Cape Alava Trail In Washington

Here is everything you need to know about the Cape Alava Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Washington
  • Length: 3.3 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: Olympic National Park
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website: Info not available.

The Cape Alava Trail, located in Olympic National Park in Washington state, holds a significant historical background. The trail is situated on the westernmost point of the contiguous United States and has been a site of human activity for thousands of years. The area has been inhabited by indigenous tribes, primarily the Makah people, who have a deep connection to the land and its resources.

For centuries, the Makah people have utilized the coastal region for sustenance and cultural practices. The Cape Alava Trail, known as Ozette Indian Trail in the past, was an important route for the Makah people to access the abundant resources of the Pacific Ocean. They would travel along the trail to reach the coastline, where they engaged in fishing, hunting marine mammals, and gathering shellfish.

In the late 1960s, a significant archaeological discovery was made along the Cape Alava Trail. A powerful storm eroded the coastline, revealing a prehistoric Makah village known as Ozette. The village had been buried under a mudslide around 500 years ago, preserving an extraordinary collection of artifacts and insights into the lives of the Makah people. The excavation of the Ozette site became one of the largest archaeological projects in the United States, providing valuable information about the ancient Makah culture and their way of life.

Today, the Cape Alava Trail not only offers visitors a chance to explore the stunning coastal scenery but also serves as a reminder of the rich history and cultural heritage of the Makah people. The trail provides an opportunity to learn about the indigenous connection to the land and the significance of the area for the Makah community. It stands as a testament to the enduring presence of the Makah people and their deep-rooted ties to the Cape Alava region.

While On The Trail

Access Points

The major access points or trailheads along the Cape Alava Trail are:

1. Lake Ozette Ranger Station: This is the starting point for the Cape Alava Trail. It is located near the town of Ozette and serves as the main access point for hikers.

2. Ozette Loop Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the Lake Ozette Ranger Station and serves as an alternative starting point for the Cape Alava Trail. It is part of the longer Ozette Loop Trail, which connects to the Cape Alava Trail.

3. Sand Point: This is a popular access point for the Cape Alava Trail. It is located at the westernmost point of the trail and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

4. Cape Alava: This is the endpoint of the Cape Alava Trail. It is a scenic coastal area with a beautiful beach and tide pools. Hikers can enjoy the views and explore the beach before heading back.

These are the main access points along the Cape Alava Trail, providing hikers with different starting and ending options for their journey.

Transportation Available

1. Olympic Hiking Co. – Guided hiking tours and transportation services for the Cape Alava Trail.
2. Forks Shuttle Service – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from the Cape Alava Trail.
3. Olympic Bus Lines – Bus service with stops near the Cape Alava Trail for convenient transportation.
4. Olympic Peninsula Adventures – Transportation services offering guided tours and shuttle options for the Cape Alava Trail.
5. Olympic National Park Shuttle – Shuttle service operating within Olympic National Park, including stops near the Cape Alava Trail.


The amenities available at the Cape Alava Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are pit toilets available at the trailhead and campground area.

2. Parking: There is a parking lot available at the trailhead for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: Cape Alava has a designated campground area where visitors can set up their tents and camp overnight. Permits are required for camping and can be obtained from the Wilderness Information Center.

4. Picnic Areas: There are picnic tables available at the campground area where visitors can enjoy their meals or snacks.

5. Fire Rings: Fire rings are provided at the campground area for campers to have campfires. However, firewood must be brought in or gathered from the surrounding area.

6. Bear Poles: Bear poles are available at the campground area for visitors to hang their food and scented items to keep them safe from bears.

7. Water Source: There is a water source available at the campground area, but it is recommended to bring a water filter or purifier to treat the water before consumption.

8. Information Boards: There are information boards at the trailhead and campground area that provide details about the trail, safety guidelines, and other important information.

9. Trail Markers: The trail is marked with signs and markers to guide hikers along the route.

10. Wildlife Viewing: Cape Alava is known for its wildlife, and visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing opportunities along the trail.

11. Scenic Views: The trail offers beautiful scenic views of the coastline, forests, and ocean.

12. Interpretive Signs: There are interpretive signs along the trail that provide information about the natural and cultural history of the area.

Please note that amenities may be subject to change or availability, so it is always recommended to check with the park authorities or visitor center for the most up-to-date information before visiting.

