Trip Report: Revisiting Ozette Triangle
It isn’t often that I’ll revisit the same place just two weeks later, but as part of a process to become a backpacking leader with my local hiking club I found myself right back in the same spot that I had just hiked two weeks prior. And what a pleasure it was! In part because of the stark contrast in weather. Two weeks ago it was cold and rainy. In fact, I had assisted in hiking two members of our group out on the second day because they weren’t prepared for the cold and wet coastal weather. This time around, though, we were graced with bright blue skies and perfect backpacking temperatures. Highs were in the upper 50’s to low 60’s and night time temps were in the 40’s. But weather aside, it was also pretty fun to return with very fresh memories and the opportunities to seek out at least one of the petroglyphs I had missed but really wanted to see on my first trip.
If you have not yet read that report, it will be a bit more complete so be sure to check it out.
The approach to creating the route for this hike was also a bit different than the first. First appreciate that this hike is a loop, a literal triangle, with options to camp at each corner of the triangle or near Wedding Rocks, in the middle of the second leg. On the first trip, we hiked counter-clockwise and stayed two nights at Wedding Rocks. This plan as the benefit of avoid the crowds that can develop at Cape Alava and Sand Point. And hiking it counter-clockwise puts Sand Point and the fantastic views there as part of the hike out. This is a really nice way to cap off the hike. Hiking the other direction may feel a bit anticlimactic.
The route for this hike was clockwise, with the first night’s camp being at South Sand Point and the second night at Cape Alava. Again, for this type of itinerary where you are staying at the “corner” camp sites, the clockwise direction really worked out nicely because it meant we could really enjoy the second night as a group around a nice campfire. This isn’t possible in the other direction as campfires are not permitted south of Wedding Rocks.
These small considerations for route planning can really make all the difference in developing mood and elevating the experience when hiking with a group of strangers. While each approach was very different, the hike leaders in both cases did a fantastic job thinking through these small details and ended up with great routes that highlighted difference aspects of the area.
Day 1: TH to Trail
Distance: 3.56 mi
Elevation Gain / Loss: +222′ / -229′
The trailhead for this hike begins just behind the Ozette Ranger station. The hike is short and relatively flat, allow for the opportunity to carry a bit more weight than you might otherwise consider. This is the kind of hike where you can carry some luxuries (a nice scotch, perhaps?) or perhaps try out some new gear, taking backups just in case. There is a good bit of boardwalk that can sometimes be slippery and has some rotted or missing boards in a few places. You will do well to pay attention where you place your feet.
As you approach Sand Point, the trail can become a bit confusing as there is a matrix of trails criss-crossing through camp sites, heading off to the privy, or to the shores on either side of the point. This is where it pays to have a heads-up approach to navigating, using your “staying found” skills and general situational awareness. Simply put, look at the map and visually your hike for a general sense of what you should expect and then use your head. Notice on the map that as you approach the point, you will first encounter the shore off to your right. There’s a trail on that shore, but this isn’t the shore you are looking for. You want to continue more or less straight ahead and mostly south towards the shore that runs southeast from the point. So just stick to the trails that roughly head in that direction, choosing to stay left at most intersections, and you will eventually reach the shore.
Always use caution as you enter the shoreline due to the many, many, logs. Scrambling over them can be tricky as they can be slick and sometimes unstable.
Once you reach the shore, the South Sand Point camp site is another .6 miles south. You will see a red and black marker anytime there is trail exiting the shoreline. In this case you will see one marking the start of the Ericsons Bay Primitive Trail. This is also the location of the South Sand Point camp.
Exiting the shore you will see a side trail heading towards the left and up a small hill. This is the location of a nice camp site with several additional places to park your tent a bit further beyond the first site. You will also find a trail leading to a privy here. Alternatively, if weather and conditions permit, you may pitch your tent on the beach and there are many good locations nestled amongst the driftwood.
Just a little bit further south from the camp site, along the shore, is a decent water source. It looked a little stagnant in the forest so I opted to dig out a hole where it crosses the beach. After letting the sand settle out it proved to be a good way to collect water.
