Above: Black tailed deer and other animals travel along the beaches in Olympic NP. Photo by Ashley Hill.
Wilderness Coast, Section 10
A maritime climate and low elevation offer an extended season along the Wilderness Coast, one of the most popular sections of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Towering sea stacks, coastal forests, and countless tide pools—brimming with marine life—are iconic of this rugged coastline, which is visited by many, but traversed by only a hardy few.
Along this route, rugged beaches and rocky headlands create a unique coastal adventure. Some headlands become impassable, except at low tide in fair weather, while others may only be crossed using steep overland trails and rope ladders.
In this section, westbound thru-hikers get their first chance to dip their toes in the Pacific Ocean, camp on sandy beaches, and watch the sun set behind sea stacks and islands, which are teeming with seals, sea otters and other marine life.
Cape Alava is a popular destination for backpackers of all ages and abilities. Here, along the shores of the Pacific, hundreds of barking sea lions and laughing gulls celebrate each passing day with the jubilant soundtrack of animal life.
As the westernmost point in the continental United States, Cape Alava makes an ideal location for the western terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Whether a crown-to-coast adventure is inspired by this setting—or comes to a triumphant end here—all visitors can take in the grandeur of the Northwest from the Park’s beachside campsites.
Forks, WA to Cape Alava
64 mi (103 km)
Highest Point: 1,004’ Primary
Elevation Gain/ Loss: +5,684’ / -5,890’
- Notable wildlife: black bears, sea otters, harbor seals, tide pools
- Cape Alava
- Rialto Beach
- Quilayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge
- Quileute Indian Reservation
Today, the PNT offers an experience that may be more challenging and rugged than it will be a generation from now. Until then, making the effort to be fully prepared for an adventure on the PNT is key to having a safe and enjoyable trip.
The PNT travels through some of our wildest public lands. These special places are home to animals iconic of wilderness, and species found nowhere else. By following the regulations of our National Parks and National Forests, you can help keep wildlife wild and the backcountry safe on the PNT.
Getting to and from the Pacific Northwest Trail is part of the adventure – America’s wildest National Scenic trail is located in some of the most remote mountain ranges of the Northwest and logistics are part of the challenge.
A visit to the undiscovered communities of the Northwest is a fun part of any trip on the PNT. From rugged mountain towns, to historic seaside cities, the diverse communities visited by the trail provide a peek into the lifestyles unique to the Northwest.
The weather and climate across the trail corridor can vary greatly by geographic area, elevation, and season. The major mountain ranges of the PNT create rain shadows. This effect creates drier and warmer east sides, that can approach desert-like climates, and much cooler and wetter west sides that include rain forests.
“Against the Grain” is the unofficial slogan of the PNT, with good reason. This rugged, 1,200 mile route climbs over seven mountain ranges and it presents some unique challenges along the way. For those uncomfortable with hazardous situations, there are many trails on the PNT that are accessible to a wide range of visitors.
The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail travels through many different public and private lands. You can help to protect our natural resources, and the quality of the experience. Respect private property and learn the regulations of the area you are visiting.