Updated: Aug 22, 2019
My wife and I took our kids on an amazing road and camping trip up the Oregon and Washington Coast. It was breathtaking! So, it was no surprise that I found the best run of my life in the Olympic National Park coastline! The greenery, scenery and coastline were something to behold. It brought me back to my youth when I lived in Washington and first fell in love with mountain trails and the beauty of the coastline.
During our trip we stayed at the Quilette Oceanside Resort campground in the Quilette Reservation. It is smack in the middle of the coastal portion of the Olympic National Park, only a few miles from Forks, Washington (yes, where Twilight movies and books take place... #TeamJacob).
I looked up a few trails on the All Trails app (I did this before we got there, because there is zero reception in this area) and found a 5.4 mile out-and-back trail in the Olympic National Park called, Third Beach to Taylor Point. The trailhead is right off La Push Road and accesses a portion of Olympic National Park and the Olympic Wilderness without any sort of fee.
I feel like my words and photos cannot fully express how awesome this run truly was.
As you begin on Third Beach Trail, you immediately find yourself enveloped in a canopy of trees and a forest floor of ferns. The trail starts out with a slight rolling descent until you hit a steep and steady descent at Mile 1, which then leads you down to Third Beach.
Once you tap your toes on the beach, you connect into a trail called the South Coast Beach Travelway. All Trails refers to this as the Olympic Coast South Trail, which is a point-to-point 16-mile trail from the Third Beach Trailhead to the Oil City Trailhead on the Hoh River.
Once you reach Third Beach, you follow it south for about a half of a mile until you see a huge incline with rope to pull yourself back up to the canopy of trees and to Taylor Point Trail, which is part of the South Coast Beach Travelway.
As I started to approach this point, there were ropes leading up a steep dirt hill. When I got to the top of the first portion of the climb, there were a couple of people who had set up hammocks and camped overnight with a view of the ocean below them. I was definitely daydreaming about doing the same thing.
Tree roots protruded from the ground and sunlight gently trickled in through the canopy above as I continued the climb and ran this next stretch of trail.
There were several more ropes and rope ladders that people built over the years to help you pull yourself up along the way. While I used them occasionally, they are really there for the backpackers that are carrying heavy loads as they traverse the climbs. Also, along the way are small bridges and steps made out of logs and stumps, which were grooved for traction. It really added to the charm of this trail.
As you get to Mile 2, there is a little stream. If you hang west and follow the stream toward the ocean there is a bit of an overgrown trail that leads down to the top of a spectacular little waterfall that drops off a 100 foot cliff into the ocean.
The trail to the cliff is only about 0.10 of a mile before you get to a dead drop-off. You also have to cross the stream, which is fairly small. Be extremely careful as you approach the edge. I personally would not take my kids to the edge. The only way to actually see the waterfall is to peek your head over the edge. I propped myself against a large tree just as a precaution. It looks like it’s only about 50 feet down, but according to my elevation data, it is approximately a 100 feet.
When you get back on the main trail just continue heading south. I waited until Mile 4 on the way back to check out the waterfall. In retrospect, I wish I would have stopped for the waterfall on the way out… Around two tenths of a mile past the waterfall trail I started coming up on three backpackers. I went around them on the left side and hopped over a fair-sized log laying across the trail. My feet felt firm at first as I landed on the ground, but then my right ankle quickly gave way with a very loud and thick sounding, “SNAP!”
As I laid on the ground groveling in pain the backpackers climbed over the log and asked, “Was that a stick or your ankle?” Looking back up at them with the same question on my mind I said, “I really don’t know.”
It turned out to be part of a root or rotted stump poking out of the ground, which I obviously didn’t see as I was showing off hopping over the log like I was some sort of pro. In the end, I was really glad the backpackers were there when I got hurt in case my ankle was what actually snapped. I told them to go ahead and that I would be fine. After I gained my composure, I softly hobbled on my leg to test it out. I could tell that I was good enough to at least finish the run before heading back.
I soon caught up to the backpackers a quarter of a mile later and heard them thoughtfully telling a passer-by about me to double check that I was okay. I thanked them for their help. Around this point, the trail also started to make its way down to Taylor Point.
When I got there, the ocean view was amazing and I could see several large rock-cliff islands a mile or so in the distance. Taylor Point is a small beach area that feels like a large secluded room with an incredible view. It was truly beautiful.
Not wanting my run to end (and wanting to get in a full 10k), I climbed up to the trail on the other side heading south, which turns back into the South Coast Beach Travelway. After climbing up, I found that the trail immediately headed back down to a larger beach area—rad!
Before I headed down to the larger beach I tried to climb up a small rock face to get a higher view, but I found that the rock gave a false impression of sturdiness when it easily started to crumble under my weight. Not wanting to die, I decided to stop climbing and head down to the beach. I ran along this portion of beach until I hit the 5K mark and then turned around to make the fun trek back.
I highly recommend going past Taylor Point to this larger beach area. The ocean water was splashing against large boulders on the shore and I could see the details of the islands in the near distance in even more detail.
If you continue along the beach, you will eventually head back up to the South Coast Beach Travelway. One important point to note are the large, red and black, round and checker-like markers nailed onto tall trees so that you know how to get back on the trail from the beach.
Although I wish I could have kept going, I needed to turn around to get back to my wonderful family…plus my ankle was starting to kill me. Unfortunately, even though I was trying to take it easy on the way back, my got foot stuck in mud coming around a turn, which completely twisted the same ankle again. Let’s just say that I was in a ball on the ground much longer this time, nearly in tears (uhhhg), and a complete sitting duck for potential vampires in the area.
Regardless of my ankle, it didn’t detract from the fact that this is now my all-time, absolute favorite run ever—trail or road! The views and scenery headed back were obviously just as breathtaking and I stopped at the waterfall on the way back near Mile 4.
If I could ever go back, I would definitely plan this same run, but along the entire 16-mile Olympic Coast South Trail. I would simply bring a hammock and minimal supplies to stay the night and run back the next day. Except, this time I think I would bring the largest first aid kit that I could carry—you know—just in case.
ABOUT THE AVERAGE JOE RUNNER
Well, his real name is actually Dave...but "The Average Joe Runner" seemed like a catchy name for a blog. Born a sprinter, but converted to distance running in adulthood, Dave has run for more than 25 years. He is the father of four awesome kids and the husband to one amazingly talented, smart and fast-running wife.
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