Wild camping on the ocean is a great experience and lets you reconnect with nature while leaving behind overcrowded noisy campgrounds. You don’t need to be an experienced backpacker to enjoy a night on Second Beach, you just need to have a sense of adventure! You’ll enjoy beautiful views and solitude on your night at the beach.
Finding Second Beach on the Olympic Peninsula
Second Beach is located on the western coast of the Olympic Peninsula, about 20 minutes from Forks, Washington. Second Beach is the second of three beaches near the town of La Push and is a wonderful place to camp for the night.
There are signs for the beach along the highway and the main parking lot marks the trailhead. Second Beach is a popular day-use area and the parking lot, which can hold about ten cars, fills quickly in the summer. Thankfully, there’s overflow parking nearby on a large, empty field. Parking is free, but you need a permit to camp on the beach. Since you’ll be leaving your car unattended, be sure there are no visible valuables that thieves may want.
Prepping for Camping on Second Beach
Before you even go to the beach, you'll need to pick up a camping permit from one of the Ranger Stations located throughout the Olympic Peninsula (we got ours from the station in Quinault). You'll also need to rent a bear container to put all of your smelly food and toiletries into. Contrary to its name, smaller animals such as raccoons are more likely to rifle through your belongings at Second Beach than bears.
Rangers often patrol the beach checking for permits and will ask to see your permit if it's not visible; tying it tightly to the outside of your tent will suffice. Make sure to put your bear container far away from your camp when you head to bed.
Hiking to Second Beach
The trail from the parking lot to Second Beach is one kilometer long, has about 130 feet of elevation change, and takes about a half hour. If you’re new to backpacking, it can be a tiring hike but is doable.
The beginning of the trail is marked by an outhouse and moss-covered info board. You’ll head downhill and cross a creek before starting a short uphill climb. After clearing the small hill, the trail steadily descends to the ocean and is often riddled with massive roots and mossy trees. About halfway through the trail, the descent becomes much steeper and a set of well-worn stairs appear. The stairs are filled with gravel and aren’t well maintained, but they are still functional. The stairs are an awkward size and make for slow going.
Right before you come to the end of the trail, you’ll find the one and only outhouse on this section of the beach. The outhouse is down a small trail, has no door, and is adorned with spiderwebs and vandalism. If you’re lucky, there will be toilet paper but I wouldn’t count on it.
Once you’ve reached the beach, you’ll be greeted by a sandy beach, a maze of driftwood, and dramatic sea stacks. To the north, there’s a beautiful arch with a hole through it and to the south, tall sea stacks rise out of the ocean.
Setting up Camp
After navigating the driftwood, you’ll need to find a place to spend the night. Depending on the time of day, a few fellow beach-campers may have already set up camp. The area near the trailhead is often quite full, but if you continue south you’ll find many great places to pitch your tent.
Perhaps the most important part of beach camping is to always set up camp above the high tide line. You don’t want to be woken by the ocean lapping at your sleeping bag. The high tide line is usually marked by large driftwood and is the best place to put your tent. Sleeping amongst the driftwood not only keeps you from getting wet, it protects you from the strong wind that blows in at night.
If you have a fire, build it below the high tide line so that the ocean will wash it away at night. Always make sure the beach can support your use of firewood and that you aren’t stripping the beach of its natural resources. Use only dead wood and keep your fire at a reasonable size. Don’t burn plastics or leave unburned garbage in your fire for the ocean to wash away. If there’s a fire ban, don’t have a fire.If you bring food or scented products with you, you’ll need to store it away from your campsite at night. There isn’t communal food storage on Second Beach, so you’ll need to use the bear container you rented from the Ranger Station.
Exploring & Enjoying Second Beach
Once your camp is set up, take a moment and relax. Nestle your toes in the soft sand and breath in the fresh ocean air. Watch other campers pass by as they search for the perfect resting place. Sunsets on Second Beach are beautiful: the sun becomes one with the horizon and bathes the sand in soft, golden rays.
Take a stroll down the beach and check out the natural arch, rock outcroppings, and sea stacks. The tides are a huge factor on Second Beach and many areas aren’t accessible at high tide. Always keep an eye on the tides because you don’t want to become stranded. Starfish, barnacles, seaweed, and clumps of jelly line the beach the closer to the sea stacks you walk.
At night, except for the fires crackling up and down the beach, you’re entirely alone. Voices are drowned out by the ocean and once the sun sets, very few people walk the beach. You’ll be blissfully unaware of the time as you laze beneath the stars.
Waking to a Misty Morning
In the morning, a fine mist will cling to the beach and your tent. It rolls from the ocean, over your camp, and into the forest. Lighting a fire is difficult, but if you’re persistent enough it’ll eventually start. You’ll be chilly and your tent will be soaked through, but that just gives you more reason to hang out a little longer on the beach.
As the mist slowly burns, golden rays of sunlight sneak through the trees and reveal a stunning blue sky. When you finally do pack up, the soft sand will be in everything you own.
Information & Trailhead Location
Second Beach is located in the Pacific Northwest, one mile south of La Push, Washington. A parking lot along the road, as well as overflow parking in a field, mark the trailhead. It’s a popular day-use area and makes for a great night of camping.
You don’t need to be an experienced backpacker to camp on the beach, but we do recommend packing light and only bringing what you really need.
|Duration||~1hr return + walking the beach|
|Difficulty||Moderately easy with a backpack|
Our tent is a two-man and we love it. It's small, lightweight, and extremely easy to set up (it takes about two minutes!). We're able to fit all our gear inside with ease. While our tent works great for us, it would be a bit small if you have lots of gear you want to store inside or a dog that wants to sleep with you.
We definitely recommend this small, lightweight tent because it makes the hike in much easier and set up is a breeze!