As long as I’ve been taking vacations on the coast, we’ve stayed in Forks, a town situated about twenty miles east of the ocean, populated by about 3,000 people and the only traffic signal in 160 miles of highway. It’s not at all touristy, but the citizens are friendly and there are enough motels, restaurants, and shops to make it our favorite base camp for exploring the Olympic Peninsula. (If my description seems terse, attribute it to reluctance to wholly expose a favorite getaway — a mixture of love, pride, and delicacy, if you will.) We shared our motel with several participants in the weekend’s Last Chance Salmon Derby ($1000 prizes for the biggest Coho and Chinook each), who headed out between 3 — 5 am. But the first high tide of the day peaked just before 8 am, so we weren’t in any rush to get up.
We arrived at Rialto Beach at 10:00 am. The parking lot is on the other side of the driftwood line and a short, level walk from the beach. Facilities around the parking lot include restrooms, running water, and a few picnic areas with fire pits. These features help make Rialto one of the most accessible beaches on the peninsula, and especially appealing on a sunny, early fall morning. The parking lot was nearly full, but there’s plenty of room on the wide, long beach for hikers and campers to spread out and enjoy themselves.
No sand castles here! However, there are plenty of man-made, artistic arrangements of rocks along the way. The beach consists of mostly gravel, rocks, and immense driftwood logs, save one tiny, sandy cove just before Hole in the Wall, a sea arch which serves as Rialto’s northern boundary. Ellen Creek usually crosses the beach about one mile away from the parking lot, although this trip — either due to the lack of rain this summer or low tide — we saw a pool of standing water up against the tree line, but nothing to ford.
The hike to Hole in the Wall is about 1.5 miles. If the tide is low enough, it’s possible to walk through Hole in the Wall and continue northward; otherwise, climb the steep, narrow trail over the headland. A network of roots and logs make a sort of staircase up the cliff, and on top of the headland is a very narrow, uneven trail to take in the stunning panorama of ocean, sea stacks, and sweep of driftwood below. As the acrophobe on Team Gimlet, I wasn’t able to edge far enough out along the headland to get the perfect shot of the beach, but I’m just pleased I made it up to the top at all. The Gimlet, who was an avid climber Back In The Day, did a fantastic job balancing Thing Two in the baby backpack (as he lurched unpredictably from side to side so he could see what was going on) and helping a nervous Thing One climb back down.
We made our return trip during maximum low tide. We all marveled at the sight and sound of waves breaking against the rocks, Thing One threw rocks into the surf (the beach is full of round, flat skippers), and we found a few interesting items which deserve a future entry of their own. After climbing up and down the headland, we were too warm to wear our light raincoats, yet the breeze made it a little too chilly just for shirtsleeves. Upon reaching the parking lot at 12:45 pm, we decided a restorative luncheon of burgers and shakes at Sully’s was in order before undertaking the next adventure.
Tags: hike, local fun, northwest coast