Photo Gallery: Backpacking the Wild Olympic Coast

By Michael Lanza

You can’t order fried seafood or buy a T-shirt anywhere along the 73 miles of seashore of Olympic National Park. What you will find is the longest strip of wilderness coastline in the contiguous United States, home to seals, sea lions, sea otters, bald eagles, tufted puffins, and many seabirds, and humpback, gray, minke, and blue whales. Salmon spawn in wild rivers. Up and down the coast, scores of stone pinnacles—called sea stacks—rise as much as 200 feet out of the ocean. It’s one of the few remaining pieces of ocean-view real estate in the Lower 48 that Lewis and Clark or Capt. George Vancouver would recognize.

On a three-day, 17.5-mile backpacking trip on the southern stretch of the Olympic coast, from the Hoh River north to La Push Road, my family camped on the wilderness beach, explored tide pools and boulders coated with mussels, sea stars, and sea anemones, and walked through one of Earth’s largest virgin temperate rainforests, where Sitka spruce and western red cedar grow to 150 feet tall, with diameters of 10 or 15 feet, and Douglas fir and western hemlock soar well over 200 feet.

It’s still one of my kids’ favorite trips and one of my top 10 family adventures.

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Get a sense of that adventure from the photo gallery below, and then read my full story from that trip, which has many more photos and a video.

See also menus of all of my stories about family adventures, Olympic National Park, and national park adventures at The Big Outside.

Do you like The Big Outside? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by a USA Today Readers Choice poll and others. Subscribe for updates about new stories and free gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of this story, at the top of the left sidebar, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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4 thoughts on “Photo Gallery: Backpacking the Wild Olympic Coast”

  1. Dear Michael, Your blog is great. I wanted to get your advice, but I can’t work out how to pay you – the paypal click through doesn’t bring up your details, and doesn’t find you on search.
    Anyway, we have 2 children 11 and 13 who can do a lot when they are interested, and we have from 11-19 august in the Vancouver/Seattle area with a car. We’re from England so can only rent camping equipment. We’re not experienced hikers (I used to do some walking) and I’m looking for a good place to stay where we can do day hikes, such as near Mt Baker. Is that a good idea, and also, are there any guides we can ask to go with us, as that makes a huge difference to the childrens’ motivation?
    This trip you describe is I think too much for our family.
    Thanks, Judith

    • Hi Judith,

      Thanks for your nice words about my blog. Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I just returned from a family trip to Costa Rica and I’m now catching up on emails and blog post comments.

      Washington is one of the best states for dayhiking and backpacking, and there’s a wealth of great hiking in the Mt. Baker area. Scroll down to Washington on my All Trips Listed By State page ( for ideas. Yes, Google hiking guides in Washington, I believe you’ll find many.

      When you click the Support button at The Big Outside, a PayPal window should open. If you have an account, you can log in; if not, you can make a payment in any amount using a credit card. Please let me know if that doesn’t work if you try it again.


  2. We did this backpacking trip a few weeks ago and used your article to help us plan our trip. We ended up doing an out and back from Third beach down to Toleak Pt and then back because of the ocean swell and the rangers recommended that we don’t go from Oil City – although we wish we did now because the swell didn’t even come to pass. It was still amazing all three of our kids loved it. So fun!