Five great beach hikes

Local walks bring you closer to the water

By Kristin Kendle on June 18, 2015

The South Sound includes a lot of waterfront. From Tacoma to Olympia, you'll find plenty of stretches of waterside perfect for a stroll or a hike, some well-groomed and paved, and still others wild and untamed (well, at least less tamed). There are few better ways to enjoy the Northwest.

On any given beach, you'll find views of towering evergreens and water, passing sailboats, wildlife and more. Pro tip: Northwest beaches can be rugged, rocky and muddy so always wear comfortable shoes that won't slip around on your feet if you plan to walk.

Owen Beach - Off of Five Mile Drive, Point Defiance Park, Tacoma

Tucked at the bottom of a hill at Point Defiance, Owen Beach is one of Tacoma's best spots. It's popular, but not too popular. It's got a nice mix of paved sidewalk as well as natural beach. Start your hike near the Point Defiance Boat House along a boardwalk, or walk on the beach if the tide is out. At the end of the boardwalk, keep going. If the tide is out, you can continue up the beach for quite a ways and explore natural clay cliffs, look for agates on the beach, or even spot passing seals just offshore. As you reach the far end of the beach, away from the boardwalk, turn around. On a clear day, you'll have one of the best photos of Mt. Rainier anywhere, complete with foliage, beach and mountain.

Titlow Beach - 8425 6th Ave., Tacoma

On the far west side of Tacoma, you'll find Titlow Beach. What looks like a small boardwalk and stretch of rocky beach turns into a beachy paradise when the tide goes out (which happens twice a day, usually at least once during daylight hours). For those who want a long beach walk, it's tough to beat Titlow Beach. Start at the beach park and you can walk far down the beach, all the while with a view of the NarrowS Bridges. Look closely and you'll see an array of sealife here, too, from periwinkles and tiny crabs under rocks to starfish to seals and seabirds.

Browns Point - 201 Ton-A-Wan-Da Ave. NE, Tacoma

What Browns Point lacks in distance (it's not a long beach), it makes up for by including a lighthouse. Explore the beach and take in the views, but aim to take your hike on a Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. in warmer months and save time for the historic lighthouse too. If you really love the lighthouse, you can also sign up to be its keeper (and tour leader) for a week.

Burfoot Park - 6927 Boston Harbor Rd. NE, Olympia

If what you seek is a lesser-visited beach, Burfoot Park may be just what you need. The park itself is filled with woodland trails, a playground and other general park fare, but the highlight is an excellent hike down to a beach. Navigate the trails and stairs to a quiet beach where you can relax, catch views of the Capitol in the distance and look for sea life. You'll likely find plenty of shells, snails, starfish and sand dollars.

Priest Point Park - 2222 E. Bay Dr. NE, Olympia

Like Burfoot Park and Titlow Beach, Priest Point has a mix of woodland and beach. Drive to the far west side of the park to find the beach access trail. Trek your way down to the beach and you'll find one mile of pristine Northwest beach to walk. From the beach, you'll find plenty of sea critters as well as views of downtown, the Capitol and the Olympics. Some of the trails are on the steep side so be prepared for a workout.