Destination PNW: La Push/Second Beach

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Where the coast meets the trail… our third installment in a series covering the best hiking destinations in the Pacific Northwest.

One of the irrefutable natural glories of Washington state is its coastline. Though not readily accessible by usual standards, the nearly 3 hr drive from Seattle is a nature seeker’s paradise and oh so worth your time, especially the scenic and rugged Second Beach, located next to the town of La Push. The town is home to the Quileute Indian Reservation, and offers scenic views of their sacred James Island, as well as places to eat, stroll and surfer-watch.

The entrance to Second Beach is unassuming and sneaks up on you, barely noticeable if not for the overflow of cars parked on the side of the road. As you begin the slow and winding 0.7 mile-hike towards the ocean, though not yet visible, the moisture in the air is palpable. Being so close to the water, the wind has eroded away much of the dirt at the base of the spruce and red cedar trees, exposing their roots in house-like formations.  It’s not unlike wandering through a fantastical village, waiting to be greeted by a fairy or troll at any given moment.

After winding along the forest, the trail begins a rapid 200 ft decent surrounded high on all sides by vibrant greens to the water below, still hidden from view.  Once or twice, peeking through the trees, you get a glimpse of the enormous rock formations or “sea stacks” protruding from the sand, standing at attention to greet you.

As you reach the threshold to the beach, your path is obstructed by skeletons of rainforest conifers long since washed ashore. Though making your way over and through the piles of drift logs can be a little challenging, as the panorama comes into full view you are pulled into a world where the capability of nature becomes intimidatingly apparent, and all there is to do is stand in awe.

Be sure to wade through the tide pools that offer up a glimpse of local sea life, and please take a moment to look up — it’s not uncommon to catch a glimpse of bald eagles flying overhead. Second Beach, in addition to the equally intriguing First and Third Beaches, also serve as popular campgrounds upon which adventurous souls descend to claim a spot among the drift logs for a few days in summer. Join them for a week or an hour – either way, I dare you to walk away from Second Beach unmoved and unchanged.