Olympic National Park protects one of the longest stretches of wilderness coast in the lower 48 states (65 miles.) Beyond the water’s edge, the marine environment and offshore islands are protected in partnership with three national wildlife refuges and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
During low tides, the Pacific Ocean retreats from the beaches and exposes pools of water in rocky crevices that team with sea life. While you can see tide pools during positive tides (up to +1.5), the best times for exploring them are during minus tides. The best time of year to explore tide pools are between March and September.
Marine life you can expect to see include sea stars, rock crabs, wolf eels, pricklebacks, brittle stars, barnacles, clams, and sea snails.
Top Tide Pool Areas
Kalaloch’s Beach 4 and Ruby Beach
Kalaloch is one of the most visited areas of Olympic National Park. Kalaloch and Ruby Beach are located on the southwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula. They are accessible directly off of Highway 101.
Kalaloch Ranger Station 360-962-2283
Mora’s Hole in the Wall on Rialto Beach
Hole in the Wall is 1.5 miles north of the Rialto Beach Trailhead on the North Coast Wilderness Trail. It takes about an hour to hike to the tide pool area.
Plan to arrive at Hole in the Wall at least 30 minutes before the lowest tide. Remember to include your hiking time. Do not cross through Hole in the Wall when the tide begins to cover the floor of the arch. Hole in the Wall is constantly battered by waves and falling rocks can be a significant hazard, so avoid lengthy visits right next to and under the arch. If you hear rock falling, cover your head and move away from the arch.
Mora Ranger Station 360-374-5460
Tide Pool Safety
If you follow safety rules, exploring tide pools on your own can be fun for the whole family. Before you head out, study a current calendar of low tide times. Plan to arrive at the beach at least 30 minutes before the lowest tide. Don’t get trapped by a rising tide! Several points along the coast are only passable at lower tides. Always carry a tide chart, available at visitor centers and coastal ranger stations. DO NOT GUESS! Know when the tides will occur and plan your hike according.
Strong winds or storms can significantly elevate tides and create hazardous conditions. Be attentive to your surroundings and never underestimate the power of the Pacific Ocean.
To add a dose of education about marine life and increase safety, follow along on a ranger-led excursion.
Tide Pool Etiquette
Watch your step: Not only can it be dangerous for you to step or slip on organisms in the tide pools, but it can be detrimental to whatever you step on! Try to walk on sand or bare rocks, and don’t jump from rock to rock.
Touch gently: Some plants and wildlife at the tide pools can be touched, but be gentle. Never try to pull or pry something off of a rock, and keep in mind – and make clear to children – that you are potentially disturbing a living thing.
Take only pictures: Never remove anything from a beach or tide pool, even rocks or sand. Everything in the tide pools exists as part of a delicate ecosystem.
Leave only footprints: Don’t leave behind anything that doesn’t belong on the beach, including garbage, food, articles of clothing, etc.
Studying the Tide Pools
Scientists at Olympic National Park have only a small window of time to study intertidal communities, the turbulent meeting place between land and sea. In order to work at the lowest summer tides, they often wake at 2 am and hike in the dark to the Pacific coast. This is a place of rich biological diversity, fierce competition, and strong indicators of a changing climate.
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.