My Favorite Olympic Coast Beaches near Kalaloch

View of beach on the Olympic coast

If you were to ask me to recommend a place by the ocean, but close to Seattle. I’d tell you to drive to the Olympic Coast. And then I’d share with you my favorite spot to visit year after year, for the past 20 years. It is my happy place near Seattle, my ocean fix when I can’t travel to Maui.

My favorite go-to spot on the Olympic Coast is Kalaloch. It is a beautiful area about 40 miles south of Forks, Washington. I fell in love with the whole area around Kalaloch on my first visit. It has some of the most beautiful beaches along this stretch of coastline. Windswept trees, ocean-carved rocks, and incredible forests of old-growth cedars.  I am positive if you visit, it will become a favorite of yours too.

Top 5 Olympic Coast Favorites near Kalaloch, WA

Kalaloch Beach and the Tree of Life

Just below the Kalaloch Campground and Kalaloch Lodge is Kalaloch Beach. This long, wide, sandy beach is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a morning run. Make sandcastles with the kids, have a bonfire or if you’re lucky enough, watch whales as they surface just beyond the shoreline. And the bonus for this beach is an incredible tree that is often overlooked.

It is called the Tree of Life.  The tree is suspended above the ground with its roots hanging down below.  You can walk underneath the tree and admire its unique beauty.  It is a rare sight and should not be missed when visiting the Olympic Coast.

Location: The Tree of Life is located down a short trail from the Kalaloch Campground parking lot. Walk down the trail in front of the parking lot and make a right at the bottom.  Walk just a little further down the beach and you will see it on the right.

Tree of Life tree suspended above ground

Don’t miss this incredible tree! You never know how long it can keep hanging on.

Kalaloch Beach 3

In addition to Kalaloch Beach, heading north along Highway 101 you will see signs for Beach 3.  Kalaloch Beach 3 has some fantastic rock formations for climbing and exploring the tidepools. Wander along the coast and admire all the uniquely shaped driftwood that has come ashore with the latest tide.

Location: Approximately 3 miles north of Kalaloch Lodge on Highway 101.  Look for signs for Beach 3 and a little pull-off area alongside the road. Kalaloch Beach 3 only has a dirt area to pull off on the side of the road and park.  Then you follow a trail down to the beach.  Make sure you’re wearing good shoes for walking as it can get a little steep.

Tip: Always check the tide charts before heading out.  Besides the strong currents along the Olympic coast, entire trees are washed ashore and the waves are full of debris.  If you need help understanding the tides and when it is safest to explore the beaches ask a Park Ranger, they will be happy to help!

huge stump at Kalaloch beach 3

So many beautiful pieces of driftwood along this beach. This tree must have been huge!

Kalaloch Beach 4

Kalaloch Beach 4 has tidal pools, incredible rock formations, and a small “island” (for lack of the proper word) for climbing just off the beach (only accessible at low tide).  At low tide, you can climb up to the top of this island (only advised for older kids and fit adults) for views of the beach and the Destruction Island lighthouse. Even if you don’t feel comfortable making the climb, the tidepools are fun to walk around, with sea anemones, barnacles, and starfish.

To reach the best of the tidepools, you will cross the bridge at the end of the trail (small children will need help getting down) and then turn right and walk up the beach, past a bunch of rocks in the water and around the tip of land that juts out. You will see the large landmass rising out of the water and a bunch of smaller rocks around it. The kids will have a blast exploring here!

Kalaloch Beach 4 has the best parking of the numbered beaches.  It also has restrooms and picnic tables.  It is important to know that at the bottom of the trail there is a bridge that was built using some of the rock formations as a platform.  This creates a somewhat difficult descent to the actual beach. You need to be able to climb down some rocks at the end of the bridge. It is probably around a 3-foot difference from the bridge to the beach. For most this will not be a problem, but for those with mobility issues, it is not recommended.

Location: A little over 3 miles north of Kalaloch Lodge. Or about a 1/2 mile past Kalaloch Beach 3 up Highway 101. Look for the Beach 4 sign and you’ll see a pull-off to the paved parking area and trailhead.

A view of Olympic coastline

View from the top of the “island” on Beach 4 with tide pools.

Ruby Beach

If I had to choose only one of these Olympic Coast beaches to visit on a single trip, I’d probably choose Ruby Beach.  It is hard to choose one as they all offer something special.  Ruby Beach is a gem though.  See what I did there?  Okay, sorry, but it is really is such a treasure.  Okay, that was the last one, I promise.

Ruby Beach is full of colorful driftwood and it has an inlet of water that is protected at low tide so even children can splash around in it. Ruby Beach also has an island that is only accessible at low tide.  It is a beautiful stretch of beach, perfect for spending a few hours during low tide. My family always enjoys exploring the island and the boulders that surround it, looking for colorful starfish and crabs darting around.  It is so much fun!

Location: Approximately 8 miles north of Kalaloch Lodge. Watch for signs for the Ruby Beach turn-off.  You will turn down a dirt road and follow it to a large dirt parking area where you will see a trailhead sign for the beach and lookout areas.

Ruby Beach on Olympic Coast at high tide covered in water

Ruby Beach at high tide in the winter. You can see the little island thru the trees to the left. At low tide, this is a sprawling sandy beach perfect for exploring.

The Giant Cedar Tree

Okay, I know this one isn’t a beach, but I had to list it since it is in such close proximity to these beaches and because these trees are just too beautiful to miss. First up on this trail you will find the Big Cedar Tree. Unfortunately, it has partially fallen, but it is still a magnificent tree to admire, straining your neck to gaze upward at it’s top.

