Second Beach Washington: Guide to ONP’s Best Beach

Second Beach on Washington’s coast easily ranks as one of the best beaches in the state.

Over the past decade, I’ve visited Second Beach in La Push many times and am always excited to return. 

In this article, I’ll share why Second Beach is one of the best beaches on the Olympic Peninsula and things to do when you’re there.

I provide logistical information about the trail, the beach hike, and camping, along with other helpful tips to assist in your planning.

This gorgeous beach is not to be missed, so let’s dive in!

Why Second Beach is the Best Beach in Olympic National Park

Second Beach Washington views of sea stacks with evergreen trees on top and rocks in the sand
Second Beach at low tide

Olympic National Park beaches are famous for their breathtaking coastlines and forest trails.

Rialto Beach has its landmark Hole-in-the-Wall hike, Ruby Beach is beloved for its sunsets, and Kalaloch’s Beach 4 has excellent tide-pooling. 

But Second Beach at low tide has it all. 

The rugged beauty and uniqueness of its rock formations are on par with Hole-in-the-Wall. Walking to the left, once you hit the beach from the trail, you’ll find tidepooling that rivals Beach 4. And the sunsets here are spectacular.

Natural arch and rocks jutting out of the sand at Second Beach in Olympic National Park
Natural arch at the north end of the beach

What is the Starting Area for Second Beach?

The map below shows the location of the starting area for Second Beach. It’s straightforward to find if you’re driving on WA-110.

How Long is the Trail to Second Beach?

It’s an approximately .8-mile hike to the beach from the main parking area close to the trailhead. An overflow parking lot is available just a few minutes away. If you park there, the hike will take longer. 

Second Beach Trail

The elevation gain on the short hike to the beach is only 80 feet, but from the beach back to the trailhead, you’ll ascend roughly 166 feet. 

The trail has many protruding tree roots, so wear sturdy shoes for this hike. You may encounter a little mud depending on the time of year you visit. 

Be prepared to walk over driftwood at the trail’s end to get onto the beach. Keep in mind that conditions change from year to year.

signboard at the start of a trailhead surrounding by green forest with a female hiker in the distance
Beginning of the trail

How Long is Second Beach?

Information varies online because one rarely takes the shortest route “as the crow flies,” so to speak. If you plan to walk from the beach’s north end to the beach’s south end, plan for a 4.5-5-mile roundtrip beach hike. This mileage doesn’t include the roughly 1.6-mile roundtrip hike from the parking area to the beach and back. 

On our most recent trip to Second Beach, my husband and I took the trail from the main parking area down to the beach, walked to the northern end, then down to the southern end, then back to the trailhead, and my AllTrails app logged a little over six miles.

woman walks toward the person taking her photo on a sandy beach with big rocks and the ocean behind her
Me enjoying a perfect day on Second Beach.

Second Beach WA Things to Do

1. Camp on Second Beach

If you have a permit, you can camp on the beach and feel like you’re in the wild. Because you are. You hear the sound of waves crashing as you fall asleep. You can drink your morning coffee while seabirds fly above you. 

During the busiest months, many campers set up where the trail meets the beach. For more privacy, walk south and camp away from the crowds. 

Second Beach camping spot with two tents set up on the sand with a rocky cliff behind them
Beach camping at the south end offers more privacy.

I’ve included more details about camping in a section below. 

2. Walk the entire length of the beach

Most visitors stay at the beach’s northern end, but I highly recommend walking the entire length. You’ll see expansive beach views and some of the best beach camping spots in all of Washington toward the south end. 

The cliffs near Teahwhit Head, a massive headland that juts out into the ocean between Second and Third Beach, are remarkable. 

Second Beach Washington features dramatic cliffs near Teahwhit Head with sea stacks in the distance
Dramatic cliffs near Teahwhit Head

On the southern end, you’ll even find a small cave you can walk inside.

3. Explore Second Beach tide pools

For the best tide-pooling experience, plan to arrive at the beach about an hour before low tide to give yourself plenty of time to explore. 

