Mild temperatures and abundant rain can nourish a dense tangle of forest along Olympic's coast. Head high shrubs crowd under a canopy of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and western redcedar. Ferns and mosses form a spongy carpet below. In a few areas the forest gives way to wet coastal prairies with acid-loving bog plants like wild cranberry, crowberry, bog laurel, Labrador-tea, sundew and sphagnum.
On the beach, the dense forest yields to the ocean. Blasting by prevailing westerly winds and sand often leave these sentinels flagged, with branches on just the protected leeward side. Look for eagles perched on the battered treetops. Jumbled drift logs lining the beach come from forests up river where meandering waters and floods undermine the forest, then deliver fallen trees to the ocean.
Where To See Coastal Forest
Short beach access trails and the Coastal Forest Nature Trail near Kalaloch are good spots. Look for the odd spruce burls at the Beach 1 trail south of Kalaloch. Rialto Beach has a picnic area in coastal forest. For longer trails, Third Beach or the trails from Ozette to the coast are also options.
Common Tree Species
Sitka spruce - Picea sitchensis
Western hemlock - Tsuga heterophylla
Western redcedar - Thuja plicata
Red alder - Alnus rubra
Salal - Gaultheria shallon
Evergreen huckleberry - Vaccinium ovatum
Salmonberry - Rubus spectabilis
Black Twinberry - Lonicera involucrata
Common Understory Species
Deer fern - Blechnum spicant
Beadruby - Maianthemum dilatatum
Sword fern - Polystichum munitum
Yellow skunk cabbage - Lysichiton americanum