Great Coastal Trails of the West Coast

If you think of hiking as something you only do in the mountains, think again. These rugged coastal hikes will stretch your perception of what life on the beach can mean.

Shi Shi BeachShi Shi Beach to Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA
Distance: 35 miles, 5-7 days
Part of Olympic National Parks, this hike takes you along beaches, over rugged headlands on rope ladders, and around points that can only be rounded during low tide. Sea otters, whales, and colorful tidepool critters abound along with spectacular sunsets and sea stacks. You’ll need: a tide chart, a reservation, and a bear canister for keeping your food away from the aggressive raccoons.

Lost Coast, CaliforniaMattole Beach to Shelter Cove, The Lost Coast, CA
Distance: 25 miles, 3 days
In Northern California’s foggy, “Lost Coast,” this hike through the King’s Range is less rugged than its predecessor, but more isolated. Don’t miss the Punta Gorda Lighthouse, and enjoy long sandy beaches with occasional river crossings. A permit is required to camp overnight in the Kings Range Wilderness.

Channel Island National Park, CASanta Barbara Island, Channel Island National Park, CA
Distance: 5 miles or more
To hike Santa Barbara Island, you first have to get there, which involves a boat ride from mainland southern California to this rugged little national park of scattered islands that are home to Elephant Seals, sea cliffs, and arches. Once you make your way up the steep cliffs from the beach, you’ll find rolling landscapes and stunning vistas of a great blue world stretching off into the horizon.

Pacific Rim National ParkThe West Coast Lifesaving Trail, Pacific Rim National Park, B.C.
Distance: 47 miles, 6-8 days
The great-granddaddy of Pacific coastal trails, the West Coast Lifesaving Trail from Pachena Bay to Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island’s west coast, has been described as grueling, remote and as “an obstacle course for adults.” It involves scrambles over impassable headlands, river crossings on hand-cranked cable cars, and scrambles up and down ladders. Originally created to provide an egress to sailors stranded by the many boats that wrecked in the “graveyard of the Pacific,” it follows a roadless, rugged, and rewarding stretch of the British Columbia Coast.