“The forecast is for clear and sunny, with temperatures in the low 70s,” husband Chris observes. “How ’bout Ruby Beach?”
It’s a spur-of-the-moment idea. But I don’t need convincing. It’s been over two weeks since our last hike. We both have itchy feet.
Indeed, optimum hiking season doesn’t last long in the Pacific Northwest. Like, blink, and it’s gone. Hello wet and rain.
So on those rare, redolent days when the sky pours out an infinite bowl of blue, Chinook breezes flutter the frocks of evergreens and the sun sits high on the horizon like a giant fried egg, it’s time to get outside and hike!
The drive north to Ruby Beach is one of the most scenic in Washington State. You duck in and out of the lush Olympic National Park. Pass the Hoh Rain Forest. Beeline for the coast, with its craggy sandstone cliffs, rocky sea stacks and piles of bleached driftwood littering the sand like prehistoric skeletons.
Ruby Beach is a crown jewel of Olympic National Park. Famous for its reddish sand and large rock islands known as sea stacks, Ruby Beach is one of the most well-known and heavily visited beaches along the Olympic coastline. That means crowds. Especially during peak season. It’s why we usually save this beach for the off-season.
But sometimes extemporaneous adventures are the best, aren’t they?
On the Beach
We grab our backpacks, hike down to the beach and splash through a feeder creek. Then we head north. A few minutes from the trailhead, crowds thin and vanish. We have the entire beach to ourselves.
A sharkish spit of sand slashes the shore’s ankles, severing the beach into flashing runnels and firth. Buck-teethed and slick, slivers of cloud shiver wet and shining overhead. The beach is shingled in mist, rinsed and weltered. In morning hibernation, the sun wakes up around noon.
“Look at that!” Chris murmurs. Binoculars in hand, he points to a thick stand of evergreens. A trio of bald eagles dips and soars in an intricate airborne dance.
You won’t see that off a southern California beach, our old stompin’ grounds. In fact, Ruby Beach is Exhibit A in why Washington beaches aren’t like southern California beaches.
- Are rugged, with concrete-like sand that’s often littered with driftwood, downed logs and pebbles.
- Riptides abound.
- Are hemmed by towering conifers, not palms, condos or asphalt.
- The water is pretty cold.
- Access usually means a hike.
For example, to get to Ruby Beach you hike down a 1.4 mile out-and-back trail and pick your way over downed logs.
Post-eagle dance, we eat lunch on an obliging hunk of driftwood, swigging from our Camelbaks. I suck in huge chunks of salt-spiced air. Crashing breakers sing a nautical tune. We about-face and head south to a rocky escarpment rising from the beach like a medieval rampart.
Too soon, afternoon recedes like an outgoing breaker on the beach. An anemic sun flavors Destruction Island raspberry, tangerine and lemon.
“Sometimes spur-of-the-moment plans are the best,” Chris observes.
“They certainly are,” I agree. We snap some final pictures and head for the truck. But we’ll be back to re-roam Ruby Beach. Count on it.
Located in Jefferson County about 25 miles south of Forks, Kalaloch and Ruby Beach are some of the most visited areas of Olympic National Park. Both are located on the southwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula. They are accessible directly off of Highway 101 (directions).