Most of the crowd will stay around the large, triangular-shaped sea stack to the right, but if you walk to the left when you reach the beach from the trail, heading towards a large rock, you’ll be rewarded with this sight.

maroon and orange sea stars on Second Beach Washington on a blue sky day with a sea stack in the background
Colorful sea stars on Second Beach. Photo credit Debbie Thomason

4. See wildlife

The Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge is a wilderness area off the Washington coast from Cape Flattery in the north to Copalis Head further south, spanning approximately 800 islands, rocks, and reefs. 

Seabirds flock to these islands every fall and spring as they migrate. 

This refuge played a vital role in the resuscitation of the number of sea otters in the wild, whose population has begun to recover from the brink of extinction. 

The refuge is off-limits to humans, but you can view it with binoculars from Second Beach and other beaches along the coast.

5. Watch surfers (or surf!)

The water here is cold, even in the summer. It’s the Pacific Ocean, after all! If you plan to surf, a wet suit is mandatory.

Beginners should surf here during summer when waves are smaller, catering to all experience levels. 

I’ve seen better waves and more surfers on First Beach, but you can’t camp on the beach there. If you’re looking for a beach camping and surfing adventure in La Push, you might have to sacrifice a little to get both in the same spot. But both beaches are just a few minutes away from the other by car.

surfer walks down the beach in La Push on a gray sky day
A surfer walking north on Second Beach

6. Sit and listen to the sounds of the waves

Sure, you can do this on virtually any beach, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable here. What makes this experience special is the view of sea stacks all around and in the distance. 

The ocean sounds are so powerful that you can hear them while hiking to the beach.

7. Explore La Push beaches

First and Third Beaches are just short drives away from Second Beach. I highly recommend visiting both if you have at least one-and-a-half days in La Push. 

First Beach is on Quileute tribal land and not a part of Olympic National Park. It’s the most accessible of the three beaches since you don’t have to hike to get to the beach. 

The proximity of First Beach to James Island, known as Akalat or “Top of the Rock” to the Quileute people, makes this beach worth visiting. Learn more about James Island here. 

massive amounts of driftwood on Third Beach with sea stacks in the distance
The view at the end of the trail to get to Third Beach

Third Beach’s unique characteristics include a group of sea stacks called The Giants Graveyard that beckon you to walk towards the south end, where you’ll also see a small waterfall on the beach.

How to Get to Second Beach in La Push

There are multiple routes to reach La Push from Seattle.

map that shows the driving routes available from Seattle to La Push Beach
Drive time is dependent on day, time, and traffic.

You can take one of the two ferry options from Seattle to the Kitsap Peninsula and then drive to La Push. 

Ferry travel takes you to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton. Check the ferry schedule here.

Alternatively, you can skip the ferry and drive south from Seattle to Tacoma and head towards Quinault, located at the park’s south side, or drive north from Tacoma to Port Angeles, near the park’s north side.

I might be biased because I live on the Kitsap Peninsula, but driving through this area is better for two reasons. Firstly, you can take the ferry or drive around Puget Sound, choosing the better option for your travel day. Secondly, this route allows you to enjoy the awesome views of Lake Crescent along the way.

looking out the windshield driving past Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park on a blue sky day with mountains in the background
View of Lake Crescent from our RV on the way to La Push

From Lake Crescent, continue on the 101 towards Forks, and once you arrive in Forks, look for signs for the WA-110 W. You’ll drive for about seventeen minutes before parking at the Second Beach trailhead.  

Second Beach Parking

Finding the parking areas at Second Beach in La Push is easy. There are limited spots right next to the trailhead, along with two port-o-potties, and there’s an overflow parking lot just a few minutes away from the trailhead. It’s free to park at both lots. 

You’ll see signs reminding you to lock your vehicle as theft can occur. I’ve always seen local police on the roads near all La Push beaches, but it’s always a good idea to hide valuables out of sight.

walking path to a trailhead next to port-o-potties and a parking area, surrounded by forest
Second Beach Trailhead parking and port-o-potties

Second Beach’s popularity means that arriving early in the day helps to ensure you get a spot.  

Second Beach Hotels: Where to Stay

🏨 Nearest Cabins

Quileute Oceanside Resort is on First Beach and offers cabins facing the water. You can also RV camp and tent camp here.

