Review: Cape Alava and Ozette Triangle

Some Washington hiking areas give you a chance to meander through magnificent old-growth forests and under massive evergreens draped with moss and lichens. Others offer you the opportunity to explore Washington’s coasts, letting you pick your way along gravelly shores littered with beach wood and see precarious sea stacks standing tall just off shore. Cape Alava’s 9.4-mile Ozette Triangle loop in Olympic National Park lets you experience the best of both worlds.

I visited Cape Alava for the first time a few weeks ago. I was use to hiking along Washington’s Pacific coastline, having hiked at Ruby and Shi Shi beaches and from the Hoh River outlet up to Rialto Beach. However, Cape Alava maintains a reputation as one of the best coastal hiking areas in Washington and the Pacific Northwest. To say the least, I was excited about this trip, and it did not disappoint.

The Ozette Triangle (also known as the Ozette Loop) begins at the northern end of Lake Ozette near the Ozette Ranger Station and Ozette Campground. Park at the trailhead just past the ranger station on the right side of the road. Hikers have the option of taking either the Cape Alava or Sand Point trails to the coast. The coastal section follows the last three miles of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. This section isn’t so much a trail as it as a hike along the shore. However, at high tide, hikers will need to take two overland trails, identified by black-and-red (often faded red to the point of being white) impassable headlands signs. Both the Cape Alava and Sand Point trails are well maintained, and either one will work for the hike out and hike back. I personally recommend the Cape Alava Trail because it will allow you to rest at and enjoy Sand Point, a scenic rocky outcrop, before heading inland at the end. When I hiked the Triangle with my family, we saw deer grazing on the Sand Point headland.

Taken from Cape Alava: Ozette Island and Tskawahyah Island in the background.

Taken from Cape Alava: Ozette Island (far left) and Tskawahyah Island (far right) in the background.

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From the Trail: Ozette Triangle, Cape Alava

This weekend I hiked the Ozette Triangle (aka Ozette Loop) at Olympic National Park. The weather wasn’t really participatory. My family and I camped at the National Park’s campground on Lake Ozette. It was raining when we arrived and partially raining while we broke camp the next morning. Then it continued raining as we hiked the 3-mile Cape Alava Trail to the coast. Once at the coast though, the sun came out and the clouds disappeared for a few hours as we hiked south along the coast to the Sand Point Trail. There, we were hit with rain, and some hail, as we headed inland towards the ranger station at Lake Ozette. The hike was beautiful though. The approx. 9-mile hike traverses lots of boardwalks in the woods and follows beautiful ocean coastline (and the Pacific Northwest Trail) for about 3 miles. I can not wait to return later this year to this spectacular hiking area. All-in-all an excellent trip. Stayed tuned for my review later in the week.

Ozette Triangle