Coastal Backpacking - Seattle - 2024

Backpacking Course

Coastal Backpacking

For experienced backpackers: how to plan and lead safe and enjoyable backpacking trips along the coastal beaches and headlands of the Pacific Northwest.

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.

The course schedule includes two required field trip dates, but we will only be going on one of them.  The second date is a backup in case conditions are bad for the first one.   We ask that everyone be available for both dates when registering.

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 destination 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 schedule includes two required field trips, but we will be going on only one of them.  The second date is a backup in case conditions are bad for the first one. 

The course fee includes

  1. ONP backcountry permit fees for the field trip.
  2. Custom Correct paper maps  for the north and south Olympic coast, which will be distributed at the lecture.  Custom Correct maps are the best source of tide hazard information for ONP coastal  routes, and will be used throughout the course.


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 the coastal environment.
  • Evacuation if the beach becomes unsafe.
  • Safely traversing stream and river crossings in the tidal zone.
  • Hazards  in the coastal environment.
  • When to cancel a trip.

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

PREREquisites 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 years.  They can be private trips or Mountaineers trips.  They do 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 Backpack leaders and leader candidates may register early and are eligible for a discounted course fee.  Contact the course leader for details.

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Course Materials

There are no materials for this course.