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Sand Point Cape Alava Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Beach at Sand Point (Jerry Adams)
Campsite at Sand Point (Jerry Adams)
About half of the Sand Point and Cape Alava Trails are boardwalk. (Jerry Adams)
The rest of the Sand Point and Cape Alava Trails are gravel (Jerry Adams)
  • Start point: Ozette TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Sand Point, Cape Alava
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Distance: 9 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 400 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes, in the summer and early fall


Hike Description

There are about 50 miles of wilderness ocean beach in Olympic National Park, unique in the mainland United States. There are beaches, heads that are difficult to get around, rocks off the beach, and lots of wildlife. You should have the area mostly to yourself, except near Sand Point and Cape Alava on summer weekends. Definitely, there are no motors or tourist shops.

Several possible hikes include:

  • Sand Point Cape Alava Hike: The loop from the Ozette Trailhead to Sand Point and Cape Alava is one of the most popular hikes in the area (too many people summer weekends?). You can do it as a day hike, or a backpack.
  • Ozette to Rialto Beach Hike 20 mile beach hike, multi day backpack, requiring a car shuttle. After you get a few miles from the trailheads, much less busy.
  • Third Beach to Oil City - another multi day backpack requiring a car shuttle
  • Shi Shi to Ozette - another multi day backpack requiring a car shuttle

You need to get permits for hiking everywhere - $15 for 7 days National Park fee, $5 camping fee, $2 per night per person camping fee. You need reservations for camping in the Sand Point or Cape Alava areas May 1 to September 30.

You need a hard sided container (for example, Bear Vault) if you're camping. This is to prevent raccoon and bear problems. There are so many people using this area that if they don't have this regulation then they would have pest problems. The ranger said there have been no cases of bears or cougars injuring humans (except hunters cornering bears - justice?) but they are around. They also have permanent bear wires, which seems redundant.

The Sand Point Cape Alava Hike starts at the Ozette Trailhead. There is one trail out of the parking area. You immediately walk by the ranger station and several information kiosks. The trail then goes on a substantial bridge over the outlet stream from Ozette Lake.

The trail then goes to a junction. The trail to Sand Point goes to the left. The return trail from Cape Alava is to the right.

The Sand Point and Cape Alava Trails are similar. About half the distance is board walk to stay above the mud. They can be slippery when wet or icy. There are occasional rotted boards so you have to keep your eyes where you're walking. The other half of the distance is gravel. It's pretty level, you gain about 200' elevation. Mostly the trail is through forest with some clear areas. The native Americans burned off plain areas to attract elk, and some early white settlers occupied these areas so they are still clear of trees.

Sand Point is 3 miles from Ozette. There are about 3 campsites where the trail meets the beach. Then, at Sand Point, there are a couple more campsites, an outhouse, and a bear wire. Continuing past the point there are several more campsites and then a drinking water stream. The coast streams are full of tannin which leaves a bad taste and color even after you filter them.

If you're camping at Sand Point, take an evening or morning walk along the beach to Sand Point, with many tide pools at low tide, and further south on the beach a couple miles before the next head. See Ozette to Rialto Beach Hike.

From Sand Point, walk north along the beach 3 miles to Cape Alava. Beach hiking offers a number of challenges. Walking along the beach in sand or rocks can be hard on your ankles. It takes a little longer than on a good trail. There are numerous hazards, such as trees, that are easier to get around at low tide. At high tide, the beach is so narrow that it's more difficult to get around.

And then there are two heads between Sand Point and Cape Alava. At low tide you can walk around them on the beach. At high tide there are trails around the head, but the trails are steep, primitive, and can be muddy. Whenever there is a trail coming off the beach, it's marked with these round signs about 6 feet in the air. The ranger station has one of these signs so you'll know what to look for.

So, you want to be aware of when low tide is. See current tide table for the current tide table. Subtract 40 minutes from low tide for the tidal difference for LaPush and Quillayute which is pretty close for all of the Olympic Pacific beaches. If it's daylight savings time, add 20 minutes. Try to do your beach hiking within a couple hours of low tide.

At the northern head, 2 miles from Sand Point, is Wedding Rock where there are native American petroglyphs carved into the rocks.

At Cape Alava, where the trail from Ozette first reaches the beach, is one of those round trail markers about 6 feet high that you can see from the beach. The trail crosses a drinking water stream (one of those bad tasting tannin streams). Then there's a pit toilet. Then there's about 10 campsites as you walk along the trail between it and the beach.

Off the beach there are a number of large rocks which are wildlife refuges. During some times of the year there is a cacophony of noises from birds and mammals.

If you're camping, for your evening stroll, you can walk another mile or so further north on the beach before running into two heads, and a little further is the Ozette River, the outlet from Ozette Lake where you started. This river is fordable, but can be difficult.

Walk back from Cape Alava on the boardwalk trail 3 miles to the Ozette Trailhead where you started.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

There is a $30 National Park fee (for 7 days) that you have to pay in the parking lot (America the Beautiful Pass also valid).

There is an $8 per night camping fee plus a $6 permit fee that you have to pay at the ranger station a short distance from the parking area.

Dogs are not allowed here, sorry.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

More Links

More Information

Port Angeles Visitor Center (360) 565-3100

Forks Visitor Center (360) 374-7566


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.