Day 2: South Sand Point to Cape Alava
Distance: 3.83 mi
Elevation Gain / Loss: +255/-259
Leaving the wide sandy beaches behind, you’ll find yourself heading north to Cape Alava. As you round Sand Point be sure to take the time to climb the small hill at the point to really take in the views. Just off of the tip of the point is White Rock. Early in the morning this is one of the first rock stacks to be lit by the rising sun and it brightly shines in contrast to the surrounding stacks.
At the time of this hike, there had recently been reports of a sow black bear and two young cubs making appearances near wedding rocks. We were not fortunate enough to see the trio ourselves, but we did spot a nice set of tracks just south of wedding rocks.
As you approach Wedding Rocks, be on the lookout for the petroglyphs. I going into plenty of detail on these on my earlier trip report and provide a map guide for the petroglyphs as well. Having missed it on my first trip, I was determined to find the image of the ship. After scouting around for some time I eventually found petrolyph #23, the face/mask image, and knew I was close. After several minutes of frustration, I looked down at the ground and found the ship laying flat right at the base of the rock where #23 is found.
As you continue North from here, the beach all but disappears as you hop and navigate the many tide pools. This is a good reminder that this hike involves the shore and tides. Proper planning is essential for hiking during low tide. That is when you’ll be able to see the petroglyphs best, see the wonder tidepools, and avoid the steep overland passes (steep, slippery, rope climbs over the rocky headlands).
You’ll know you have reached Cape Alava as there will be another of those red and black trail signs. There are many camp sites from this point and on north. If the early spots are filled, just keep going, there are plenty of spaces, though you’ll not want to be the last arrive and be stuck with the site directly across from the privy. While nicer than many, with an interesting urine diverting and poop conveyance design, you still don’t want to camp next to it.
Once you are setup, prepare for the great sunset views as the sun sets nicely over the Ozette Island.
Day 3: Cape Alava to Ozette Ranger Station
Distance: 3.3 mi
Elevation Gain / Loss: +363/-348
The hike out from Cape Alava to the Ozette Ranger Station is mostly unremarkable. As with the hike in, it features a lot of board walk that requires careful attention to your feet placement. But before heading out, the morning is a good time to explore north of camp. Tskawahyah Island is a really popular photo destination and is particularly beautiful as the sun lights it up in the morning. If you listen carefully you are likely to hear the barking seals on the rocks and islands beyond and if you are really lucky, they may even be right on beaches surrounding Tsakawahyah island.
Across from the island is the remains of the old Ozette Ranger station. This marks the beginning of the Ozette Indian Reservation and at the time of this hike it was off-limits due to Covid-19 restrictions. I had not consulted the map prior and did not realize I had crossed into the reservation as I explored a shack next to the ranger station and stumbled upon an Ozette Memorial. If you are reading this then, be aware and avoid crossing into the reservation if it is still closed. I will go ahead and share a video and hope that will satisfy your curiosity so that you can respect boundary better than I did!
Region: Olympic National Park, Ozette
Distance: 10.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 849
Duration: 3 Days, 2 Nights
Dogs: Not Allowed
Additional Notes: Bear Canisters Required (due to aggressive racoons)
Date: 4/16/2020 – 4/18/2020
Day 1: Ozette Ranger Station to South Sand Point (Blue Track)
- Sand Point Trail
- Pacific Northwest Trail
- 3.75 Miles
- Elevation: +231′ -245′
Click to enlarge:
Day 2: South Sand Point to Cape Alava (Red Track)
- Pacific Northwest Trail
- 3.83 Miles
- Elevation: +255′ -259′
Click to enlarge:
Day 3: Horseshoe Base to Iron Gate TH (red track)
- Cape Alava Trail
- 3.3 Miles
- Elevation: +363′ -348′
Must-See Video from 1958 about a hike led by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas from Lake Ozette to Cape Alava and then South for 20 miles: