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Hop through the Hole-in-the-Wall at Olympic National Park

by timber press on May 8, 2018

in Natural History

Hike Details

Length: 3.2 miles out and back
Hike time + explore: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy—just straight on the sand, but the creek crossing could prove too much for little ones
Season: Year-round; you can see the most bird migration in spring and fall
Get there: Just north of the town of Forks, head west on Highway 110/La Push Road for 8 miles and then turn right on Mora Road for 5 miles more until you reach the signed parking lot for Rialto Beach.
Google Maps: bit.ly/TimberHoleintheWall
Restrooms: In the parking lot
Fee: None
Treat yourself: Head to the tiny but cute Mocha Motion shack for smoothies and muffins 14 miles east in Forks.

Olympic National Park
(360) 565-3100
Twitter @OlympicNP
Facebook @OlympicNPS

Your Adventure

Welcome to the theater, adventurers. Rialto was a common name for theaters in the 1920s, when a local magician named this beach. You’re sure to feel the magic and the spectacle of this pebbly masterpiece as you amble out to the huge Hole-in the-Wall gaping through the side of the earth. If you make it at low tide, you can cross through the hole.

Come at high tide, and you can still see the sweet arch through the rock. Check the tide schedule (bit.ly/HoleintheWallTides), and go at one of the two low tide times of the day—especially minus tides, when it goes below sea level—give or take a couple of hours. Extend your adventure by camping at Mora Campground right by the parking lot.

Hole-in-the-Wall Scavenger Hunt

The bedrock of the Hole-in-the-Wall is a sedimentary sandstone with layers of siltstone mixed between that has been pounded by the sea. Sandstone erodes quicker than other types of rock, which made the big hole. What do you think it will look like if you come back in forty years? How about 1,000 years from now?

A close-up look at Hole-in-the-Wall at high tide.

Split rock
These rocks were laid down 30–50 million years ago offshore, and now here we are walking and looking at these beautiful monoliths. Imagine the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate shoving the rocks back onshore. You can see the signs of this in the layers of rock tipped on their side at the shoreline.

Just offshore are two large rocks.

White agate
This is a rockhounding beach, so look carefully as you march through the pebbles that will become sand one day. Among the many different colors you’ll see is a white agate. Which is your favorite? These are formed by silica in lava rock. In honor of being in the theater of Rialto Beach, try to do a magic trick with an agate pebble. Can you make it disappear up your sleeve or behind your ear and come back again?

White agate on the pebble beach.

Ochre sea star
As the beach approaches low tide, look for orange ochre sea stars. They have five arms and hundreds of tube feet, which give them that kung-fu grip. Make sure not to touch them. Some sea stars along the coastline of the Pacific Northwest are getting a mysterious disease called sea star wasting disease, and you don’t want to spread it from one sea star to another. Olympic National Park could use your help as they are studying this problem. If you see any that look like they have sores on them, report it online at bit.ly/TimberSeaStarReport.

Ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus) at the surf line.

Bull kelp
Nereocystis means “mermaid bladder” in Greek. Look for the holdfast, little hands that hold this algae to the seafloor. This seaweed grows from a spore (not a seed) to adulthood in just one year. Touch its blades, which come out from the gas bladder. Why do you think kelp has a gas bladder? Can you break it open?

Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) laying in the sand.

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Wendy Gorton holds a master’s degree in learning technologies and is a former classroom teacher. She worked as a National Geographic Fellow in Australia researching Tasmanian devils, a PolarTREC teacher researcher in archaeology in Alaska, an Earthwatch teacher fellow in the Bahamas and New Orleans, and a GoNorth! teacher explorer studying climate change via dogsled in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Today, she is a global education consultant who has traveled to more than fifty countries to design programs, build communities, and train other educators to do the same.



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