Top Ten Beaches in the United States

Best Hiking: Olympic Coastal Strip (Washington)
Second Beach sunset, Washington State
Second Beach, Washington (iStockphoto)

Make no mistake: Hiking the Olympic Coastal Strip section of Olympic National Park is no stroll on the beach. Muddy headlands, slippery driftwood, changing tides, and waist-deep streams present a challenging trip, even in the best of conditions. Even the fittest hikers can expect to cover only five to ten miles per day.

It is, however, one of America's most satisfying beach hikes. The park's 73 miles of coastline make up the most primitive ocean shoreline in the contiguous 48 states. Rocky seastacks poke through the roiling tides. Bluffs rise high above the beach. Long stretches of sandy beach are covered with logs. Eagles ride the wind currents overhead, while gray whales, sea otters, and seals can be seen just beyond in the surf. And if you get lucky with clear skies, you'll find one of the best sunsets in America. Other good backpacking trips include the 17.3-mile South Coast hike and the 20-mile north-coast route from Ozette to Rialto Beach.

Tip: Don't underestimate the tides. Get a tide table and follow it. High tides can mean very dangerous conditions, and some headlands require low tides for passage.


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