The Ozette Triangle offers some of the most unique features of any trail in the Pacific Northwest: lake-to-beach boardwalks, the westernmost point in the contiguous United States, and Native American petroglyphs. As its name implies, it is a triangular “loop” comprised of three nearly equidistant trails: the Cape Alava Trail and the Sand Point Trail, which fork seaward from a single trailhead on Lake Ozette and are joined at their opposite ends by the ocean beach that forms an easily hiked “trail” between them. Cape Alava has the distinction of being the westernmost point in the contiguous United States, which is extended at low tide when Tskawahyah Island is briefly reunited with the mainland. Adding to their seaside charm, the Cape Alava and Sand Point trails consist primarily of boardwalks that carry them just above the boggy soil of the coastal rainforest, rendering them nearly flat, passable in any weather (although slick when wet), and kid friendly. Aside from the area around the aptly named Sand Point, most of the coastal trail traverses the course gravel that is typical of northern Washington beaches, which creates a “two steps forward, one step backward” drag on the otherwise flat, shoreline terrain.
Along the coastal trail, keep an eye out for 300- to 500-year-old petroglyphs carved into seaside boulders by the Makah, whose reservation lies just north of the Ozette Triangle and whose ancestral lands encompass much of the northwestern Olympic Peninsula. The petroglyphs were created by the Ozette band of the Makah, who lived in a large village on Lake Ozette until their forced removal by European settlers. (“Ozette” was the name of the village; the Makah call the lake “Kahouk.”) Because the carvings include fertility symbols and are thought to have marked marriage rites, possibly in cultural collaboration with the neighboring but unrelated Quileute, the headland where they are located is known as “Wedding Rocks.” The practice was restricted to the Ozette band and died out after their relocation to the reservation, along with all memory of its purpose.
The Ozette Triangle is a popular hiking destination during the summer months, especially for beach campers, but provides much more solitude on week days and during the off season. However, bears, deer, sea lions, and other wildlife are common sightings and are very accustomed to humans — be aware of your surroundings and maintain a safe distance for both yourself and any fellow creatures you encounter. (Information about wildlife safety can be found on this site’s “Resources” page under “Safety and Preparation.”) Also, before venturing down the shoreline, be sure to check tide charts to avoid being stranded by unexpected high water, and, while hiking, note the locations of circular red and black signs posted along the edge of the beach that mark the Cape Alava and Sand Point trails and other paths away from the water. Finally, if you are lucky enough to encounter petroglyphs, treat them respectfully as a legacy of the First Peoples whose ancestral lands are now enjoyed by all.