Accessible toilet, ramp in the summer, seating area
The northern Olympic coast is miles of protected wilderness, and much of it is difficult to access without long hikes. Rialto Beach, a part of Olympic National Park, is one of the more accessible, and popular, coastal areas. While many of the beaches feature huge driftwood logs and towering sea stacks, Rialto is unique in the number and size of the logs. The beach also offers a view of James Island, known as A-Ka-Lat to the Quileute. Keep an eye out for the pair(s) of Bald Eagles, particularly around sunset
Rialto Beach is not a trail exactly. The coast here offers a two mile walk to Hole-in-the-Wall, a rock arch with numerous tide pools and scenic views along the way. It is a part of the much longer Olympic Wilderness Coast trail.
To access the beach, you can follow a paved trail from the parking area past the accessible vault toilets to a sandy area, or go directly to either side of dumpsters to walk up a slightly sloping cobblestone bank. In the summertime the Park Service may install a wheelchair accessible ramp to an overlook. There are also places where you can walk on sand or compact stones to reach an area to sit on a log and watch the sea, without going out onto the beach. There are picnic tables but these do not provide very good views.
Since driftwood and rocks shift often, you may have to walk around a little bit to find a good place for a view or to access the beach. Huge logs are scattered around and form walls in many places closer to the tree line, which can be a barrier to accessing the beach. If you stay up in the forested area and walk much further than the picnic area, the logs and trees become closer together and difficult to cross without climbing, jumping, or stepping over them; there is not a clearly defined trail.
The beach at Rialto is primarily deep, loose cobblestone, with some places of small-stone sand. The sand beach area is wider at low tide. The footing can be unsteady and you can expect to occasionally sink or shift as you walk. It is mostly level, though there may be some places where you will need to cross an embankment of stones.
From the parking area, it is a one mile walk to Ellen Creek. In the rainy months, Ellen Creek swells to rushing size; in the summer it is a trickling flow. To cross the creek you either have to walk across it, which is easiest at low tide but you will still get your feet wet, or go higher up the beach and cross on a log. Sometimes the creek is such a trickle that it runs below the sand and there is no crossing. From Ellen Creek it is one mile to Hole-in-the-Wall. At low tide you can walk around the arch and explore tide pools. It is rocky and can be slick. There is an overland trail here as well which provides an overlook, but I have not been on that section yet.
At high tide it can be very difficult to walk along the beach. There are many places where the tide and the logs can trap you, and the only way around is to climb over or along the logs. The waves here are very sneaky and will frequently wash higher on the beach than you might expect. But there are many places where you can still watch the waves from a safe distance – which I highly recommend. The shape of the coastline at Rialto produces some powerful and dramatic waves. You can check the tides here.
Leashed pets are allowed to Ellen Creek. As in all otherwise off-limit areas, service animals are allowed on the entire beach.