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Olympic National Park is home to several diverse ecosystems, from the rainforest to the alpine forest to beaches! The beaches at Olympic National Park are among the most popular places to visit in the park because of their natural beauty. Rialto Beach is one of these popular beaches that features giant sea stacks, large driftwood piles, tidepools, and an awesome hike called the Hole in the Wall.
In this post, we’re going over everything you need to know about visiting and hiking Hole in the Wall at Rialto Beach!
Rialto Beach at Olympic National Park
Rialto Beach is one of many beaches along the coast of Olympic National Park. Rialto Beach is a convenient location for visitors as it is about a 20-minute drive from Forks, Washington.
Rialto Beach is part of Olympic National Park and borders the Quileute Reservation, which is home to several other beaches like La Push. The beaches and waters are also protected by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, which conserves the animals, plants, and archaeology of the Olympic coast.
Visitors should practice Leave No Trace principles, not leave or take anything from the beach, and respect the ecological, cultural, and historical resources at Rialto Beach,
Hiking to Hole in the Wall at Rialto Beach
Hole in the Wall is an interesting rock formation along Rialto Beach where you can find some of the best tidepools at Olympic National Park. This hike is great for those looking to enjoy the beach views and see unique sea creatures.
Planning Your Hike
The hike to Hole in the Wall is 1.6 miles from the parking area. You will be hiking along the pebble and sandy beach, so don’t plan on hiking barefoot! Hiking on the beach differs from hiking on solid ground, so wear supportive footwear. Don’t be surprised if you have to slow your pace, so plan to give yourself more time than you normally would for a hike.
Making the Most of Your Hike to Hole in the Wall
The hike along the beach is so scenic! You’ll get great views of the sea stacks, driftwood, and the ocean. During your walk, keep your eyes peeled for animals, birds, and sea critters that might be among the rocks and driftwood.
Crossing Ellen’s Creek
You will have to cross Ellen’s Creek. During our visit to Rialto Beach in May, the creek was very high and moving quickly. We could not pass it by walking through the water, so we crossed using a large pile of fallen trees and driftwood. Walking along the large slippery trees was a little scary, but we could make it. This also added some time to our hike, so be aware this area might be a barrier for some, depending on your comfort and skill level. Had the stream not been so deep and flowing so quickly, we would have been able to walk through it.
Arriving at Hole in the Wall
Once you arrive at Hole in the Wall, you’ll see exposed rock around the shore and base of the hole. This is where you’re going to see the tidepools! So start watching your step as you walk around. If you look closely, you’ll start to see tidepool life.
In addition to exploring the tidepools, walk through Hole in the Wall to get views from all directions! You can also take a short but steep forest hike to get views from above Hole in the Wall. This hike will give you awesome views of Rialto Beach and the sea stacks!
How to Plan Your Visit to Hole in the Wall Around the Tide Schedule
One of the most critical aspects of planning your trip to Hole in the Wall is planning around the tides. If you want to see the tidepools and walk through Hole in the Wall, you will want to arrive when the tide is the lowest or 1 hour before. This will give you the most amount of time to explore the area before the tide starts to creep back up.
The tides change very quickly along the Pacific Coast. We arrived at Hole in the Wall just before 6 PM and left at 7 PM. When we were leaving, the water was almost making Hole in the Wall impassible. That’s how short of a window you’ll have to see the tide at its lowest!
If you want to time it perfectly, plan to start your hike to Hole in the Wall at least one hour before low tide is at its lowest point. This way while you are hiking to Hole in the Wall when the tide is receding back into the ocean. And hopefully when you arrive, the tide will be low enough to see the tide pools.
It’s very important to be mindful of this because the waves are forceful and can be very dangerous as the tide comes back into the shore. Do not attempt to cross Hole in the Wall if the water is approaching or covering the opening. Be safe!
Geology of Rialto Beach and Hole in the Wall
While hiking and exploring, you can discover the story of Rialto Beach and Hole in the Wall through its geology.
