When the doldrums and ho-hums of the winter blues come rolling in, hop back on the trail at a most unexpected place: the coast! While snow may be falling in the high country, the shoreline never sleeps and always abounds with life. On a recent trip, sea lions barked from a rocky sea stack, otters frolicked in ocean waves and eagles sat watching from high perches above.
The Cape Alava Loop (Ozette Triangle) is two hikes in one: a forest stroll and a walk on the beach. Take the Cape Alava Trail out to the beach and back for a 6.2 mile hike, or continue south along the beach to connect up with the Sand Point Trail for a 9.4 mile loop.
Start your hike at Lake Ozette. At eight miles long and three miles wide, Lake Ozette is the largest unaltered natural lake in Washington. Cross the Ozette River on a beautiful arched bridge and away you go. At 0.25 mile, come to a trail junction and stay right—the trail to the left will be your return trail if you choose to make a complete loop.
Before long, your trail becomes a beautiful cedar boardwalk through dense forest of western redcedar, licorice ferns, salal, and other evergreen varieties. Use caution on the boardwalk if wet or icy, as the planks can occasionally become slippery. The elevated path gently meanders through the understory, gaining little elevation as you continue onward.
Pass through an area called Ahlstrom’s Prairie at 2.25 miles. This giant, soggy meadow was once farmed by two Swedish immigrants who filled the 160-acre bog with sheep, cattle, and vegetable gardens. Today, any evidence of the farming has given way to native plant and animal life.
The roar and smell of the ocean becomes unmistakable as you approach the wild coast of Cape Alava. At 3.3 miles, arrive at the beach and enjoy the views and creatures that live in this isolated place. Tskawahyah Island is not far off, standing as a giant rock guardian complete with freestanding trees adorning the top. Watch the winter sun sink lower in the sky and return the way you came, or head south to make a loop.
Turn left to head south along the beach, passing the ancient petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks. Bearing visions of whales, hunters, and sailing ships, these old petroglyphs were carved by ancestors of the Makah tribe using various tools, including rocks and bone.
Aside from being under legal protection, these remarkable features are culturally significant and important to the Makah tribe. Please respect them as you pass by.
From Wedding Rocks, hug the shoreline until you arrive at Sand Point, which boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. From there, look for a large disk indicating a trail near the woods. This is the return trail that will take you back to where you started. The complete loop totals 9.4 miles.
WTA Pro Tip: The Makah Museum in Neah Bay is world class. Get to know and understand this living, vital community by visiting. Find out more at makah.com
Extending Your Hike: Overnight camping is allowed. Obtain a permit by contacting Olympic National Park (www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wilderness-coast.htm). Bear canisters or hard-sided food storage containers are required, primarily to deter the area’s clever raccoons, who have figured out how to work toggles, zippers, and plastic container lids.
Cape Alava Loop (Ozette Triangle)
- 9.4 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 100 feet
- Highest Point
- 350 feet
Hiking Cape Alava Loop (Ozette Triangle)
Cape Alava Loop (Ozette Triangle)
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 48.1536, -124.6679 Open in Google Maps