Nearby Services

1. Lake Ozette Campground – Campground with tent and RV sites near the trailhead.
2. Lake Ozette Store and Resort – Lakeside resort offering lodging, camping, and a store with food services.
3. Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center – Provides information on the trail and emergency services.
4. Forks Community Hospital – Nearby hospital for emergency medical services.
5. Forks Motel – Motel offering lodging in the town of Forks, close to the trail.

Cape Alava Trail Difficulty Notes

The Cape Alava Trail, located in Olympic National Park, offers a moderate difficulty level for hikers. The trail spans approximately 9 miles round trip and features a mix of forested sections, boardwalks, and beach terrain. While the trail is relatively flat, it can be challenging due to the uneven and sometimes muddy terrain. Hikers should be prepared for potential obstacles such as fallen trees and slippery sections. Additionally, the trail can become quite crowded during peak seasons, which may slow down progress. Overall, the Cape Alava Trail provides a manageable yet rewarding hiking experience for those seeking a moderate challenge.

Features And Attractions

The Cape Alava Trail is located in Olympic National Park in Washington state. Along this trail, you can find several scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and more. Here are some notable points of interest along the Cape Alava Trail:

1. Cape Alava: The trail starts at Cape Alava, which is the westernmost point in the contiguous United States. It offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged coastline.

2. Sand Point: After hiking for about 3 miles, you will reach Sand Point, a beautiful sandy beach with tide pools and sea stacks. It’s a great spot for picnicking and beachcombing.

3. Ozette Indian Village: Near Sand Point, you can explore the archaeological remains of the Ozette Indian Village. This ancient Makah village was buried by a mudslide around 500 years ago and has been excavated, revealing artifacts and insights into Native American history.

4. Wedding Rocks: As you continue along the trail, you will come across Wedding Rocks, a collection of petroglyphs carved into the rocks by the Makah people. These carvings depict various symbols and scenes, providing a glimpse into their cultural heritage.

5. Cedar Creek: The trail crosses Cedar Creek, a picturesque stream that flows through a lush forest. It’s a peaceful spot to rest and enjoy the sounds of nature.

6. Coastal Forest: The Cape Alava Trail takes you through a dense coastal forest, characterized by towering trees, moss-covered branches, and a diverse range of plant and animal life. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as deer, birds, and maybe even a glimpse of a black bear.

7. Tidal Pools: Along the coastline, especially at low tide, you can explore numerous tidal pools teeming with marine life. Look for colorful sea anemones, starfish, crabs, and other fascinating creatures.

8. Sea Stacks: The Cape Alava Trail offers fantastic views of sea stacks, which are large rock formations rising out of the ocean. These unique geological features add to the scenic beauty of the coastline.

9. Sunset Views: If you time your hike right, you can witness breathtaking sunsets from Cape Alava or Sand Point. The combination of the ocean, sky, and rugged landscape creates a stunning backdrop for the setting sun.

These are just a few highlights along the Cape Alava Trail. The entire trail is approximately 9 miles round trip and offers a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and history of Olympic National Park.

Usage Guidelines

– Pets are allowed on the Cape Alava Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Camping is allowed only in designated campsites.
– Campfires are permitted only in established fire rings.
– Gathering firewood is prohibited, so bring your own firewood or a portable stove.
– Fishing is allowed in the coastal areas, but a valid fishing license is required.
– Hunting is not allowed in the Olympic National Park, including the Cape Alava Trail.
– Leave no trace: Pack out all trash and dispose of it properly.
– Do not disturb or remove any natural or cultural resources.
– Stay on designated trails and do not create new paths.
– Respect wildlife and observe from a safe distance.
– Overnight camping requires a wilderness camping permit, which can be obtained at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles.
– The trail is open year-round, but be prepared for changing weather conditions and check for any seasonal restrictions or closures before your visit.

Seasonal Information

The Cape Alava Trail, located in Olympic National Park in Washington state, offers visitors a stunning coastal experience with its rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and lush rainforests. The best times of the year to visit this trail are during the summer and early fall months, from June to September. During this time, the weather is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from the 60s to 70s Fahrenheit (15-25 degrees Celsius), making it ideal for hiking and exploring the area.

Summer is also the best time to witness the abundant wildlife that calls Cape Alava home. Visitors may spot various bird species, including bald eagles and tufted puffins, as well as marine mammals such as seals and sea lions. The trail is also known for its vibrant wildflower displays during this time, adding a splash of color to the already picturesque landscape.

