The rugged Olympic Coast, from Cape Flattery south to Kalaloch Rocks, is part of The Graveyard of the Pacific, a seafarer’s nightmare and home to hundreds of shipwrecks. Fourteen hundred square miles of reefs, shoals and small islands or rock columns called sea stacks provide wondrous scenery on a peaceful day, but become treacherous obstacles to foundering ships caught in the unrelenting power of Pacific storms. Hundreds of lives have been lost, attested to by the Norwegian and Chilean Monuments erected on the coast to honor those sailors.
Ranging in size from very small islands to sheer columns of rock, sea stacks appear to erupt from the sea floor. However, in reality they are the remnants of headlands sheared from the mainland and shaped by the timeless erosive force of the sea. Large or small, they can lie close to the shore and stand dry on the beach at very low tides. Others, in great numbers, rest perpetually offshore by as much as three miles.
Viewing sea stacks on a clear blue day is best because of the visibility it affords. While predicting clear days in advance often isn’t reliable on the coast, they can occur here any month of the year. Morning fog happens frequently on the coast, but it usually clears by afternoon.
Viewing the sea stacks is easy to difficult. The easier hikes, of less than an hour (one way) are listed below:
|Road or Beach Name||GPS Location|
|Rialto Beach||N47 55.247 W124 38.298|
|The La Push road Third Beach||N47 53.460 W124 35.963|
|The La Push road Second Beach||N47 53.892 W 124 37.470|
|Ruby Beach||47 45.452 W124 24.837|
The more difficult undertakings involve backpacking or taking a very long day hike to Shi Shi (shy shy) beach or Point of the Arches. These areas can be accessed from a trail head (N48 17.674 W124 39.906) on the Makah Nation in the NW corner of the Olympic Peninsula. A Recreation Permit is required and available at the Makah Museum, the Makah Minimarket or Washburn’s General Store.
Additionally, any backpacking trip between the Norwegian Memorial and Hoh Head will include numerous opportunities to view sea stacks. The easiest and least strenuous viewing can be done from an armchair while looking at the Washington State Coastal Atlas website. (Select Toleak Point as the landmark).
Regardless of where, when or under what conditions sea stacks are viewed, they are inspiring and can be the object of incredible photography. Seen as silhouettes in the amber light of a sunset or emerging silently from the grey mists of a foggy day or as stone bastions besieged by a violent Pacific storm, sea stacks become works of art on nature’s canvas.