail at Scotts Bluff. Once again we hauled ourselves up the headland using ropes. This headland was much steeper than the first, but luckily the bluff was at least dry, I can't imagine attempting to scale that bluff when it's muddy, which is probably a majority of the time!
For the third time on this hike we found ourselves under the cover of a lush forest. This time we only walked through the woods for 0.3 miles before we descended via numerous, slick, stairs to another beach: Scott Creek Camp. Finally, at mile 3.7 we were out of the woods and it was a smooth walk to Toleak Point at mile 6.4.
We arrived to Toleak Point with just enough time to set up our tent before the sun started to set and the sky transitioned into golden hour. Watching the sky illuminate the sea stacks just beyond the beach was a beautiful sight. The tide was slowly ebbing out, revealing more rocks as it retreated further and further into the ocean.
After sunset we ate a quick dinner and then went to the tent for a short nap before we would attempt night photography. Too soon our alarm was going off and we were back on the beach, this time the sky dotted with millions of twinkling stars. We walked along the beach to a sea stack we saw earlier that we had our eye on for the perfect foreground for Milky Way photos. As we walked along the beach we were accompanied by a gaze (a very fitting term) of raccoons that were watching us from the edge of the forest, only betrayed by their glowing eyes in the otherwise dark landscape. We spent an hour or so capturing the stars and Milky Way moving across the horizon, Alex taking a timelapse and I capturing star trails.
Finally, we began the walk back to our tent, once again being watched by curious raccoons. The raccoons are one of the reasons it is so important to store your food in a bear canister on the Olympic Coast. While bears can also get into your food, it's the ingenious raccoons that so often cause problems. Thankfully we kept all our food and scented items in a bear canister so no raccoons could get their greedy paws on it.
We woke in the morning to fog rolling over the ocean and sea stacks. It was eerie and perfectly moody PNW scene. We took a few sunrise photos and began packing up. Low tide was scheduled for 9:00am so we wanted to get an early start so we could complete most of the hike at low tide. By the time we began the trek back to the trailhead the sun had risen and most of the fog and clouds had cleared, we were once again going to have a sunny hike!
At 11:00am we were back in the car, kicking off our shoes. It was another successful hike! One of the things Alex and I continuously wondered on the hike was how the towering sea stacks were formed. According to the park service sea stacks are erosion-resistant rocks that have stood the test of relentless waves. While weaker rock broke away and fell into the ocean, the resilient rocks stood strong. Over time, as weaker rock continued to fall the rock that remained became isolated from the mainland and thus: sea stacks!
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Special notes: Bear canisters are required for this backpacking trip. They keep bears away but also prevent smaller mammals such as raccoons and mice from becoming nuisances and getting into your food. If you don't have your own canister you can rent one from the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center. Also, carry a tide map and know how to use it. Portions of this hike are only doable at low tide!
Required permits: You do need a backcountry permit for this hike and you can pick one up the day of your trip from the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles. You cannot reserve a backcountry permit in advance, but there is no limit to permits granted so you don't have to worry about being turned away.
Gear to pack:
- The 10 essentials
- Sleeping bag, pad, tent
- Rain gear
- Gloves to protect your hands when ascending and descending the ropes on the headland trails
- Bear canister
- Water filter
Trailhead: Third Beach Trailhead
SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK HERE!