It’s important to note that the Cape Alava Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months, typically from October to May. This closure is due to the challenging weather conditions, including heavy rainfall, strong winds, and potential storms. The trail can become slippery and dangerous during this time, making it unsafe for hikers. It is recommended to check the park’s website or contact the visitor center for the most up-to-date information on trail closures and conditions before planning a visit.

Overall, the best times to visit the Cape Alava Trail are during the summer and early fall when the weather is pleasant, wildlife is abundant, and the trail is open for exploration. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a beach lover, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, this trail offers a unique and unforgettable experience in the heart of Olympic National Park.


1. Wheelchair Accessibility: The Cape Alava Trail is not wheelchair accessible due to its rugged terrain and lack of paved pathways.
2. Trail Surface: The trail consists of natural surfaces such as dirt, gravel, and uneven terrain, making it challenging for wheelchair users.
3. Trail Width: The trail is narrow in some sections, which may pose difficulties for wheelchair users to navigate.
4. Steep Inclines: The trail includes steep inclines and declines, making it unsuitable for wheelchair users.
5. Obstacles: The trail may have fallen trees, roots, or rocks that can obstruct the path, making it challenging for wheelchair users.
6. Rest Areas: There are limited rest areas along the trail, which may be inconvenient for individuals with mobility limitations.
7. Accessible Parking: The trailhead offers accessible parking spaces for visitors with disabilities.
8. Interpretive Signs: The trail features interpretive signs with information about the area’s natural and cultural history, which can be enjoyed by all visitors.
9. Alternative Accessible Trails: Nearby areas, such as visitor centers or other parks, may offer accessible trails or facilities for individuals with disabilities.
10. ADA Accommodations: Visitors with disabilities can contact the park authorities in advance to inquire about specific ADA accommodations available at Cape Alava Trail.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Cape Alava Trail is a relatively easy 3-mile hike through coastal forests and along the beach, suitable for all skill levels.
2. Weather Conditions: Be prepared for changing weather conditions, including rain, fog, and strong winds, as the trail is located in a coastal area.
3. Tidal Awareness: Check tide tables before starting the hike, as some sections of the trail may become impassable during high tide.
4. Proper Footwear: Wear sturdy, waterproof shoes or boots to navigate muddy sections of the trail and protect your feet from sharp rocks and shells on the beach.
5. Bug Repellent: Apply insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes and other biting insects, especially during the summer months.
6. Wildlife Encounter: Be cautious of wildlife encounters, including bears and cougars, and follow proper safety protocols if you encounter any.
7. Drinking Water: Carry an adequate supply of drinking water, as there are no reliable water sources along the trail.
8. Navigation: Bring a map, compass, or GPS device to ensure you stay on the designated trail, as some sections may be poorly marked.
9. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and minimizing your impact on the environment.
10. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a first aid kit, whistle, and other essential emergency supplies, and inform someone of your hiking plans before setting off.

Conservation Notes

The Cape Alava Trail, located in Olympic National Park in Washington State, holds a significant conservation status due to its unique ecological features and the efforts made to preserve its natural resources. This trail is situated within the coastal strip of the park, which is known for its rich biodiversity and pristine coastal ecosystems. As a result, the Cape Alava Trail has been designated as a protected area, ensuring the conservation of its fragile habitats and species.

One of the key conservation aspects of the Cape Alava Trail is its old-growth forest, which is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. These ancient forests are characterized by towering trees, including Sitka spruce and western red cedar, some of which are hundreds of years old. The preservation of these old-growth forests is crucial for maintaining the overall health and resilience of the ecosystem, as they provide habitat for numerous species, contribute to carbon sequestration, and help regulate local climate conditions.

Additionally, the Cape Alava Trail is situated along the rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean, which supports a variety of marine and intertidal life. The intertidal zone, where the land meets the sea, is a particularly sensitive habitat that requires protection. It is home to a diverse array of marine organisms, including anemones, sea stars, and various species of seaweed. The conservation efforts surrounding the Cape Alava Trail aim to safeguard these intertidal habitats from human disturbance, ensuring the long-term survival of the species that rely on them.

In conclusion, the Cape Alava Trail holds a significant conservation status within Olympic National Park due to its old-growth forests and the preservation of its coastal ecosystems. The protection of these habitats is essential for maintaining biodiversity, supporting wildlife populations, and preserving the natural beauty of the area. Efforts to conserve the Cape Alava Trail contribute to the overall conservation goals of the park, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy and appreciate its ecological significance.

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