We went backpacking to check out the Hole In The Wall on the Pacific Ocean at Olympic National Park, starting from Rialto Beach, on a beautiful day in late Summer.
This was the third beach hike we took during our weeklong visit to the park. Normally, wilderness permits are difficult to get in Olympic NP, but we lucked out by arriving after Labor Day weekend, and were able to get them at the last minute. We really love camping on the beach, so this was perfect.
We drove down to the parking area and got our backpacks ready. We only needed food for one night, and we also carried a gallon of water, just to make things simpler. It was only a short hike along the beach, so the extra weight was negligible to me. We locked the car, put on our packs, and started hiking.
The beach itself was largely composed of small polished stones and gravel. This made for very sloggy walking, with no firm footing anywhere, just stones sliding out of the way while your foot sinks downward. But it also was good for rock-skipping, as many of the stones were of the perfect discoid shape. Behind us to the south were several forested islands, arranged near the mouth of the Qullayute River. Very picturesque. It was the sort of coastline you expect to see in the Pacific Northwest.
The beach eventually turned to sand as we neared the Hole in the Wall. There were several tall rocky islets just before we got there, and we took a number of photos. The tide was rising but they were still accessible on foot. They were so large that getting decent pictures up that close was difficult.
According to our tide chart (which we received with our wilderness permit), the tide level was exactly at the point where access to the “Hole” itself was considered closed. Vicki didn’t even want to try it, so we decided to climb up and over the wall itself on a short bypass trail. Sadly, this trail was extremely steep, a scramble with loose dirt and roots to hold on to, and we climbed it with great reluctance. The views from up there were fantastic, however, and I took many photos and videos.
Once we reached the top, we realized that it was even steeper on the other side. So steep, in fact, that Vicki refused to go. She decided that braving the waves and tide was a safer and better plan. So we backtracked and headed toward the surfline along the wall. The waves were relatively small that day, and we watched a few other tourists to see what the story was before committing ourselves. It turned out to be mainly a matter of timing. We simply had to wait for a break in the waves, then hustle forward over the wet sand until we could clamber up onto some stone. Luckily the stone wasn’t slippery, and we got past the initial section without getting our shoes wet.
After that, it was time to visit the Hole, itself. There were plenty of people there, and why wouldn’t there be? It was a fun spot, relatively unique, and there were tidepools to check out, too. Good times. Everyone was friendly and having fun.
We passed on through the hole and continued north along the coast, which was mainly composed of sea-worn stone. Higher up was a beach of sloping sand, plus huge chunks of driftwood. These logs were far above the high tide mark, and must have been deposited there in previous years during Winter storms. There was no danger of that happening now, so we hiked along, looking for a good spot to set up camp. We could have hiked further, but why? We wanted to camp on the sand, and have a great view, if possible. The Hole in the Wall rated high in our determination as to what constituted a view.
We found a great spot, with soft sand, within a quarter mile of the Hole. This late in the day, with a rising tide, it meant that there were no more day-hikers venturing beyond the wall. We would have the place to ourselves. We set up the tent and hung out in the sun, reading our books and simply gazing out to sea. It was rather idyllic, in a lazy kind of way.
While we sat around, another backpacker arrived. He was on the final days of his Pacific Northwest Trail thru-hike, which had taken several months. We had a good time talking with him about the trail. We also gave him a liter of water, as he had accidently passed the only water source on the way to the wall. He set up camp just a few logs over, and that was fine with us, as he was a really nice guy.
Eventually, we tired of the boring life. After looking at the map, we decided to hike a bit further north, up to a rocky point along the coast. Vicki was hoping to see some of the islands that we’d camped at yesterday, near Cape Avala. This seemed like an obtainable goal, so off we went. We saw many tidepools along the way, as well as a freshwater trickle coming down to the beach from the high headland above us. We also saw a large heron, hunting in the still waters near the shore. Sadly, the views from the point didn’t turn out very well, as we had to do quite a bit of scrambling on big rocks now that the tide was higher, and we turned back toward camp. Oh well. No big loss, and the hike was still enjoyable.
We told our new neighbor about the water source, as he was heading north tomorrow morning. We also showed him the tide table, as he didn’t have one. It looked like the lowest tide would occur before dawn, so if he really wanted to crank out some miles he should leave early.
After that, we all ate dinner. We sat around watching the tide roll in. The hole was inundated by this time. Then another backpacker came down from the north, and we told him about the inland trail, but he decided to brave the hole anyway. I laughingly told him that I would send out an SOS on my Garmin InReach if I saw his body floating away beyond the wall. He laughed and hiked on. We never did see his carcass, so I guess he made it. And then we watched the sun setting, glowing orange in the high clouds to the west, and headed for bed afterward. Our neighbor was already asleep by then.
We both woke up about 1am and decided to head outside for a view of the moon setting over the water. It was gorgeous. We could see the islands in the distance, silhouetted in the moonlight. The stars were shining up above, and the waves were washing in, hissing softly. We stood and held each other in silence.
We went back to bed soon after, as it was cold out there, and when we woke up at first light, we discovered that our neighbor had already packed up and gone. We could see a lone set of footprints heading north along the sand. We wished him well. Then it was time for a bite of breakfast. Once again, there was a damp mist in the air, and our tent was all soggy. We packed it up, dripping wet, and hiked on. We could always dry it later.
We decided to head back to the car right away, as we needed to do some laundry and take a shower. We also wanted to visit another nearby spot: Second Beach, which was just across the river near the town of La Push. So off we went, southbound to the Hole, which was now quite dry as the tide was very low.
We arrived at the hole and hiked on through. at this hour of the morning, we were the only ones there, which was nice. The Early Bird gets the Hole, so to speak. We continued around the wall to the southern side, on Rialto Beach proper, and this time we didn’t have to dodge any waves.
The two tall islets were technically part of the mainland now. We were able to take better photos this time. We also got to see more sea life thanks to the lower tide. Hiking on the beach is nice, but checking out tidepools is even better.
It was a cool and mellow hike that morning. The marine layer was overhead, and the mist drifted in from offshore. As we made our way along, the sun rose high enough to start burning off the low clouds, and the blue sky began showing itself in patches. It looked like it was going to be another beautiful late-Summer day in the PNW.
All too soon, we arrived back at the trailhead, and walked over to the car. A couple of tourists and a park worker had just arrived, so our timing was perfect. We had been the only ones on the beach that morning, which is just the way we liked it.
We had a busy day planned. Another beach, and the never-ending chores of life, like laundry and showers. After that, it was time to head off to the next section of Olympic National Park: The Hoh Rain Forest, which we had heard was super-beautiful. We were really looking forward to it, and were in absolutely no rush to return to San Diego. We were retired, after all, and the world awaited us!
For a topographic map of the hike see my CalTopo Page
For LOTS more photos of the trek see my Flickr Page