Olympic National Park – Part 2: Pacific Coast Beaches

Days 37-39 (September 4-6)
Olympic National Park, Washington: Kalaloch Beach, Ruby Beach, Beach 4

“Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refuges of a long war.” — Loren Eiseley

Kalaloch Beach to Beach 1 Olympic National Park
Kalaloch Beach to Beach 1

Kalaloch Campground and Beach are lauded in online reviews and by other travelers that we meet as must-visit area of Olympic National Park. Kalaloch certainly exceeds our already high expectations!

The campground sits on a bluff above the beach in lush forest. Campsite sizes vary widely, and large RVs have their own loop.

Our perfect site at Kalaloch campground, Olympic National Park
Our perfect site at Kalaloch campground

There are even a few tiny sites right on the bluff with open views of the beach and sunsets. Arriving at 10am, we just missed those view sites but were able to snag a big site just adjacent with our own little patch of forest and a constant concert of waves to lull us to sleep each night. 

Foggy day on the bluff above Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
On the bluff above Ruby Beach. So foggy!

An afternoon drive north to Ruby Beach for low tide immerses us in thick, atmospheric fog. We haven’t seen pictures of this beach, and as such a leisurely walk through the pea soup air slowly unveils how just many sea stacks are here, including the magnificent vegetation-covered Abbey Island.

Ruby Beach Abbey Island in the fog Olympic National Park
Ruby Beach: Abbey Island in the fog

Crowd averse as we usually are, on a foggy day like this fellow visitors add to the experience versus detracting from it, by appearing as tiny moving dots in the distance.

Ruby Beach Abbey Island in the fog Olympic National Park

Rock formations at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Today’s conditions are perfect for testing out our new-old-stock weatherproof WP-1 film camera.

Testing out the weatherproof Canon WP-1 35mm film camera
Testing out the weatherproof WP-1 camera

In the tide pools of a sea stack north of Abbey Island we find a healthy population of urchins and mollusks, but sadly now only a few starfish. Damn that wasting disease.

Tide pools at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
Tide pools at Ruby Beach
Mollusks n tide pools at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
Millions of mollusks at Ruby Beach
Starfish Sea Star at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
Starfish at Ruby Beach

From Ruby Beach we drive south to Beach 4 in search of more tide pools. We are too late to see them today, but the fog has cleared in this area and we enjoy some warm sunshine.

Beach 4, Olympic National Park
Beach 4

One thing we notice about Olympic’s coastline is how thick the fog can be in one area and sublimely clear nearby, almost appearing to have a demarcation line.

Beach 4, Olympic National Park

The skies at Beach 4 are sunny again the next day when we return to the beach in time for low tide. Access to this beach is via a .2 mile hike downhill through rainforest (that’s the easy part) to overlook the beach, then a short scramble down a boulder to access the beach.

Beach 4, Olympic National Park

Beach 4 ends up being one of my favorite beaches of the many that we visit during this trip. There are no dramatic sea stacks but also no hoards of people.

Tide pools at Beach 4, Olympic National Park
Tide pools at Beach 4
Tide pools at Beach 4, Olympic National Park
Starfish in Beach 4 tide pools

Although Kalaloch’s massive 1,000 year old Big Cedar Tree fell in 2014, it’s still worth turning off Hwy 101 to take the short hike around the legendary tree’s remains. Be sure to take the 1/4 mile trail from the twisty, rooty stump through a grove of surviving ancient western red cedars.

Big Cedar tree stump at Kalaloch Olympic National Park
Marsi admires the big cedar stump at Kalaloch

At Kalaloch beach, access is easier than most other beach approaches in the southern part of the park. The campground is 1/2 mile from the charming Kalaloch Lodge, which overlooks a meandering freshwater creek leading down to a long, wide sandy beach.

Viewing Kalaloch Lodge from the beach, Olympic National Park
Kalaloch Lodge
The walk from Kalaloch Beach to Beach 1, Olympic National Park
The sublime walk from Kalaloch Beach to Beach 1

The store at Kalaloch Lodge has reasonable prices on beer and wine, and the lodge’s public grounds offer games such as tetherball (hello 1980!) and ladder golf. Some of the cabins directly overlook the beach. Imagine watching spectacular sunsets from those Adirondack chairs, pup by your side, adult beverage in hand…

Kalaloch Cabin, Olympic National Park
Kalaloch Cabins
Photographing Kalaloch Lodge at the magic hour Olympic National Park
Kalaloch Lodge at the magic hour
Sunset at Kalaloch Beach Olympic National Park
Sunset at Kalaloch Beach

Visit the links below to see our entire journey through Olympic National Park.

Part 1: Quinault & Hoh Rainforests
Part 3: Rialto Beach, Lake Crescent, Sol Duc Valley
Part 4: Hurricane Ridge & Port Angeles

To catch up on all of our Washington travels so far, click here to see our series of Washington posts

***Curious where else we’ve been? Click here to check out our list of parks visited.***





8 Replies to “Olympic National Park – Part 2: Pacific Coast Beaches”

  1. You mention in several posts that you avoid the “hoards of people”. There were several places we didn’t go to because they were way too crowded. Jasper was fine except for the town of Jasper. I have been to Lake Louise before and looked forward to another walk around the lake but when we went into town for gas we saw that the parking lot for the lodge was full. We decided not to go back the next day. Wilderness ceases to be wilderness when there are hundreds of people present.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the tips! It’s nice to read that Jasper NP wasn’t overcrowded. In a few years I hope to take 6 weeks to do Canadian Rockies/Alaska trip.

      Sometimes I’m torn between hitting the “best” spots in a park and just seeking out solitude on a hike or drive that may be slightly less spectacular (but still incredibly beautiful). My husband backpacked in Zion 15 years ago in the (particularly then) lightly traveled Kolob Canyon area, but Kolob was closed last fall when we were in the area, and I wasn’t in the mood for the crowds in Zion Canyon. Perhaps I need to make a winter trip!

      A Yosemite ranger told me that Yosemite Valley doesn’t have a real off-season either, though Tioga Road was practically deserted in late September (just before its seasonal closure). It was wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the CA Rockies were especially busy this year because last year was a bad travel year because of fires. We really enjoy travel after Labor Day because there are less people. Lake Louise is really worth seeing but I decided to hold my memories from 18 years ago. We did a hike up Mt. Robson on our last trip and that was wonderful – put it on your list.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow – Mt. Robson looks incredible! Thank you for the wonderful recommendation!

        I’m you are correct – a lot of people cancelled their parks trips last year. Those fires last year were awful. We re-routed several times due to fires and completely cancelled our Glacier NP visit because it caught on fire 3 days before we were scheduled to arrive. I’m so glad this year has been a much less active fire season.

        Liked by 1 person

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