The Wildcatter Coast

Backpacking the Olympic Coast with Pacific Alpine Guides

Backpacking the Olympic Coast with Pacific Alpine GuidesDESCRIPTION

Backpacking the Wildcatter Coast with Pacific Alpine GuidesLong secluded beaches flanked by steep cliffs and dense coastal forest, hidden coves with vast colorful tide pools, waterfalls draining inland temperate rainforest, dramatic sea stacks, natural archways, and rugged headlands challenge and inspire the backpacker on this remote stretch of coastline.

We cover this beautiful terrain in a 3 day journey, timing the tides so that we can safely navigate between headlands, and maximize tide pool exploration along the way. Headland crossings vary from quick hikes over forested points with sweeping vistas, to sporty scrambles over thick tree roots using the assistance of permanent ropes.


This remote coastal wilderness offers the opportunity to see a variety of shore birds and coastal plants, bald eagles, and numerous tide pool species (such as the colorful ochre sea star), along with the possibility of marine mammals. These trips are guided by a marine naturalist, skilled in the art of conveying the natural history of the wild Olympic coast.

This backpacking trip covers 17.5 miles, with a total elevation gain and loss of 1900ft (includes headland crossings).  This trip is not a loop and requires a car shuttle on day 1.  Expect full days of hiking and exploring.

Dates for these trips are planned around optimal tides, the main hazard of coastal trips.

DAY 1 – Third Beach Trailhead to Scotts Creek

We meet at the Oil City trailhead at 8am for introductions and a brief gear check. We’ll plan car shuttle arrangements in advance, and carpool as a group 1 hour to the Third Beach trailhead, the starting point of our trip.

From the trailhead we hike approximately 1.5 miles and descend roughly 300ft through forest to reach the beach. We hike along the beach until reaching Taylor Point, then up and over the point itself.  Aiming to arrive back at the beach near the day’s low tide, we hike along this section with the wild sea stacks of Giants Graveyard appearing on our seaward side.  On this first night we camp along Scotts Creek or Strawberry point, depending on time of day and camp site availability.   Distance: 4 miles

DAY 2  Scotts Creek to Mosquito Creek

Day 2 begins with a mix of beach and headlands, with a stream crossing and beautiful waterfall along the way. This stretch offers one of the best wildlife viewing opportunities of the trip, with numerous tide pools and bird watching vantage points. Once through the headlands, we cross what is often called one of the nicest stretches of sandy beach on the Olympic Coast before arriving at Mosquito Creek. Our second night will be spent near Mosquito Creek. Distance: 7 miles

DAY 3 – Mosquito Creek to Oil City Trailhead

Beginning our final day, we leave the beach and head inland on the Hoh Head trail, skirting around a headland impassable on the beach even at the most extreme low tide. This trail takes us through a coastal forest dominated by Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce, with intermittent views of the Pacific. We regain the beach at Jefferson cove, on the south side of the headland. We navigate some of the last rocky headlands before following a trail inland along the Hoh River, the final stretch. Distance: 6.5 miles

Need rental gear? Items with the RENT link are available through us. Information on where to rent other gear is available on our Rental Gear page.

In addition to the items on this list, participants will be given a portion of the group equipment to carry.

Backpack: 50-75 liter internal frame pack (ex: CiloGear 60L WorkSack or Black Diamond Mission 75).
Sleeping bag: Rated between 20° and 40°, down or synthetic. Keep in mind that manufacturer’s temperature ratings are subjective and serve as guidelines. RENT
Compression stuff sack: Sized appropriately to your bag.
Sleeping pad: Inflatable or closed cell foam (ex: Thermarest Prolite).

Hiking on the coast with an overnight pack requires a supportive hiking boot.
Hiking boots: With good ankle support (ex: La Sportiva Garnet GTX).
Sandals (optional but recommended): For around camp. Should be as lightweight as possible.
Socks: 1-2 pairs (wool or synthetic) that work well with your boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not necessarily heavy socks. If your boots are roomy choose a heavier sock, if they’re snug choose a lighter sock.

Sunglasses: Dark tinted wrap-arounds, should have full UV protection (ex: Julbo Dolgan) RENT
Warm hat: Fleece, wool or synthetic.
Sun hat: Baseball cap, visor, etc.

 Light glove
 Medium glove (early season): Should be wind and water-resistant, think ski glove.

There are many possible layering combinations for your upper body. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
 Baselayer top: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric (ex: First Ascent Midweight 1/4-Zip Baselayer or First Ascent Solarfoil Hoodie).
 Lightweight insulating layer: Light fleece or synthetic layer (ex: First Ascent Sandstone HoodieHangfire Hoodie).
 Hardshell jacket with hood: Lightweight and waterproof (ex: First Ascent BC-200 Jacket).
 Synthetic or down insulated jacket: Synthetic or down (ex: First Ascent Ignitor Jacket).

