The famous U.S. Route 101 runs through California, Oregon, and Washington on the West Coast. Although the most famous portion of the 101 seems to be in California, the Washington stretch is amazingly beautiful. This article is about exploring several Pacific Northwest beaches on the 101.
During our trip to Washington, we stayed in a lovely little cabin in the La Push/Forks area for three nights. We spent our days exploring Pacific Northwest beaches, hiking, and checking out other points of interest. Since we are more nature and outdoor-inclined, this was the perfect vacation for us.
The Washington coastline is littered with public beaches and many of them are directly off the 101. Rialto and Third Beach are in the La Push area, which is about a 15 to 20 minute drive east of Forks. Our cabin was halfway between Forks and La Push.
When we started exploring the beaches, I figured that they would all look the same. Of course, only a girl from New Mexico would think that. But that was far from the truth. In fact, each and every one was so unique that I wished we had explored more than four beaches during our time there.
So, here is more information about the amazing Pacific Northwest beaches along the 101.
We went to Rialto Beach twice because it was cloudy and pouring rain on the first day we went. Let me tell you, northwest Washington in the middle of May has some crazy weather. During our visit, we were hot for part of the day, cold at night, and freezing in the rain.
We made it a point to watch a sunset at Rialto Beach when it was not cloudy and raining. It did not disappoint. On that evening, the weather was nice, photographers and surfers were out, and so many people came to watch the sunset. It was beautiful.
One of the main attractions at Rialto Beach is the famous Hole in the Wall. Unfortunately, we did not get to see it because it’s approximately a 2-mile hike up the shoreline.
To get to Third Beach, you take the 110 East toward La Push and you will see signs for Third Beach on the left. On this day, we met up with my husband’s brother and girlfriend and spent the day on the beach.
The trail to get down to the beach is approximately 1.4 miles one way and it is gorgeous. We took the stroller for our 2-year-old and were able to stroll it a good portion of the way. On rocky parts, we would lift the front of the stroller and walk with her in it. We love hiking, so I didn’t think it was bad at all.
Once at the beach, we took off our shoes and started exploring. At the southern end of the beach, there is a large waterfall. As we were enjoying the waterfall, a bald eagle soared overhead. It was magical, spiritual, and everything in between.
My toddler enjoyed herself so much. The sand was perfect for digging and building. It made me wish that we had brought a beach toy set. She ran up and down the beach the whole day.
When we were leaving, we noticed a lot of backpackers setting up to spend the night on the beach. How amazing would that be?!
The parking lot for Ruby Beach is right off the 101. Once you park, there is a very short trail leading down to the beach with amazing views. Since this one of the most popular of the Pacific Northwest beaches, it was also the most crowded.
We explored some large rock formations directly on the beach and took lots of pictures. There was a freshwater stream coming out of the forest and into the ocean. My toddler enjoyed throwing rocks into the stream.
Kalaloch Beach 4
As with Ruby Beach, Kalaloch Beach 4 is directly off the 101 and very easy to access. The path to the beach is a long, wooden staircase. My daughter got a kick out of all the stairs.
At the end of the staircase, you cross a bridge and climb down a large boulder to get to the beach. There is a secure climbing rope for those who need assistance.
This beach might not be a good option if you are afraid of heights or need extra assistance to climb up or down the boulder. We saw plenty of people struggling with the climb and some who opted to turn around.
Beach 4 was the least crowded beach we visited. We went on a search to find some marine life in the tide pool areas, but couldn’t find anything. After hanging out at the beach a little longer, we got back on the 101 and headed to Tacoma.
Other points of interest in the area
During our stay, we had the opportunity to visit the Hoh Rain Forest and the Big Cedar Tree. If you’re in the area, don’t miss out on these spots because they are amazing.
Hoh Rain Forest
The Hoh Rain Forest is about a one-hour trip from the Forks area. This rainforest is one of the few remaining temperate rainforests in the United States. The massive yearly rainfall results in a canopy of coniferous and deciduous species. (Source)
Under the rain forest canopy, mosses and ferns blanket almost everything in sight. It feels like you’re walking through an enchanted green rain forest.
It was raining during our visit, so we opted to do the shorter Hall of Mosses trail, which is 0.8 miles. This turned out to be perfect because we weren’t allowed to take a stroller and our daughter wasn’t able to walk the entire trail on her own.
The entire Hall of Mosses trail is stunning. There’s so much to see around every corner. The Olympic National Park has done a great job of developing the trail so people can walk through it and enjoy the scenery. If you are in the area, visiting this rain forest is a must.
Big Cedar Tree
Visiting the Big Cedar Tree was not on our original agenda, but we saw the signs for it as we were driving down the 101. I’m glad we stopped. Visiting this tree won’t take up too much of your time.
Big Cedar Tree is believed to be almost 1,000 years old. Unfortunately, part of it was damaged and fell in March 2014 due to a storm, but you can still see it’s massive trunk area. (Source) I think it’s the biggest tree I’ve ever seen.
So, if you’re driving through these parts, I highly recommend stopping to see it.
- Additional reading: 100 things to be grateful for in life today
Final thoughts on Pacific Northwest beaches
I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to northwestern Washington. Even though my husband is from Tacoma, this was his first visit to the Forks area and he thought it was great too.
If you’re ever planning a trip to Seattle or to Washington, it’s totally worth it to rent a cabin and spend several days on the Pacific Northwest coastline. You will not regret it.
I’m already hoping that we get to explore the Pacific Northwest beaches again some day.