Coastal Backpacking: Trip Planning and Execution - Seattle - 2022

Backpacking & Outdoor Leadership Course

Coastal Backpacking: Trip Planning and Execution

For current and future Mountaineers backpacking trip leaders as well as experienced backpackers: how to plan and lead safe and enjoyable backpacking trips along the coastal beaches and headlands of the Pacific Northwest.

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers course.

This class is intended for backpackers who already have experience planning and leading their own trips, and who are interested in leading trips along the various standard beach routes of the Pacific Northwest, especially along the Olympic coast.

Why Beach Trips?

Beach trips can be beautiful, fun, and very different from the inland trips that we are all most familiar with.  However, from the perspective of a trip leader they  are appealing  for additional reasons too:

  • Coastal routes are usually not affected by the wildfires, smoke, and heat that can impact the rest of the state.  They can be reliable primary destinations most of the season, and a good fallback destinations for inland trips during episodes of smoke, heat,  or high fire risk.
  • They can be excellent shoulder season trips, especially in the spring when the weather is nice at lower elevations but the high country is still under snow.
  • Most beach campsites are spacious and can accommodate large groups if desired (up to the Mountaineers limit of 12).  For leaders who desire to do so, choosing a beach route can be a way to accommodate many participants on a single trip, for example course field trips, other student-oriented outings, or if you simply enjoy leading larger trips.
  • Most coastal campsites are part of Olympic National Park and are reservable well in advance, making it easier to plan Mountaineers-style trips.

Beach trips are also one of the categories for the coveted Gold Backpack award badge.

About THE Course

The course covers a variety of topics that are unique to planning and leading beach trips (see "Topics" below).  The topics are distributed across a lecture and a field trip, with some topics covered at only one or the other.  Therefore it is necessary to attend both the lecture and the field trip to get the full benefit of the course. The field trip is a typical Mountaineers beach trip, but with additional instructional presented at points throughout the trip.

As with all trips, the field trip may need to be rescheduled in case of bad weather or other adverse conditions.


Overview of standard Olympic Peninsula backpacking routes.

Tides: why they are important, where to look them up, and how to plan your itinerary to accommodate them.

Permits for National Park and tribal destinations.

Basic trip planning and management:

  • Setting realistic speed and distance expectations when hiking on sand.
  • Signage.
  • Route finding along the ever-changing coastline.
  • Using the ropes and ladders present on many coastal routes.
  • Where to get fresh water.
  • Gear considerations
  • Food storage

Safety Considerations:

  • The most common sources of injuries and how to avoid them.
  • Safe group travel in tidal areas.
  • Evacuation if the beach becomes unsafe.
  • Safely traversing stream and river crossings in the tidal zone.
  • Hazards exposed at low tide.
  • When to cancel a trip.


  • Trips for keeping clean when spending days around sand and salt.
  • Best practices for food preparation and cleanup.
  • Best practices for Leave No Trace in the beach environment

Common transportation practices for group trips that begin and end at distant beach trailheads.

Perquisites and Leader's Permission

This class is intended for people who already have experience planning and leading their own backpacking trips (either private trips or Mountaineers trips), and who want to add coastal trips to their planning/leadership repertoire.  If you already have the Backpack Leader or Advanced Backpacking Skills badges, there is no need to ask for leader's permission: you are pre-approved to register. 

When requesting permission please include a brief description of 2 - 3 overnight trips you have planned and led within the last few yers.  They can be private trips or Mountaineers trips.  They to not need to have been backpacking trips specifically, but do need to have been overnight trips, for example overnight Scrambles or Climbs.  In the case of Mountaineers trip you have led, feel free to simply refer us to your online activity history.


Seattle Backpacking leaders and leader candidates are eligible for a discounted course fee.  Contact the course leader for details.

COVID Considerations

This course is open to fully vaccinated leaders and participants only. Participants will be required to email an image of their vaccination card, which may have details blocked blocked out except for name and date of 2nd dose.  Additional details will be provided as the date of the course approaches.

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Required Equipment

Your usual backpacking kit.

Course Materials

There are no materials for this course.