🏨 Best Budget Spot

Forks Motel is clean, comfortable, close to restaurants, and only twenty minutes from La Push.

🏨 Best Mid-Range Spot

Quillayute River Resort offers charming accommodations with river beach access. It’s ten minutes from La Push.

Camping at Second Beach

Tent camping on Second Beach is allowed with an Olympic National Park Wilderness Permit. Everything you need to camp must be carried on your back since you will hike roughly .8 miles to get to the beach. 

As mentioned above, there are two port-o-potties near the trailhead. There’s also a pit toilet where the trail meets the beach. 

Per national park regulations, you must store all food, garbage, and scented items like toothpaste in a park-approved bear canister overnight and anytime you leave your campsite.

Campers can build fires, but to protect forest areas, they’re allowed only on the beach and using driftwood only.

two children play on a sandy beach on Washington's coast with tents behind them
Many campers set up close to the end of the trail to get to the beach.

Two essential tips to remember can help to prevent disaster!

🌊 The first is to know where the high tide line is so that your tent doesn’t fill up with ocean water at night. 

⚠️ The second is to filter or boil any freshwater you collect to avoid parasitic disease.

Most campers will set up near where the trail ends on the beach, but walking the beach towards the south allows you to pick a spot with more privacy.

We passed incredible camping spots when we walked to the beach’s south end. 

Second Beach La Push Weather

From the end of June to the end of August, you have the highest likelihood of experiencing favorable weather on the Olympic Peninsula. 

May and September are also popular months to visit, but the weather is less reliable. It can be dry or wet.

a couple walks down Second Beach with Crying Lady Rock in the background
Crying Lady Rock in the backdrop on an overcast day in May

Expect rain from October until April, with the wettest period being from November to January. Dry, sunny days happen occasionally in winter.

Regardless of the season, I’ve discovered that weather apps are only sometimes dependable due to how quickly the weather can change in La Push. Refer to the section below on what to pack (hint: include layers!)

FAQs & Tips for Visiting Second Beach

Below are helpful tips for first-time visitors to La Push beaches. 

⚠️ Always know if the areas you walk require low tide to pass.

anemones in the sand
Avoid stepping on anemones in the sand!

😃 Can Anyone Visit La Push?

La Push beaches are open to the public, but First Beach is part of Quileute Nation. Visitors are expected to respect the tribe’s local community and guidelines. Second Beach is part of the national park, and anyone can visit this beach. The same goes for Third Beach.

🐶 Are Dogs Allowed on Second Beach?

Dogs are not allowed on Second Beach or on the trail to get there. 

🏊🏽 Can You Swim at Second Beach?

The ocean water is frigid, and its currents are powerful, so I do not recommend swimming. Sadly, a woman recently died on nearby Rialto Beach after being swept away by a riptide.

Visitors wade along the beach when it’s hot, but always be mindful of the speed and strength of the outgoing tide if you choose to do this.

🧳 What to Pack for Second Beach

This section is for day-trippers, not for those planning to camp. 

Beach attire in Washington is very different than beach attire in Hawaii! Dressing in layers means you’re ready for temperature swings, sun, wind, and rain, all of which can happen in a day on the Pacific coast.

Wearing a breathable, moisture-wicking base layer helps to regulate your body temperature, no matter the weather. 

On top of this layer, I recommend a fleece or soft-shell jacket with a hood. You can easily tie this layer around your waist or throw it into a backpack when the sun comes out.

La Push beaches are known for their massive amounts of driftwood, making access to the beaches somewhat challenging and even more so for those with mobility issues. Bring walking sticks or trekking poles to help keep you steady if you’re concerned about balance.

UV protection is also essential. I always wear sunglasses and a sunhat, even on overcast days.

coastal forest on top of cliffs on the south end of Second Beach with a few people walking on the beach
South end of the beach

Second Beach Washington Guide Wrap-Up

This Olympic Peninsula coastal beach has everything that makes ONP beaches worth visiting: jaw-dropping rock formations, dramatic cliffs, a coastal forest, tide pools, sea stacks, and beach camping. 

If your goal is to see all of the best beaches in Washington, Second Beach is a must-visit destination.