Natural Wonders

Sea Stacks on Olympic National Park’s Coast

Iconic rock posts and arches jutting up from the sand along the Washington coast are what define the Olympic National Park's beaches.

A dozen beaches provide endless exploration for hikers and distinctive foregrounds for sunset gawkers and photographers. The sea stacks, stumps, and islands also provide a necessary refuge for birds and aquatic wildlife.

Misty sea stacks at Point of Arches on Shi Shi Beach
Misty sea stacks at Point of Arches on Shi Shi Beach. Photo: Justin Bailie
Olympic Coast Sea Stacks
Olympic Coast Sea Stacks. Photo: NPS
The sun breaks through storm clouds on Second Beach in Olympic National Park.
The sun breaks through storm clouds on Second Beach. Photo: Depositphotos
Ruby Beach reflection in Olympic National Park
Ruby Beach reflection. Photo: Pam Atkins

Where to See Sea Stacks

The bucket-list destination is at the northern end of the park – Point of Arches on Shi Shi Beach. Checking off this view requires an 8-mile out and back hike, half of it through a dense forest.

Exploring sea stacks takes less effort at the southern beaches, many of which include parking lots and restroom facilities. Our favorites include Rialto Beach (easily accessible for sunsets from Forks, Washington), Ruby Beach (north of Kalaloch Lodge), and South Beach.

Point of Arches on Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park
Point of Arches on Shi Shi Beach. Photo: Depositphotos
Sunset at Point of Arches on Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park
Sunset at Point of Arches. Photo: Josephine Fox
Sunset on Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park
Sunset on Ruby Beach. Photo: Saurabh Ray
Surfing on Second Beach in Olympic National Park
Surfing on Second Beach. Photo: Matt McIntosh courtesy of NOAA
Twin sea stacks on Rialto Beach
Twin sea stacks on Rialto Beach. Photo: Gloria Wadzinski
Photographer on Second Beach in Olympic National Park
Photographer on Second Beach. Photo: Justin Bailie
Sunset on Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park
Sunset on Rialto Beach. Photo: NPS Public Domain

How Sea Stacks are Formed

Water is a powerful thing. Waves crashing against headlands erode the rock. First caves are formed. Then when the caves break through to the other side, the formation becomes an arch. Finally, when the center of the arch collapses, it forms a sea stack.


Need an Olympic National Park map? Buy the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Olympic National Park map at REI.com. The map includes clearly marked trails and points of interest such as scenic views, campgrounds, trailheads, boat launches, picnic sites, ranger stations and more printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.