The Rialto Beach Hole in the Wall Hike is one of the most epic hikes in Washington State. While towering sea stacks, rugged coastlines, and driftwood-strewn sands are not uncommon amongst the Olympic National Park beaches, Rialto Beach is undoubtedly one of the most stunning areas in the entire park.
The Hole in the Wall Hike begins at the beach and ends with a collection of teeming tidepools. Keep in mind that this hike is only accessible during low tide (more on that below). Along the way, you’ll encounter otherworldly rock formations, post-card-perfect views, and maybe even some wildlife.
While a hike along a flat beach may seem like a walk in the park, there are some important things to consider before attempting to complete the Rialto Beach Hole in the Wall hike. Keep reading to discover the best way to hike this incredible beach trail.
Hiking Rialto Beach to Hole in the Wall
Distance: 3.3 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
How to Get to Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach is located inside Olympic National Park, about 14 miles west of Forks. There is a parking lot near the beach off Mora Road. Unfortunately, the lot is relatively small, and it fills up quickly on days when the beach is bustling (which is often).
However, you should have no problem finding a spot, as the shoulders of the road act as additional parking spaces. Just make sure all four wheels of your vehicle are off the pavement, or you run the risk of getting towed!
While you won’t need to hike down a long path to the beach, there is tons of driftwood littering the shore that you’ll need to scramble over before you even begin the Hole in the Wall hike.
Keep in mind that driftwood can constantly change and block certain areas, so you may need to climb over various logs and debris at different points throughout the hike.
Hole in the Wall Hike
The Rialto Beach Hole in the Wall hike is a fantastic beach hike, featuring tons of driftwood, beautiful ocean views, and dramatic rock formations. The beach is a combination of pebbles and sand, so be sure to have a good pair of hiking shoes – this really isn’t a flip-flop kind of beach walk!
Finding the “Trail”
The moment you step foot on the beach, you’ll notice James Island and Little James Island off the coast. You’ll also be able to catch a peek of the sea stacks that surround Hole in the Wall. There is no true “trail” to follow for the Hole in the Wall hike.
Instead, simply start walking to the right (North) once you reach the beach from the parking lot. As you walk, you’ll encounter plenty of driftwood in all shapes and sizes. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some wildlife, including bald eagles, sea lions, otters, and whales!
About one mile into the hike, you will need to cross Ellen’s Creek. Depending on recent weather, the creek may be pretty full. Be prepared to take your shoes off or get them soaked during the crossing. You may be able to skirt around the stream altogether, though a bit of scrambling will likely be required.
Sea Stacks at Rialto Beach
After you get past Ellen’s Creek, keep heading north. Staggering sea stacks characterize this part of the trail. If you’d like to take on this epic view from above, keep your eyes peeled for a small, somewhat clandestine staircase to your right.
We recommend coming back down the way you came rather than using the other staircase, as it is steep and full of bugs.
Getting to The Hole in the Wall
Once you get back down to the beach, Hole in the Wall is just a quick jaunt away. There are some uneven rocks and slippery spots on this section of the trail, so take your time and tread lightly. Hole in the Wall is located just over 1.5 miles into the hike.
This incredible landmark quite literally looks like there is a hole in the rock formation. The hole was created along the basalt cliff after centuries of continual ebb and flow of the waves. Walking through the Hole in the Wall is one of the hike’s highlights, but the trail doesn’t end there.
Tide Pools Around Hole in the Wall
On the other side of the hole, you’ll find some of the best tidepooling opportunities in the entire state. Mind your feet as you meander this area, as there are likely many sea creatures underfoot. There is also a ton of seaweed on the rocks on this side of the hole, making them exceptionally slippery.
Spend some time in this area discovering the critters the water left behind. You’ll likely spot neon green sea anemones, tons of colorful starfish, and other small creatures during your time here. While it would be easy to spend hours exploring every tide pool, make sure to keep an eye on the time so you don’t get trapped when the tide comes back in.
When to Hike Rialto Beach to Hole in the Wall
The most important thing to keep in mind while planning your Rialto Beach Hole in the Wall hike is the tide times. Many recommend that to go precisely at low tide. However, we went a little after low tide and spent about two hours hiking, and our walk back was still okay.
We could even play in the tide pools a little bit after low tide. Still, you only have about a four-hour window to complete the hike at the maximum. So plan your hike around low tide times, but two hours before and after should also suffice.
There IS a forest trail parallel to the beach that is accessible during high tide. However, you won’t be able to reach Hole in the Wall or the tidepools beyond. The driftwood situation could also make this path much more challenging. Bottom line: do this hike around low tide for the best experience.
One of the best parts about the Hole in the Wall hike is that it’s just as beautiful in the rain as it is in the sunshine. It is often misty, which adds a layer of serenity to this beautiful trek. If you plan on hiking during the winter, be sure to check the conditions of Mora Road, as storms are known to down trees and cause closures.
Camping at Rialto Beach
There are a few different options for camping at Rialto Beach.
Car camping is available about two miles north of the beach at Mora Campground. These sites offer views of the Quillayute River and some modern conveniences like flush toilets and potable water.
There are nearly 100 campsites, some of which can be reserved in advance, and others that are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Some sites are closed during the winter season, but the campground does have specific sites open year-round.
The other option for camping at Rialto Beach is to pitch your tent right on the sand. Starting at Ellen’s Creek and beyond, some “semi-established” sites are available for backcountry camping.
The sites are rugged, and no toilet facilities or potable water are available. This means that you will need to pack all your supplies in and out with you, including a bear canister to store any food.
This is a popular place to spend the night, so be sure to make your reservations well in advance if you hope to snag a spot (more on that below).
Campfires are allowed on the beach, and you can even use the driftwood along the shore as kindling. Just be sure that your fire is below the high tide line and at least 10 feet away from any driftwood outside of your ring.
Tips for Completing the Rialto Beach Hole in the Wall Hike
- Wear sturdy shoes that can get wet – This isn’t your average walk on the beach. Most of the trail is a combination of sand and pebbly terrain, with sections of slippery rocks and large piles of driftwood you may need to scramble over. For this reason, we recommend a pair of close-toed shoes with good grip.
- Rain jacket and a puffer – Depending on when you go, you’re going to need at least one of these two. Just because this is a beach, it doesn’t mean it won’t be cold! And hello, PNW = rain. So it’s probably best to have both in the car and grab the one you need when you get there.
- Bring a headlamp if you want to catch the sunset – While the sunset at Hole in the Wall is pretty epic, watching the sun go down closer to the parking lot is a much safer option. Hiking in the dark is no fun, especially when you have to navigate slippery rocks and giant piles of driftwood. If you feel the need to take in the color show from Hole in the Wall, make sure you have a headlamp. (AND if it lines up with the tides!)
- Hike within the low-tide window – We mentioned this above, but it bears repeating. Hiking to Hole in the Wall is best during the four-hour window around low tide. So figure out when the tide is at its lowest and give yourself a maximum of two hours before or two hours after to complete the hike. If you don’t, just be prepared to do the hike in the forest and not be able to reach the hole or the tide pools.
I’m an Oregon native but neighborly and equally as enchanted by Washington. I tackle expeditions around the world and love a good beer at the end of the day. PNW obsessed, VW nerd, and surf or snow riding fanatic.