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.