The Ozette Triangle is a very well known hike in along the Washington Coast. It’s a short hike and is often done as a one night backpack or even a day hike. A first come, first served campground at the Ranger Station makes it a bit easier to support this being done as a day hike. Because of the travel distance involved to get there, it also is convenient then to stay here the night before your hike.
The Washington coast is beautiful, but the highlight of this hike are the many petroglyphs found around Wedding Rocks. This particular hike was planned around this and so includes two nights camping near Wedding Rocks. The travel direction is counter clockwise. You can do it either way, but I often find the hike out to be anti-climatic. In the counter-clockwise direction you can visit Sand Point on your hike out and that will be a highlight, for sure.
Day 1: Ozette Ranger Station to Camp, North of Wedding Rocks
Elevation: +418′, -438′
Ozette Ranger Station / Trailhead
W on Cap Alava Trail
S on PNW Trail
Camp, N of Wedding Rocks.
The trail begins just behind the Ozette Ranger Station. This hike is in the counter-clockwise direction, so you come to the first intersection, you will stay right, heading east on Cap Alava Trail. The trail is relatively flat and in many areas you will be walking on boardwalk. The boardwalk is generally well maintained, but it is not uncommon to come across loose or missing blanks. And they can be very slippery when wet. For most of the three miles to the coast you will be hiking through coastal forest and interspersed wetlands. In early spring, this was a great opportunity to catch the skunk cabbage in bloom.
You’ll hear the coast before you see it but it is remarkable the moment it comes into view. The area is known for its sea stacks , the tall columns of rock jutting up out of the ocean. You’ll see many over the next day, but what probably stands out the most as you reach the coast will be the island, less than a mile from the shore. This is Ozette Island, part of the Flattery Rocks National Wildlife Refuge.
This is also the location of the Cape Alava Campground. Keep your eye out for wildlife as it is abundant. You may see deer, racoon, maybe a bear if you are lucky, and all manner of sea life. The area is notable as well for the many birds, including many nesting Bald Eagles and of course some of the more exotic sea birds like Puffins that inhabit some of the islands and stacks making up Flattery Rocks.
Making your way south down the coast, be sure to explore the tide pools and the many interesting sea creatures, including some wonderful anemones.
As you reach the 4 mile mark start looking for suitable campsites on the edges of the forest ledge. There are several, each with space for at least a couple or more tents. Check the park websites for the latest status, but as of this writing campfires were allowed here, using only driftwood from the beaches.
Day 2: Exploring Tide Pools & Petroglyphs
The main attraction for this romp is the many petroglyphs found around Wedding Rocks. They were created by the Makah tribe between 300-500 years ago and more than 40 have been documented in the area. At least one depicts a schooner-brig type of sailing ship and another possibly a person with a firearm and a hunting dog, so may be as recent as 200 years old.
There are more than 40 documented in the area around Wedding Rocks, though I suspect finding them all may require some considerable finding skills. Note that there are a couple of that are simply the works of vandals (31, 39 (partial), 40. Documented but notably nothing more than recorded acts of destruction.
I have not found great online sources of information providing more context to petroglyphs. If you are aware of such documentation, please leave a comment below! Also sparse was good location information, though I have come across these images of maps that at one time were handed out by the ranger office.
Be aware that this hike requires you to understand, research, and plan around the tides. I have linked a couple of sites that will provide you with a tide table under the Resources section. You will want to explore Wedding Rocks during low tide. If you decide to hike beyond Wedding Rocks when the tide is in, you will need to use a path that goes over the headlands. This is a steep, slippery climb using a rope attached to a tree at the top. This can be entirely avoided by simply planning your hike during the low tides.
Day 3: Camp, North of Wedding Rocks to Ozette Ranger Station
Elevation: +356′, -331′
Camp, N of Wedding Rocks
S on PNW Trail
NE on Sand Point Trail
Ozette Ranger Station / Trailhead
The hike out includes about 2 miles of hiking along the coast. See the note above about tides and plan your hike accordingly. It can be fun even to explore some of the various beach trash. This unopened can of coffee is from Korea.
Low tide is the safest time to hike and gives you plenty of opportunity to continue exploring the tide pools. As you approach Sand Point, be sure to drop you bags and climp up to the top of the small hill at the point for some stunning 360° views. Here you can see the hill with the small trail leading to the top. Eagles are plentiful here as well.
Another three miles or so from here, through coastal forest, will return you to the Ozette Ranger Station. The hike is similar to the hike in with much of the trail on boardwalks.
Region: Olympic National Park, Ozette Style: Loop Hike Distance: 9.5 Miles Elevation Gain: 774 Duration: 3 Days, 2 Nights (Could also be done in 2 days/1 night) Permits: America The Beautiful Pass (or ONP specific pass) for overnight parking. Wilderness Camping Permit for backcountry camping. Dogs: Not Allowed Additional Notes: Bear Canisters Required (due to aggressive racoons) Date: 4/02/2021 – 4 /04/2021