Shi Shi Beach offers stunning camping, hiking

By Kie Relyea
She Shi Beach, Washington (AP) 7-09

Nestled in the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula, Shi Shi Beach is a jaw-dropping part of the state – where forested bluffs, tangy salt air and majestic stacks rising from the ocean are dizzying reminders of nature’s bounty in this part of the world.

You’ll forget the logistical hassles and roughly seven hours spent getting to this part of Olympic National Park from Bellingham as soon as you start hiking the trail, which begins on the Makah Indian Reservation and winds 2.2 miles through woods and muddy sections before dropping 200 feet down to the beach.

There, you can decide whether to camp at Shi Shi for the duration of your visit or spend a night and then continue on with a 16.2-mile coastal backpacking trip that heads south and ends at Ozette.

Set aside three days and two nights to leave plenty of time for the longer hike, to pick up the cars left on each end of the route, and make it back to catch the ferry in Port Townsend for work.

You can’t go wrong if you decide to stay put at Shi Shi. With the pleasing roar of the waves in your ears and the sweep of beach ending in the sparkle of the ocean, daily cares will ebb away. Drink it all in, walk down the beach, take deep breaths of that tangy air and kick back.

Look overhead to see eagles soaring lazily or out to the water to watch one swoop down and pluck a fish from the waves.

Just keep in mind that Shi Shi is popular during summer, so as many as 250 campers might be there on a busy weekend.

The highlight of the trip is Point of the Arches , located about 2.2 miles south of where Shi Shi starts. The point is a bunch of sea stacks grouped together like tiny rock islands extending out into the water.

From a distance, Point of the Arches is shaped like toothy islands with trees perched on top and arches carved by the waves below. Wait until the tide is low to see Point of the Arches up close.

The ocean pulls back to reveal tidepools and an abundance of sea stars, sea anemones and crabs as well as mussles clinging to rocks.

Watch where you put your feet to avoid crushing critters and keep an eye out for the incoming tide.


If you’re continuing on to Ozette, you must time your hike during low tide to round all of the headlands in one day. If you don’t get up early enough or dawdle too long gawking at creatures in the tide pools or staring at sea stacks against a backdrop of blue sky and clouds, you’ll be stranded until the next low tide.

After Point of the Arches, the trail is a combination of easy sandy beach walk interspersed with picking your way over slimy and slippery rocks, swaths of boulders or smaller, ankle-breaking rocks.

As you hike, keep an eye out for seals in the ocean, deer wandering down to the beach, and bright-green sea plants laid bare by the receding tide.

In a few places, the headlands can’t be rounded no matter how low the tide. In those areas, look for the circular orange-and-black signs that mark the overland routes. Be prepared to haul yourself up and down with the help of strung ropes.

The extra sweat is worth it. The views from the top are outrageously beautiful.

Past the headlands, the only other spot where you’ll need to watch out for the tide is the Ozette River where it flows out to the sea. Wait for low tide before crossing.

Camping is available on either side of the river and at Cape Alava, which is reached after nearly 2 miles of walking that will brush the outskirts of the Ozette Indian Reservation.

At Cape Alava, look for a ranger station perched a little way back from the beach. Soon after, find an overland route sign that heads 3.1 miles inland. Follow it up into the trees – saying a silent goodbye to the sea until the next time – and onto a wooden boardwalk, eventually ending at your car on the north end of Lake Ozette.


If you go:

Call the Wilderness Information Center for Olympic National Park at (360) 565-3100, for route information and campsite reservations as the area is popular during summer. Go online to .

To get to the Olympic Peninsula, take the Keystone ferry from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend. It’s best to reserve a space on the ferry during the busy summer season. Go online to and click on “Ferry Schedule” on the left.

From Port Townsend, hook up with U.S. 101 to Port Angeles, where you’ll stop in at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center for the necessary permits and reservations. Five miles past Port Angeles, veer right to take Highway 112 to Neah Bay and the Makah Indian Reservation, if you’re going to start the hike from Shi Shi Beach. If you’re starting your trip on the Ozette side, follow 112 to Hoko-Ozette Road, where you’ll turn left and follow to the Ozette parking lot at the end. Either way, you’ll need to leave one vehicle on one side and another on the other side.

Shi Shi trailhead: You can start this trip either from the south side at Ozette or the north side at Shi Shi. The Ozette trailhead leaves from the parking lot there. To get to the Shi Shi trailhead, go through Neah Bay and turn west onto Cape Flattery Road, following the signs toward the fish hatchery. In about 3 miles, turn left onto Hobuck Beach Road. Follow to the parking lot and the well-marked trailhead. Day hikers can park for free in the lot with a recreational use permit from the Makah Tribe.