Rialto Beach is covered with pebbles and sediments created by eroding rocks along the seashore. Fine material called “till” was deposited by glaciers. The upper portion of the beach is also covered in trees uprooted by storm surges.
The Hole in the Wall formation is an example of a sea arch. These arches form as waves crash against cliffs along the shore, eroding the rocks to form caves and archways. Over time, these arches become isolated and stand out on the beach.
Sea stacks are also the product of ocean erosion. After a sea arch has been exposed and eroded, the arch collapses and leaves behind isolated pillars known as sea stacks. At Rialto Beach, there are several sea stacks located in the surf. Marine plants as well as trees can be found growing on the sea stacks, and animals ranging from barnacles to birds rely on the sea stacks for their habitat.
There are several tide pools at Olympic National Park, with one of them being at the Hole in the Wall. Tide pools are fascinating habitats that show the diversity of marine life.
Plants and Animals of Olympic National Park Tide Pools & Rialto Beach
Various animals and plants live where the land meets the sea, a particular area called the intertidal zone. The tides create unique conditions that the animals and plants rely on for survival. The intertidal zone is divided further by physical characteristics such as geology, ecological characteristics like plants and animals, and how often the zone is exposed to water.
The splash zone is where the waves crash against the rocks. Here you can find sea snails (common periwinkles), algae, and mollusks.
High Tide Zone
The high tide zone floods at high tide and is the first zone exposed when the tide begins to pull back. The animals and plants living here are more adapted to the air. You might find mollusks seemingly glued to the rocks, like acorn barnacles, gooseneck barnacles, and blue mussels, with hard shells holding in moisture.
The mid-tide zone experiences the ebb and flow of tides twice a day, and there boasts a variety of vibrant creatures. Most impressive are the Giant Green Anemone and Ochre Seastars. Crustaceans like Dungeness crabs and hermit crabs can be found scurrying on the rocks or sand. As the tides move, they can temporarily bring in animals who usually live in deeper waters, like octopuses and fish.
Low Tide Zone
The low tide zone is almost always underwater, so the creatures here are more elusive. The new or full moon can expose the low tide zone, giving you a glimpse of beautiful sea urchins and mysterious-looking Nudibranchs, a colorful, soft-bodied mollusk.
Other wildlife you can see at Rialto Beach
Many animals rely on the ocean as a habitat and source of food. Marine mammals like whales, seals, seal lions, and sea otters can be found along the Washington coast. In the forest edge near the beach, bald eagles can be spotted perched in the tall trees, looking for fish to hunt.
Safety Tips While Visiting Rialto Beach
The ocean is as powerful and unpredictable as it is beautiful and relaxing. It is important to be aware of hazards to make your visit safe and enjoyable. Overall, being prepared, tuned in to your surroundings, and respectful of the power of nature can help ensure your safety.
General Safety Tips
- Check the tide schedule so you don’t get stranded around the Hole in the Walk as the tide comes up.
- Keep an eye on the tide during your visit and watch for unusually large “sneaker waves.”
- Keep an eye on the weather. According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources geology website, Rialto Beach “experiences some of the most dramatic storm surge of any easily accessible northwest beach.” If the weather or ocean looks like it might become stormy, start making your way back.
- Watch for falling rocks around the Hole in the Wall.
- Do not approach wildlife or touch animals in the tide pools.
- Keep children close as the ground is slippery and the waves are unpredictable.
- The Olympic coast is vulnerable to tsunamis, which are large, fast-moving waves often caused by earthquakes. Check the Olympic National Park’s website and app for any alerts before visiting the coast. While at the beach, if the ground seems to shake or the tide is pulling back unusually far, get to high ground immediately. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has a great webpage with many resources about tsunami safety. This brochure is also a great resource.
Tide Pool Etiquette
Tide pools are fragile habitats and we can all do our part to protect them. The National Park Service and Seattle Aquarium recommend tips for keeping yourself and the animals and plants living in the tide pools safe:
- Watch your step as you walk gently in the intertidal zone. Be sure not to step on animals, even the hard-shelled barnacles and mollusks.
