Olympic National Park really is a study in contrasts: from snowcapped mountains to rain forests to ocean beaches. This makes it a really fun place to visit because there are so many varied activities in the park. My personal favorite of the beaches – Ruby Beach – is a long way from the more popular parts of the park, but it makes up for this with neat sea stacks, sea arches, wildlife, and even lovely sea fog a lot of the time. (I bet you never thought I’d say that clouds made a scene more beautiful – but it really does in some part of Olympic, especially in the somewhat-nearby Hoh Rain Forest!) One of the nice things about Ruby Beach is that you can take as long or as short a hike as you want, depending on the weather, tides, driftwood, ability, and interest. From simply standing on the bluffs above the beach (which is wheelchair accessible) to walking for miles along the beach, it’s all a wonderfully wild experience!
A 0.25-mile (0.4 km) trail leads from the parking area to the Ruby Beach Overlook. This trail is wheelchair accessible. From here, a steep, eroded trail leads down to the beach itself. No matter how lovely the beach looks like from above, you really do need to descend the trail to really experience it. So, scramble down the trail and then walk around or over the piles of driftwood to get a hundred feet (30 m) or so down the beach. This is where you get the best views of the sea stacks (which you can also see from the overlook), as well as the Olympic coastline.
Take your time exploring this area of Ruby Beach. (By the way, Ruby Beach is named not for red sea stacks, but rather for red gem-like fragments in the sand near the beach.) There is a sea arch within ¼ mile (0.4 km) of the trail down, as well as some really cool sea stacks, boulders, and even a sea stack (of sorts) with trees growing on top of it! Keep your eyes open for the small things, too – the pebbles on the beach are also very pretty, and you might be fortunate enough to see wildlife such as sea stars, fish, and sea gulls (ok, you don’t have to be fortunate to see sea gulls – they’ll probably appear whether you want them to or not!) But while you’re keeping your eyes open, be watchful of the ocean as well – waves will come up and soak you if you’re not careful. (Swimming isn’t allowed, though, because of the hazard of driftwood – there are signs about this at the trailhead.) Also, watch the tide – you don’t want to be caught in an awkward position or not be able to get back to your vehicle.
If you’re up to a bit of a walk, you can hike either way down the beach. I’ve always gone north, but you could go south as well. The nice thing about the beach is that once you’ve left the main beach area it’s so much in the wilderness…being from the East Coast, I’m not used to beaches being wilderness J. You can literally walk for miles in either direction with hardly meeting a soul (at least when I’ve visited in September, June, and August). Plus, you get ocean views, forest, pebbles, and likely some more sea stacks. The mouth of the Hoh River is 3 miles (5 km) north (not accessible during high tide) and Beach 6 is a little over 2 miles (3 km) south.
Return the way you came, being sure to return well before high tide. Ruby Bach may be a bit out of the way from the rest of Olympic, but it’s a wonderful place to see wildlife…relax…and enjoy the wildness of the Pacific Ocean.
Round Trip Trail Length: Any length over 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Facilities: Primitive restrooms in the parking area
Fees: $15 per vehicle to enter Olympic National Park, valid 7 days. America the Beautiful (Interagency), Senior (Golden Age), Access (Golden Access), Volunteer, Military, and Olympic Annual Passes also accepted.
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Key GPS Coordinates for Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach Parking: 47.709727N / -124.413638W (47N 42’ 35.0172” / -124W 24’ 49.0968”)
Ruby Beach: 47.710873N / -124.415402W (47N 42’ 39.1422” / -124W 24’ 55.4472”)
Many good sea stacks, etc.: 47.711940N / -124.416781W (47N 42’ 42.9834” / -124W 25’ 0.4116”)
Getting to Ruby Beach
If you’re coming from the main part of Olympic National Park, from Port Angeles, drive 83 miles (133 km) on Hwy-101 S/US-101W to Ruby Beach, on your right. This is 14 miles (22.5 km) beyond the road that leads to the Hoh Rain Forest.
If you’re coming from the south, take Hwy-101 E/US-101 N from Aberdeen, WA 80 miles (128 km) to Ruby Beach, on your left. Keep a close watch for where Hwy 101 goes, especially in Aberdeen, so you don’t accidently get off the right road.
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Written to please the modern Northwest hiker, this book is full of day hiking opportunities, from wildlife refuges to rain forests, from river walks and beach hikes (including Ruby Beach) to mountains tops and ridge hikes.