Backpacking to Second Beach
TOTAL DISTANCE/ASCENT: 4 MILES AND 300 FT
REQUIRED PERMIT: YES
DOG FRIENDLY: NO
LOCATION: OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
RECREATION PASS: AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
I’ve wanted to go backpacking in the winter on the Olympic coast for a few reasons:
Less people (like no people)
Easier to get a permit
Would rather be in the mountains in the summer
Presidents Day weekend came and I found the one sliver of sunshine and it just so happened to be on the Olympic Coast. We debated doing Shi Shi or Second Beach. The first beach backpacking trip I did was The Ozette Loop to Yellow Banks, which you can read about here.
We ultimately chose Second beach for a couple of reasons.
Shi Shi in the winter is very muddy
Second Beach is 4 miles roundtrip while Shi Shi is 8
Shi Shi is an extra hour of driving each way
Shi Shi requires an extra permit and need to pay for parking on private property
I do want to hike Shi Shi eventually, but will probably save that for a spring adventure.
Getting to the Beach- A Ferry Ride, Permits and More
Any grand adventure to the peninsula always starts with a ferry ride. Our group of 6 and two cars took the 7:55 ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge.
After the 35 minute ferry ride, we arrived on Bainbridge Island. Next destination would be the ranger station in Port Angeles. This was a little over an hour from getting off of the ferry. We all met at the ranger station, picked up our permits and tide chart and went over other important details for the trip. You are also required to bring a bear can (because of the raccoons). We brought our own from home, but you can also rent them for free from the rangers station. With permit acquired, it was now time for the final part of the drive to the coast. From the ranger station to the coast was a little over an hour away as well.
We all made it to the gravel parking lot for Second Beach and put on our packs and hiking boots. There is a bathroom at the trailhead. This hike has to be one of the shortest distances for greatest payoffs. It was only a 20 minute walk through the forest and then we were at the coast.
We walked almost the entirety of the beach looking for a spot to call home for the night. We were concerned about the high tide coming up that night (11:30 PM) and how close it would get to our tents. We ended up walking back closer to the entrance to the beach and found a nice spot. Four of us decided to pitch our tents on the beach, while 2 others put their tent just above us on a little bluff. It was the lowest and highest tide that there would be all month. The low tide is great for exploring tide pools and finding little critters. It was hard to predict how high the high tide would come though. All of the sand was wet from previous rain, so there was no obvious line of how high it had come up before. We set up camp and then enjoyed ciders and all the delicious snacks ocean side.
Exploring Low Tide and Golden Hour
Dinner, Fire Time and Stargazing
Breakfast and Hiking Out
The high tide was coming back in again, so we packed our things up and then hiked out. We barely made it around one of the haystacks as the tide was coming in. Any later and we would’ve had to scramble over large, slippery driftwood instead.
After the 20 minute hike back to the car, we stopped in Port Angeles for lunch and then made our way back to the ferry terminal.
It’s quite the adventure to make it all the way to the Washington coast for backpacking, but 100% worth it. I’ve always said I’m a mountain girl over the ocean, but this coast trip has be appreciating what the coast has to offer as well.