 Trekking pant: Lightweight synthetic fabric. Convertible pants with zip off legs are optional (ex: First Ascent Guide Pants)
 Shorts (optional): Lightweight synthetic fabric (ex: First Ascent Guide Shorts).
 Hardshell pant: For adverse weather (ex: First Ascent Rainier Storm Shell Pants).

(2) Heavy trash bags: Cheap lightweight waterproof lining for your backpack.
Sunscreen: SPF 30 or greater, avoid spray on (ex: Doc Martin’s of Maui).
Lip balm: With SPF protection.
Insect repellent: Avoid DEET (ex: Natrapel).
Water bottles(s) or hydration system: Should have a screw top (no bike bottles); hydration system should have an insulated tube.
Water purification tablets: Regular iodine tends to work best (ex: Potable Aqua); chlorine dioxide tablets are less practical. 
Compact camera
Extra batteries: For your headlamp, camera, etc.
Headlamp: LED headlamp recommended (ex: Petzl Tikka XP2 or Tikka Plus)RENT

See Details.

Insulated mug
 Spoon or spork

Guides will carry a well-equipped group first aid kit.
Personal toiletry kit: Toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper and/or baby wipes, gender specific items, small bottle of hand sanitizer.
Personal first aid kit: Band-Aids, blister repair, anti-diarrheal (Immodium), antacid, ibuprofen or aspirin, as well as any personal prescription medications (be sure to discuss these with us).

 Trekking Poles: Ski poles or trekking poles with powder baskets (ex: Black Diamond Traverse). RENT
Book (lightweight)
Journal w/pencil
 Ear plugs

We will provide all necessary group equipment for you trip such as tents, stoves, ropes, and rescue gear.


    • No previous backpacking experience is required.
    • Some previous hiking experience is recommended.


    • Good physical fitness is required for this program.
    • You should be able to hike for 1-1.5 hours at a stretch taking 15 minute breaks, for up to 7 hours.
    • You should be able to hike 8 miles with a 40 lb pack.
    • The better shape you’re in, the more you’ll be able to focus on the adventure!


  • Guiding and instruction
  • Local knowledge
  • Breakfasts and dinners
  • Group equipment: tents, stoves, fuel, bear canisters


  • Lodging and transportation before and after the trip
  • Personal equipment and trail food
  • Park entrance fee


Lunch Food: If weather conditions allow, we will try and stop for a formal lunch break.  If weather conditions are adverse we will simply snack frequently along the way, similar to the ‘lunch’ on our climbing programs.  So that you are prepared for either scenario, pack a lunch that can easily be eaten as multiple snacks and does not require a stove or water to prepare (sandwiches, chips, cheese, jerky, candy, etc.).

Be sure to bring foods that you like and emphasize variety. Energy bars and gels are great but in limited amounts – real food works just as well and tastes better.

Breakfasts & Dinners:  On all of our backpacking programs we provide breakfasts and dinners.  Our menu is designed to keep you energized with delicious food in the backcountry, and we try and use fresh local ingredients whenever possible.  We are able to accommodate a wide variety of dietary restrictions as long as you let us know in advance.


From Port Angeles/Forks (Hwy 101 West, South): From Port Angeles head west on Hwy 101 to the town of Forks. Continue south past Forks for 15 miles (101 South), and turn right on Oil City road (turnoff is 1.3 miles south of the Upper Hoh Road junction). The road ends at the trailhead in 10.6 miles (paved for the first half).

From Aberdeen (Hwy 101 North): From Aberdeen, head north on Hwy 101 for approximately 92 miles. Turn left on Oil City road, (turnoff is 1.3 miles south of the Upper Hoh Road junction). The road ends at the trailhead in 10.6 miles (paved for the first half).



Option A: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. From here the drive to the Oil City Trailhead takes about 4 hours.

Option B: Fly into Port Angeles. Kenmore Air flies daily from Sea-Tac and is an Alaska Airlines partner (domestic flights can be booked with Port Angeles as the destination). From Port Angeles it’s a 1.5 hour drive to the Oil City Trailhead.

Car Rental

There’s also a Budget Rent-A-Car in Port Angeles.

Shuttle Services


Forks is an hour away from the trailhead.

Forks Chamber of Commerce


Weather: Coastal Weather Forecast


Olympic Coast, WA

17.5 miles

Elevation Gain/Loss
1900′ feet

3 days


$395 per person