Trip Report: Backpacking the South Coast Route – Olympic National Park, Washington

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I had planned to head into the North Picket Range of North Cascades National Park for a 6 day backpacking trip with my brother Lee & friend Paul.

A day before leaving the fires had become so bad in the Cascades that we decided to head to the Pacific Coast instead. I’d been wanting to do the South Coast Route for a few years now so thankfully everything was already scouted out & already planned.

The following trip report documents our 19 mile backpacking trip starting at 3rd Beach & Ending at Oil City.


The following photos were lightly processed using Adobe Lightroom only. I’ll be posting some of the “Portfolio Images” from this trip in the coming weeks.


Scouting & Planning

Provided Below are the Resources I Used for This Trip


Trip / Photography Location Map

By making approximate trip maps for all of my backpacking & photography trips I can easily share my planned route, prior to leaving, for safety reasons.

Along with using Google Maps to scout for trips I also always carry a physical map with me on backpacking trips. For most parks I prefer the National Geographic Maps.


Consider All Map Locations to Be Approximate


Trip Report – Details & Logistics

Trip Dates- August 22nd – August 24th, 2015

Reference the Map Above for Locations Denoted in the Following Trip Report


Day 1


At 7 AM on Saturday morning Lee, Paul & I met at the ferry terminal in downtown Seattle & caught the 7:30 over to the Olympic Peninsula. After stopping for some supplies we drove the Northern route through Port Angeles, past Lake Crescent and over to the Pacific Coast.

After 5+ hours of travel we left one car at the Oil City Trailhead Parking Lot then all packed into my X-Terra and headed up to the Third Beach Parking Lot. For those that only have 1 car you also have the option to hire a Trail Head Shuttle. We decided that starting at Third Beach and hiking South to Finish @ Oil City would best fit our plans.

From the Third Beach Parking lot we started the trek through the old growth forests down to the Pacific Coast of Washington State. This part of the hike was fairly easy and mostly downhill.

Upon arriving on Third Beach we hiked down the shoreline then caught the trail up a ladder back into the forests. Our goal was to camp just south of Toleak Point that evening due to the locations close proximity to a fresh water source.

The rest of the day was spent climbing through amazing old growth forests and pristine beaches as we made our way South on the Pacific Coast. This trail is easily one of my favorites of all time due to the constant change in scenery and elevation.

We set up camp that night, filled up with fresh water & went out to explore for sunset. Camping just South of Toleak Point allowed us easy access to fresh water via Jackson Creek. I use a Katadyn Water Filter for all my hikes on the Pacific Coast. For really “silty” water you can rubber band a coffee filter over the intake valve of the Katadyn.

This section of the coast was ideal for photography at sunrise, sunset & during the day. I also managed to capture some night photos with the Moon over the Pacific Ocean.

Overall we covered 8 miles on Day 1 which included some side hikes to different beaches in the area.


Day 2


After getting a great night sleep on the beach we woke up, immediately got into the freezing cold ocean, then got out for breakfast & coffee. I make it a morning routine to always swim in the ocean when camping on the coast. It’s a great way to wake up!

After relaxing all morning with coffee & a book we left camp around 1PM and headed South down the coast towards our camp for the second night. The hike during day 2 was my personal favorite. After getting a few miles away from the trailhead we no longer saw many other backpackers. We had the place to ourselves for the entire second day & night.

The old growth forests through the second day of hiking were some of the best that I’ve ever seen. The tress in this part of the country rival some of the redwoods in diameter. We spent our day doing a bunch of side hikes off of the main trail which allowed us to explore some of the forests & beaches.

After a great day of hiking we setup camp on the beach, photographed sunset & made dinner.


Day 3

The last night we camped within 3 miles of the Oil City Trailhead where we had parked our car on the first day. The hike out on the last day was fairly easy, but we nearly ended up getting stuck due to high tide. After scrambling down some of the coastline through rocks & boulders we made it back to the Hoh River as it made its way down to the Pacific Ocean.

We arrived back to Paul’s car then drove back up to Third Beach to pick up my X-Terra. From here Lee & I set out down highway 101 to do a backpacking trip into the Queets Rainforest.


More Photos from the Trip…

CLICK HERE For Complete Trip Report Photo Gallery



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Get the First 70 Pages of My New eBook, Photograph the Night Sky, For Free!


Cover-Final---Photograph-the-Night-Sky-copy-5This week I’m putting the finishing touches on my first full length book, Photograph the Night Sky.

It’s 170 pages of in-depth content on everything I know about night sky photography.

Photograph the Night Sky also contains detailed information & video tutorials on composition, scouting, planning & weather, as well as many other skill sets which apply to landscape photography.

The complete copy of this book will be available on Thursday, July 16th, but I want to give you the first 70 pages right now.

Everything else you may want to know is provided on the book’s main page linked below.

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Free Star Trails Post Processing Video Tutorial

So you’re ready to capture and post process some star trail images? Let me show you just how easily this can be done! Using my free tutorials provided below I’ll show you my favorite methods to capture and edit your star trail images in a simple yet powerful manner.

First I’ll provide you with step by step instruction, next you can watch the free video tutorial to see these steps in action. Both are provided below the free eBook link below. If you haven’t taken any star trails images yet you can learn how to do so using my Free Star Trails Shooting Tutorial

Download your Free 70 page Star Photography eBook & access the tutorials below the next photo. 
You will learn how to take and edit / post process star trail photos as well as still frame photos during the workshop. This was taken from a view point high above Crater Lake. We will visit a ton of great locations within the park during the workshop.

Download Your Free 70 Page eBook

My new full length book, Photograph the Night Sky, has just been released & I want you to have the first 70 pages for free.

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It also contains detailed information & video tutorials on composition, scouting, planning & weather, as well as many other skill sets which apply to landscape photography.

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Star Trails Post Processing Tutorial

After getting back from taking some star trails pictures here is my preferred method of post processing them explained in a very brief manner. I’ve also provided a free video below to show you these steps in action.
  1. Load all your images into a RAW photo processor of your choice such as Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW.
  2. Adjust a single exposure out of the series to get the white balance, darks, lights and all of the other settings to mimic what you would like to see in your final image. Now sync all of your other images from the shoot to exactly match this image. This is very easy using the “Sync” option in Lightroom.
  3. Export all of your files to JPEG, TIFF or whatever other format you like. Note: If you choose TIFF and plan to export a few hundred picture files you either need a really fast computer with lots of RAM or some magic. I would suggest JPEG in the case of star trail pictures.
  4. Layer all of the files on top of each other in Photoshop. I like to use Adobe Bridge to do this using the “Load Files into Photoshop as Layers” function.
  5. Select all of the picture layers in Photoshop EXCEPT the bottom one and change the blend mode to lighten.
  6. Boom, that’s it. You should now see a picture that mimics one long star trail for each star location.  I go on to do many different other adjustments to this image after completing the steps above, but that’s for another tutorial:)

Free Video Tutorial