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Friday, May 20, 2005

Hike of the Week: Ruby Beach

A divine scene: Abbey Island in the early evening light

Ruby Beach

Easily accessible but still wild

by Craig Romano
photo by Craig Romano
produced by Michael Fagin

May 20, 2005

Quick Facts
Location: Olympic Coast
Land Agency: National Park Service
Roundtrip: To Ruby Beach: .5 mile; To Hoh River: 6.0 miles
Cumulative Elevation gain: 80 feet
Access: From Forks, head south on US 101 for 27 miles to Ruby Beach trailhead. From Kalaloch, travel north on US 101 for 8 miles to Ruby Beach trailhead.
Notes: Dogs permitted but must be on a leash.
Green Trails Map: La Push, WA – No. 163S

Consider Ruby Beach as “Olympic Wilderness Coast-Light.” Same great wilderness “taste” as Cape Alava, Shi Shi, Third Beach, and Boulder Beach, but with a lot less “calories” (miles). The hike to Ruby is a mere quarter mile. But it’s a glorious quarter mile. Through a wind-blasted maritime forest, wind your way down a little bluff. Follow the well-groomed trail, lined with salt-sprayed shrubs to the mighty Pacific. Emerge behind a barrier of surf-tossed logs and consider your options.
Most visitors are content right where the trail meets the sea. They’ll photograph the contorted stacks that greet them. Perhaps they’ll comb the beach looking for treasure-or try to capture the beauty of off-shore Abbey Island on a memory card. There’s nothing wrong with just whiling away the afternoon at this spectacular spot. But, if the tide’s low and your ambitions are high-consider hiking north to the mouth of the Hoh River.
It’s important that you check the tides, for you’ll need a low one to rock-hop across Cedar Creek and safely round the small headland just north of it. After that, it’s an easy, straightforward hike to the mouth of one of the Peninsula’s most famous rivers. On wide sandy beach beneath bluffs that rise 150-feet, you can hike all the way to where the rain and glacier fed Hoh River empties into the world’s largest ocean.
The hike to the Hoh is about three miles. En route you’re sure to see bald eagles perched in high snags that hang precariously above the eroding bluffs. You may encounter a deer or two out on the beach. At the river you’re likely to meet anglers in pursuit of a prized salmon.
Spend some time exploring the mouth of the river (which lies within the small Hoh Indian Reservation) and then plan for your return. Don’t forget about the tides. Let Abbey Island act like a beacon to guide you back to Ruby Beach. Early settlers to the area thought that the imposing blocked island resembled a cathedral, hence the name. And whether the island looks like a house of worship to you remains to be seen-but one thing rings true-like an abbey, this island and coastline are sacred places. And despite its easy access, Ruby is as beautiful and wild as any of the Olympic Peninsula’s famed wilderness beaches.