Camping on the beach is a dream for backpackers, but there are surprisingly few places in the country where it's legal. Fortunately, one of the best places to do it is on the wilderness section of the Olympic Peninsula coastline. The rugged trail goes right along the water for 73 miles, traversing tide pools, steep headlands, and isolated tracts of pristine beaches accessible only by foot.

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For three women, hiking the trail is a great way to get in touch with nature — and each other.

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“It reacquaints you with what’s really important,” says Valerie Ulruh, who loves the feeling of getting out on such a challenging trail. She and her friends camped right on the beach, with prime views of the stars at night and the starfish in the morning.

“You realize that what really matters is human connection, and connection to the land," says Lesley Nelson of their 17-mile journey, which took them over muddy cliffs and rocky shorelines.

Angie Freyer lost a shoe on the trail when the tide came in more quickly than she expected. (She improvised with a flip flop to finish the trip.) Hikers must check the tide tables before heading out, because some parts of the trail are only accessible during lower tides. Still, Freyer says, “The ocean just has this mystical feeling about it.”

Beach-seeking backpackers can find Olympic Coast trail information at the National Parks Service website.

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