Tucked away in the westernmost recesses of Olympic National Park, the Ozette area provides access to remote coastline; boasts the third-largest natural lake in the state; and is a birder’s paradise, where you may encounter peregrine falcons, marbled murrelets, Harlequin ducks, and a host of other feathered friends.
For those looking for an easy day hike to the beach, the roughly 3-mile long trails out to both Cape Alava (the western-most point in the contiguous 48 states) to the north, and Sand Point to the south are well-maintained and mostly boardwalk to protect the fragile wetland ecosystem, which makes the trails easily accessible to the entire family.
The points are very different. Cape Alava is rocky and rugged, with campsites nestled into grassy knolls above the rocks. Sand Point is wide-open sandy beach as far as the eye can see.
Both trails begin and end at the parking area near the Ozette ranger station and are approximately 3 miles long for a 6-mile roundtrip out and back. Adding the coastal section between the two points creates a triangle, which adds up to a nice 9.3-mile loop.
As you walk the mossy old-growth forest trails toward the beach, you may encounter deer, black bears, and other wildlife. Once you arrive on the beach, you may see playful otters frolicking in the surf, seals sunning themselves on the sand, and even migrating gray whales if you go at the right time of year. Don’t forget a camera and binoculars.
For those with a greater thirst for adventure, the full triangle makes a great backpacking trip. If you stay the night, you may awaken to the giggling sound of bald eagles in the trees overhead.
A wilderness permit is required and can be picked up, along with any last-minute road, trail, or weather information from the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles or the Visitor Center in Forks.
Rich in Culture and History
In addition to natural beauty, this area is rich in cultural resources. Wedding rocks, approximately 1-mile South of Cape Alava, has more than 40 boulders bearing images etched by the Makah and Ozette tribes about 300 years ago.
When you’re stopping at an information center to pick up your permit, ask for information sheets to assist you in locating and identifying the petroglyphs. As with any archaeological resource, please do not touch them; the oils from human skin can damage them.
North of Cape Alava, just past the old Makah ranger station, is the site of a former whaling village that was covered by a mudslide approximately 500 years ago; more than 60,000 artifacts were recovered from this site, many of which are on display at the Makah Tribal Museum at Neah Bay.
Get on the Water
For those who like to experience the wilderness from a canoe or kayak, there is a boat launch at the Ozette ranger station. It is a 4-mile paddle to Ericson’s Bay Camp. There is a National Park Service campground at Lake Ozette with 15 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis for those who want the comforts of car camping and/or a base of operation for several days of exploring.
Whether you prefer to day hike, backpack, car camp, or get in a boat and paddle, Ozette is an amazing, unspoiled area, rich in wildlife, scenery, and cultural history, that everyone should visit at least once.
Good to Know
- Pets are not allowed in Olympic National Park.
- Permits for overnight camping are required year-round; reservations are recommended between May 1 and Sept. 30.
- Hard-sided bear canisters are required for food storage. This area is home to rodents and raccoons that can tear up your tent or pack in search of a forgotten energy bar or bag of nuts. If you do not have your own bear canister, you can borrow one from the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles when you pick up your permit.
- Check the tides before your trip, and carry a tide chart. At low tide, you can walk along the shore and explore the boulders. At high tide, you need to get to higher ground. You will need to take the headlands trail and climb up over the formations. The headland trails are steep, and some areas have ropes to assist.
- For cabin rentals and other camping opportunities outside of the park, you can visit clallambay.com/