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Cape Alava Trail at Lake Ozette — November 2010

By Erin Meier

Cape Alava is one of those places that stays in your mind’s eye for years after, whether you’ve only been there once or dozens of times. Located on the western edge of the Olympic Peninsula, north of Lake Ozette, the richness of plant life on this walk is enchanting. Just 3-1/2 miles from the trailhead to the beach, you’ll follow a boardwalk through forest, bog and meadows only to end with a spectacular view of the ocean. You can just glimpse the sparkle of the water as you come to cliffs’ edge before the trail descends to the beach. Be sure to bring sturdily treaded boots, parts of the boardwalk become quite slippery in the rain.

If you’re going on a day hike you need only pay for parking at the trailhead. For an overnight hike, it’s important to procure a permit as you’ll be camping on Ozette tribal land. From the parking lot you’ll cross a bridge, and come to a point where the trail diverges. Hang a right to continue onto Cape Alava, although if you’re up for a challenge you can start on the Sandpoint trail and do a 9 mile loop.

You’ll start your exploration of this dense forest surrounded by Thuja plicata and Picea sitchensis. There is a plenitude of Vacciniums on this trail such as Vaccinium ovatum, Vaccinium parvifolium, Vaccinium oxycoccus and more. I like to hunt for pungent stands of Lysichiton americanum, their greenishyellow cups like bright flags in the dimness of the forest. At 2 miles, you’ll come to Ahlstrom’s Prairie. A great spot for such creatures as Kalmia occidentalis, Juncus effusus and Luzula campestris. While the trail continues into the forest, look for the many varieties of fern abundant here.

At the point just before the trail drops you’ll see many Acer macrophyllum lavishly adorned with Adiantum pedatum. Be aware as you come down to the beach that you are on tribal land, and be respectful. You’ll notice that the beach is a bit seaweedy here. If you keep moving north around the point, you’ll be rewarded for your persistance with a beach to stun the senses and noticeably less seaweed (not to mention sand fleas). We like to hike down to the creek and lunch there. On our last trip we enjoyed sea lions and even some sea otters frolicking in the waves as we demolished our sandwiches.

Directions: Drive on Hwy 101 West past Port Angeles. Take a right on SR 113, and enjoy the drive through Clallam Bay and Sekiu. Turn onto the Ozette Lake Rd and drive 21 miles to the Ranger Station and parking lot.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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