When your neck stops hurting, continue down the trail to find more stunning trees, some of which had to be the inspiration behind the Keebler Elves treehouse.  This is a very easy flat trail and makes for a fun variation to your beach time on the Olympic Coast.

Location: About 4 miles north of Kalaloch Lodge. You will pass Kalaloch Beach 3 & Beach 4 and go about one mile. You will see signs for the turn-off, follow the dirt road all the way to the end and park near the trailhead.

Looking up at a huge cedar tree.

These old-growth cedars have so much character.

Where to Stay on the Olympic Coast

The wonderful thing about Kalaloch is its close proximity to Seattle. In a little over 3 hours, you can go from the city to the rugged Olympic Coast. It makes a great getaway no matter what time of year you go.

Kalaloch Lodge

In the winter I stay in the cabins at the Kalaloch Lodge, also a part of the Olympic National Park. In addition to their cabins, they also have rooms in the lodge. You need to make reservations in advance. It is such a cozy spot to stay, especially in the winter. The cabins come with fireplaces stocked with wood and the lodge has a warm fireplace with comfy chairs.  The park rangers are always willing to share advice on places to hike or see closeby.  And if you get a chance to have breakfast at the Kalaloch Lodge, you absolutely have to try their Dungeness crab benedict. It is SO good!

Address: 157151 US-101, Forks, WA 98331

Kalaloch Beach Campground

In the summer I like to camp at Kalaloch Campground.  It is one of two campgrounds within the Olympic National Park that accept reservations.  You will need to book these out well in advance though, as word has got out about this incredible spot on the Olympic Coast.  They do have a few first come first served spots. So if you want to try to snag one of those, I’d say to come early on a weekday for your best chance at getting a spot.

Location: Approximately 1/2 mile north on Highway 101 from Kalaloch Lodge.

Tip: If you can’t get a spot at Kalaloch Campground, you can always try South Beach Campground which is south of Kalaloch Campground.  You won’t have the beautiful forested sites, but you’ll still get to fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean.

How to Get Here

You can either come around from the North thru Bremerton and Port Angeles. Or down and around from the South passing by Olympia before cutting over.  Typically going down towards Olympia and then cutting over to the coast is the fastest way.  It will depend on your starting destination and time of day.  Use the above Google Map to get directions and plan your trip.  You can always drive in one way and back the opposite to see new scenery.

Important Things to Know

Kalaloch and all the areas I have mentioned are within the Olympic National Park, which means no drones are allowed. You can build a fire on the beach using driftwood, but you cannot collect driftwood for your campfire. Always check with the rangers first to make sure there are no fire bans in place.

One of the most important things is to always check the tide charts! Make sure you know when it will be low tide and when it will be high tide.  Then make sure you get off the beach with plenty of time to spare before high tide.  The ocean is powerful and along the Olympic Coast, it is full of enormous logs and other driftwood materials.  Watch from high above the coast where it is safe.

Perfect Getaway to Make Some Memories

The Olympic Coast makes a perfect place for a family vacation or weekend getaway. Kids and adults alike will enjoy exploring the tidepools, sorting through beach wood and looking for the perfect rock souvenir.  It is so much fun! On the Olympic Coast, you get the best of Western Washington — the trees and water all in one beautiful place.

Happy Beachcombing!

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2 Comments

  • Jerry L Sanderfield at Reply

    Hello, I read you article above and I am wanting to ask you a question. We are hoping to visit later this year and I am looking for what I would call rugged coast lines with cliff and rock formations. I was thinking Cape Disappointment looked promising, but reading your article the picture of Ruby beach also looks promising. If you could choose two places along the Washington coast, which ones would you choose? I also want to go to one of the islands while we are there. I was thinking of Orcas Island. Would you have any thoughts on that or a different one? Thanks so much for your input. Best Regards Jerry

    • Charity at Reply

      Hi Jerry, great questions! It sounds like you are planning a beautiful trip! I know that Cape Disappointment is popular for its lighthouse and in stormy weather the waves crashing against the cliff below it are pretty amazing! However, I would choose to go to the Kalaloch area and Ruby Beach. That’s my personal preference, I’ve been visiting that area over the past 20 years and I never get bored of it.  The coastline there is so rugged and beautiful and it’s always changing according to the storms the area receives.  

      Another thing I like about that stretch of coastline is you have a variety of choices, there are multiple beaches all along that stretch of coastline to choose from whereas I feel like Cape Disappointment is pretty much your only “rugged” choice near Long Beach, but it has been a long time since I visited that area.

      Ruby Beach is a favorite of everyone I know who has visited there, it has the island just off the beach that is fun to explore and beautiful to photograph. If you want miles of rugged coastline, I think that area of the Olympic coast is the place to go.  It takes some extra effort getting there, but I think it’s worth it.  I try to go every year.  

      As for which island to see first, I think you picked the perfect island to start with!  I might say that with some bias as when I was planning my first trip to the San Juan Islands it is also the island I picked to see first. It has more hills and trees than the other islands, I think it’s a little more natural or rugged.  It also has one of the most amazing views in the Puget Sound at the Mt Constitution observation point.  You can drive there or hike there.  On a clear day, this view is stunning! I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the islands though, it’s really a matter of what you want to do and personal preference. 

      Have a wonderful trip and let me know if I can help answer any more questions!

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