About the Wilderness Coast Trail

United States
117 km(73 mi)
Type of trail

Difficulty is highly personal. Be aware of the weather conditions as bad weather turns easier trails in difficult trails especially in the mountains.


Lodging means a mix of hotels, hostels or AirBnB’s.

Coastal, Forest, Hills
Most of the time
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The Wilderness Coast Trail is a remote and rugged section of the Pacific Northwest Trail located along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. It has two variations: the North Coast and the South Coast routes. Each is a unique hiking experience with different landscapes and challenges.

The North Coast route is from Shi Shi Beach to Rialto Beach. This section of the trail covers approximately 20 miles and is characterized by its rocky headlands interspersed with sandy and pebble beaches. You’ll need to be mindful of tides here as several portions of the trail can only be passed at low tide. The South Coast route stretches from the Oil City trailhead to Third Beach, covering roughly 17 miles. This trail segment includes the famous stretches near Toleak Point and beaches like Scott’s Bluff and Strawberry Point. Like the North Coast, this route includes several overland trail sections to bypass cliffs and rocky outcroppings, which are also dependent on tide levels.


Phillip Eilmer profile photo

Philipp Eilmer

Philipp Eilmer was born in Austria, a country known for the breathtaking landscapes of the Alps and unspoiled nature. He thrives in the outdoors and his curiosity leads him to explore the wonders of nature by foot. He loves the untamed trails of North America and finds solace under the beauty of star-covered skies, whether sleeping in his tent or embracing the rugged simplicity of cowboy camping. You can follow Philipp on Instagram @phips_snowcat

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The Trail

North Coast

This route of the Wilderness Coast Trail is known for its dramatic coastal scenery, featuring sea stacks, tide pools, and offshore islands. The area is known for its natural arches and caves carved out by the ocean. The untouched, wild feel of the coastline, combined with the dense coastal forests that occasionally kiss the beaches, makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

However, navigating the North Coast route requires careful planning around the tidal schedule. You will need to climb over headlands using ropes or ladders and trek through occasionally thick beach debris (like large driftwood). The weather can change rapidly, and the remote nature of the trail means that you must prepare for self-sufficiency.

South Coast

The South Coast is renowned for its more accessible sandy beaches compared to the North Coast. You’ll find that highlights include dramatic cliff views, expansive beaches, and coastal forests that reach almost to the shoreline. The beaches are often broader and more open than those on the North Coast, offering easier hiking conditions.

Although slightly less rugged than the North Coast, the South Coast Trail still presents challenges such as navigating tide-dependent areas and dealing with muddy, slippery trails during wet conditions. The hike involves several headland crossings that require ropes or ladders, and like its northern counterpart, it requires careful tidal and weather planning.

Finally, Cape Alava stands as a beacon for hikers of all skill levels, a haven along the Pacific shores. Here, the chorus of barking sea lions and laughing gulls welcomes you, creating a symphony of wildlife against the backdrop of endless ocean horizons.


4-stage itinerary

Stage 1:

Oil City Trailhead – Hole in the Wall, 35 km | 21.7 mi

(Here it is important to organize a shuttle that brings you from Second Beach to the Northern Part of the Trail)

Stage 2:

Hole in the Wall – Norwegian Memorial, 30 km | 18.6 mi

Stage 3:

Norwegian Memorial – Cape Alava, 30 km | 18.6 mi

Stage 4:

Cape Alava – Shi Shi Beach, 25 km | 15.5 mi



When you hike the Wilderness Coast Trail, you’ll camp in designated areas where you need to apply for a permit beforehand. These spots can be either directly on the beach or in forest areas. Some of them are really desolate and empty while others are really busy and accessible by road. A bear canister is strictly necessary. In summer you have to make sure to apply for a permit early enough to get a spot to camp.

Coastal Camping: Camping along the wilderness coast is an experience in itself. From Yellow Banks to Point of the Arches, permits are limited, and reservations are essential. While beach camping offers a unique experience, forested campsites are also available, although there are fewer. Remember to store your food in bear canisters and practice Leave No Trace principles.

Best time of the year

The best time of the year to hike the Wilderness Coast Trail is from May to October. Be aware that Washington winters are very wet with a lot of rain and strong storms and winds that can significantly elevate tides. Rain can also occur during summer a lot.

Safety & Gear

Tell family or friends about your hiking plans, including details such as your anticipated start and end times, which route you chose, and emergency contact information.

Stay updated on weather conditions in the area you plan to hike. Especially in Washington on the coast, where things can change at any minute. Avoid starting your hike during severe weather events such as thunderstorms, heavy rain, or extreme heat, which could jeopardize your safety.

Avoid high tide when rounding headlands, and maintain distance from hazardous objects washed ashore. Protect the wilderness by carrying out marine debris and refraining from building driftwood structures. Remember, the coast can get crowded, especially during peak seasons, so plan accordingly.

Hydration and nutrition are vital. Ensure you carry sufficient water—at least two liters—and energy-rich snacks to maintain your energy and prevent dehydration and exhaustion.

Familiarize yourself with the trail map and carry navigation tools such as a compass or GPS device to maintain your orientation and prevent getting lost.

Invest in appropriate hiking gear, which should include comfortable, supportive footwear; proper clothing such as warm base layers and a hardshell rain jacket; hiking poles; a well-fitted backpack; and essential equipment like maps, a GPS device (phones count, nowadays), and a first-aid kit. For a detailed gear list suitable for long-distance trails, refer to our comprehensive guide.

Adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace to minimize your environmental impact. Stay on designated trails, pack out all trash, and show respect for wildlife and natural habitats. This not only preserves the environment but ensures the trail remains pristine for future hikers.

Good to know

Make sure you book the camp permits in advance of hiking the Wilderness Coast Trail. It is essential to carry a tide chart with you since some passages are only passable during low tides. High tides may trap you on certain areas of the trail. In addition to that, you need to carry a bear canister with you. On this trail, it is not primarily for bears but to keep mice and other small animals from your food. And one of the most important things: Leave No Trace!

Routes and Permits

While Rialto Beach and Kalaloch beaches offer road access, most of the coast requires hiking to access. Remember, Wilderness Camping Permits are mandatory year-round and can be obtained through Recreation.gov or at designated ranger stations in Olympic National Park.

Point to point

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