- Do not touch animals, and do not take any shells, rocks, or archaeological artifacts you may find.
- Many animals live in the habitat under rocks, as well as on the bottoms of rocks themselves. If you lift a rock to look under it, return it exactly as you found it. Do not turn over rocks that require more than one hand to lift.
- Do not leap from rock to rock. Step cautiously as rocks can be slippery.
Our Top Tips For Visiting Hole in the Wall
Visiting Rialto Beach: What You Need to Know
- Entry fee: Olympic National Park requires an entry fee. You can also purchase an America the Beautiful Pass to receive admission to all national parks and federal lands.
- Hour of operation: Rialto Beach is open year-round. Check here for current conditions.
- Park policies and permits: Please familiarize yourself with park policies and acquire any permits for camping and backpacking.
- NPS App: Download the NPS App and read more about Olympic National Park amenities, activities, and park alerts such as road or trail closures. You can download the park page to access this information through the app offline.
- Kalaloch Ranger Station: The Kalaloch Ranger Station in Forks is open during the summer only.
- Passport Program: You can collect passport stamps at the main visitor center in Port Angeles year-round or at the Kalaloch Ranger Station in the summer.
- Driving From Port Angeles: Drive west from Port Angeles along US 101. Make a right onto La Push Road/Us 110 in Forks. Then turn right onto Mora Rd. and follow until you arrive at the parking area.
- Maps: Take a look at maps to get a sense of the park areas and how to get around. Be sure to have a physical map in addition to digital maps like AllTrails while traveling. Phone service is limited depending on where you are in the park!
- Park conditions: Leading up to your visit, as well as on the day of your visit, check the current conditions at the park. This includes being aware of weather and other park alerts and conditions. Check tide charts when visiting the beach and also familiarize yourself with tsunami safety tips and evacuation routes.
- Weather: Rialto Beach is an ocean forest and beach. During the fall, spring, and winter, temperatures are cool to mild and usually below 60 degrees. In the summer, temperatures can reach the 80s. It might be windy or rainy.
What to Bring and Wear to Hole in the Wall
- Refillable water bottle – Always pack water when hiking, even when the hike is short and easy.
- Food and snacks – There isn’t any food available at Rialto Beach, so be sure to bring some with you.
- Portable charger – There is little phone service around the park, so bring a portable charger to be sure your phone is fully charged.
- Photography gear – The Rialto Beach is very photogenic, so bring whatever camera suits you best. Bring a tripod and ND filters for long exposures. During our hike back from Hole in the Wall, we saw a pair of bald eagles! Eagles are commonly seen along the coast perched in the bare trees, so bring your zoom and telephoto lenses along!
What is the National Park Passport Program?
The National Park passport program allows you to get dated stamps anytime you visit a National Park! This collector’s item is a great way to remember and commemorate your trip. We love getting our National Park Passport Book stamped anytime we visit a park!
What to Wear
We hiked Hole in the Wall in the middle of May, so the weather was still cool and damp. Check the weather before heading out on your hike so you can be prepared for the conditions. Summer is typically the only time where temperatures are above 70.
- Rain jacket – A packable rain jacket will come in handy when you get close to the water while exploring tide pools. You never know when a big wave is going to splash!
- Waterproof boots – Even though you’ll be hiking on a beach, Rialto Beach is a pebble and sand beach. So don’t plan on going barefoot! Wear hiking boots or shoes. Sturdy waterproof hiking boots are also very helpful when rock scrambling around the tidepools.
- An extra layer for warmth – A fleece or puffy jacket will help since temperatures are often cool along the coast.
- Day pack – For short day hikes, a lightweight backpack to keep water, snacks, and essentials should be all you need!
Recommended Reading for Visiting Hole in the Wall
Check out our recommendations from Bookshop.org, which supports local bookstores! Learn more about waterfalls.