Rialto Beach is a dramatic wilderness beach on the Washington Coast, north of the Quillayute River in the Olympic National Park. The beach is just steps from the parking lot, and is composed of sand, gravel and cobbles.
Rialto Beach is infused with an otherwordly quality, with stunning coastal views of jagged sea-stacks, giant piles of driftwood, and the imposing form of James Island at the nearby Quileute Indian village of La Push.
Rialto Beach is just off Highway 101, the main route around the Olympic National Park. After exiting Highway 101, drive 8 miles west down La Push Road, then 5 miles west down Mora Road to the Rialto Beach parking lot. The nearest town is the tiny village of La Push, an 11 mile drive around the river. Alternatively, you can drive 14 miles inland to stay overnight at Forks.
There's a restroom and picnic table near the parking lot at Rialto Beach. It's also important to bring a sturdy pair of shoes to walk along the pebbly beach, and a jacket for windy days. An Olympic National Park entrance fee is required to visit this beach.
10 best things to do at Rialto Beach
1. Walk along the 2-mile Rialto Beach.
The scenic 2-mile walk along Rialto Beach includes a creek crossing at Ellen Creek (1-mile from the parking lot), and tidepools at a natural sea arch known as Hole in the Wall (1.5 miles from the parking lot). However, this walk should only be undertaken at low tide, otherwise you'll find yourself scrambling along the top of the beach (especially during king tides in winter).
There are dangerous drift logs and currents along Rialto Beach, so never turn your back to the ocean, and don't wade or swim here. Hiking boots are recommended to comfortably walk along the cobbled surface of Rialto Beach.
2. Explore tidepools teeming with sealife near the Hole-in-the-Wall.
The massive Hole-in-the-Wall geological formation is 1.5 miles north of the parking lot, but can only be accessed at low tide. The picture above was taken at high tide, but you can clearly see the Hole-in-the-Wall tunnel amongst the seastacks. It's also one of the best places in the Olympic National Park to view tidepools teeming with amazing sealife, including colorful star fish, sea urchins, rock crabs, sea snails, barnacles, sea anemones, and pink coral.
3. Stand in awe of the tree graveyard along Rialto Beach.
Marvel at the giant piles of driftwood washed up along the high tide line at Rialto Beach, carried out to the Pacific Ocean by nearby streams. During huge storms these swollen streams rise by many feet and breach their banks, sweeping these logs downstream to the ocean. This area gets up to 14 feet of rain each year!
Rialto Beach is strewn with the twisted forms of sun-bleached logs.
The root systems are clearly visible on these trees, indicating that they fell down in the forest, rather than being clearcut.
4. Observe the ghostly form of dead, upright trees.
Dead, upstanding trees line the upper intertidal zone of Rialto Beach, where the forest eerily meets the beach. These dead trees are testament to the power of the brutal Pacific storms that batter this coastline, eroding the soil that results in the demise of these trees.
These trees are not to be mistaken with the ghost forests much further down the coast at Copalis Beach, created by the 1700 tsunami that engulfed the forest off Copalis Beach with salt water.
The rich undergrowth of the dark forest can be seen through these dead trees, lined with salal fern and salmonberry
5. Get a permit to go camping on Rialto Beach.
Camping is permitted at Rialto Beach between Ellen Creek and Hole-in-the-Wall, either above the high tide line on the beach, or in open, forested areas above the beach. It's super important to pitch your tent above the high tide line, to ensure it doesn't get washed away. Rialto Beach is part of the Olympic National Park, so a Wilderness Camping Permit is required. You must also bring bear canisters to store your food, and dogs are not allowed overnight. The best months for camping on the coast are April through September.
If you'd prefer a few more modern conveniences, there's also a drive-in campsite 2-miles from Rialto Beach at the Mora Campground, with flushing toilets, potable water, fire rings, a ranger station (summer only), and an outdoor amphitheater for ranger talks. When staying at the Mora Campgrounnd, you can also take the 0.5 mile James Pond trail from the Mora Ranger Station through stunning forest to the pond.
6. Observe abundant sealife on the offshore seastacks.
Bring your binoculars to observe 13 different species of seabirds on offshore seastacks at Rialto Beach. These offshore seastacks are part of the Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge, that protects over 800 islands, seastacks and reefs along an 100 mile stretch of the Washington State coastline. Amongst the most dramatic seastacks at Rialto Beach are the large, cube shaped Cake Rock, and the low slung Dahdayla Island.
7. Search for wildlife.
Rialto Beach is teeming with wildlife. During late summer and early fall it's possible to see stellar and california sea lions, gray whales, and sometimes orca and humpback whales. If you peer closely into Ellen Creek, you might also catch sight of river otters.
8. Enjoy a picnic at Rialto Beach.
There are a few picnic tables scattered about for lunch at Rialto Beach.
9. Stay at lodging near Rialto Beach.
Book a beachfront cabin or motel room at the Oceanside Resort on the picturesque First Beach at La Push, just 11-miles from Rialto Beach. Some other options in the local area include Manitou Lodge (5-miles from Rialto Beach), and Quillayute River Resort (4.4-miles from Rialto Beach). There's also a good selection of lodging at the logging town of Forks, 13-miles from Rialto Beach.
10. Find other beaches and attractions near Rialto Beach.
Rialto Beach is just a short drive from other incredible wilderness beaches, like First Beach at La Push (11 miles drive), Second Beach (9 miles drive), and Third Beach (8 miles drive). You can also drive a short distance inland to Forks, to see the Forks Timber Museum, and Forever Twilight museum with costumes and props from the popular movie and book series.
You can also plan a driving loop to see 10 Top Attractions at Olympic National Park like:
- Ruby Beach – 41.5 miles south
- Hoh Rain Forest – 45 miles east
- Sol Duc Falls & Sol Duc Hot Springs - 47 miles east
- Lake Crescent & Lake Crescent Lodge – 49 miles northeast
- Kalaloch Beach & Kalaloch Lodge – 50.2 miles south
- Lake Quinault & Lake Quinault Lodge – 80 miles southeast
- Hurricane Ridge – 85 miles east