The Trail of Terror starts with the flat and easy 1.4 mile stroll to Third Beach near La Push, WA along Olympic Park’s Pacific shore area. Walk south down the beach towards the waterfall. Look for the trail sign near where the beach narrows. It’s right above the freshly eroded cliff, near the dangling rope. The Trail of Terror connects Third Beach with the beaches to the south. It’s the only way there — the coast is too rough and rocky.
At this point, be sure that you’re not carrying water, that you are wearing worn-tread sneakers, and that you didn’t bring a bag for your camera or for your phone. You’re perfectly prepared. Wait for a few rain clouds to circle overhead, then start up the rope and look for the trail.
When in doubt, follow the mud. For proper enjoyment, the trail should be entirely mud in most places. You’ll want to slide on the roots, sink in the puddles, and cake up your shoes. When you get to the river, you’re about 1/3 of the way there. The river leads to the top of the waterfall mentioned earlier. Cross the river to continue. Pray that it doesn’t rain.
Because if it rains, you’re going to need more than scratchy nylon ropes to get back to your car. You’ll need divine intervention, a piggy-back ride from Apollo. You’ll need one of the park’s Roosevelt Elks to show up and offer you a ride.
But don’t worry: you’re all alone. If you have a problem, you won’t have to concoct a non-embarrassing backstory for days. Nobody will find you. It’ll be just you, your broken legs, and the pore-cleansing (I imagine) mud. It’ll be like a trip to the spa. It’ll be wonderful. Suppress the terror. Hell, maybe you won’t break your legs, you’ll just have to watch your wife break hers. Stop thinking about these things. Or think about crazier and crazier things until your head explodes. Whatever.
Why do I think about this stuff while we’re hiking?
Lisa is sure-footed. I’ve never seen her fall while skiing. I tumble all the time. I shouldn’t be worried about her, but I am. The trail has me a little frazzled. Lisa’s memory of it was a bit fuzzy. She remembers it being difficult, but this is way dicey. The ropes on the steep pitches are pretty serious. And it’s long. At the end of the day we’ll have logged maybe 8-9 miles, all without any water, much of it very steep and muddy.
But it’s fun too. Parts feel like we’re in an Indiana Jones movie. This is the jungle. The views are amazing. Was that a monkey?
When we get back to Third Beach after the there-and-back muddy, steep bit, we’re exhausted but exhilarated. We stumble down the beach and back the 1.4 mile path to the parking lot and gulp water when back at the van. We’ve avoided catastrophe again, something that’s usually possible, but catastrophe seemed extra plausible a few miles ago.