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Hiking from Shi Shi Beach to Point of Arches on Olympic Coast

High Point

High Point:
200 feet

Total Ascent

Total Ascent:
200 feet

Difficulty

Difficulty:
Easy

Distance

Distance:
8.8 Miles

Waypoints

Waypoints:
48.2937, -124.6651

Route Type

Route Type:
Out and back

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Explore the beauty of Olympic National Park’s northern coast on this iconic hike from Shi Shi Beach to Point of Arches. Discover tide pools, sea stacks, and trail details in this guide.



Overview

The coastline of Olympic National Park’s northern region is a treasure trove of natural wonders, from bustling tide pools to majestic sea stacks shaped by the unyielding might of the Pacific Ocean. One of the most iconic and rewarding routes in this area is the hike from Shi Shi Beach to Point of Arches. In this article, we’ll delve into all the details of this awe-inspiring trek, including trail specifics, weather considerations, tide forecasts, parking information, and safety precautions.

The hike from Shi Shi Beach to the Point of Arches in Olympic National Park’s northern coast is a scenic 8.8-mile round trip out-and-back trail. It offers stunning views of sea stacks, tide pools, and the rugged beauty of Washington’s coastline.

The starting point for this hike is Shi Shi Beach, located at Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation. From there, you’ll walk through tide pools to reach Point of Arches, which boasts over 30 unique sea stacks.

Although the trail only has an elevation gain of 200 feet, it can get muddy throughout the year. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear for the conditions.

Camping is permitted on Shi Shi Beach, and there are designated campsites near Point of Arches in the surrounding woods.

Remember that a Makah Recreation Pass and an Olympic Wilderness Permit are required for hiking and camping on this trail.

Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches, Olympic National Park, Washington.

Directions To Trailhead

To get to the Shi Shi Beach trailhead, start by driving through Neah Bay heading west on Bayview Ave for about 1 mile. Follow the yellow lines on the pavement until the road curves left onto Fort St. From there, make a right turn onto 3rd Ave and continue past the Sophie Trettevick Indian Health Clinic for about 350 feet. Next, take a left onto Cape Flattery Road and drive for approximately 2.5 miles.

Then, make a left turn onto Hobuck Rd and cross the Wa’atch River bridge. At the intersection after the bridge, proceed straight on Hobuck Rd for just under a mile before taking a slight right onto Fam Camp Rd. Continue to follow this road until you reach a stop sign, where you will turn left onto Makah Passage and continue for about 0.8 miles.

Then, take a slight right onto Tsoo-Yess Beach Rd and travel for 2 miles before turning left onto Fish Hatchery Rd. The trailhead should be visible after approximately 0.2 miles on the right side of the road.

Sunset at Shi Shi Beach.

Field Notes

The Olympic Coast’s untamed beauty is epitomized by the breathtaking views of Shi Shi and Point of Arches. This 8.8-mile hike can be conquered in a day, but for those seeking an intense adventure, it also makes for a challenging backpacking trip. For photographers with a hunger for glory, spending a night or two capturing the perfect sunset over the sea stack-studded Pacific is a must.

Begin your journey at the trailhead near the Makah National Fish Hatchery, pushing through the first mile of recently-rebuilt path that winds through dense clearcut and groves of imposing Sitka spruce.

A wooden path through a dense forest on the way to Shi Shi Beach, Washington.

Use caution crossing several bridges and boardwalks to reach the second mile, where you’ll find yourself knee-deep in mud and water. Get through this treacherous terrain quickly and descend sharply onto Olympic National Park’s Shi Shi Beach on an eroded trail.Here awaits your reward. The sandy shoreline stretches southward, lined with ghostly logs stripped bare by relentless waves.

Take in the sound of crashing surf against offshore stacks while majestic eagles and seabirds soar above. Kick off your boots and continue walking with sand between your toes as you explore 1.3 miles of serene beach until you reach Petroleum Creek. From there, make camp on the beach or in the sheltering forest above. Explore further towards the Point of Arches, a mesmerizing display of rocky sea stacks stretching for a mile.

Woman hiking on Shi Shi Beach and Trail in Olympic National Park, Washington.

Exploring Point of Arches

The highlight of the hike is reaching Point of Arches, a stunning array of sea stacks and arches that jut out into the ocean. Here, hikers can explore tide pools teeming with colorful marine life, snap photos of the dramatic coastal scenery, and marvel at the power of the ocean. Be sure to allow plenty of time to explore this magical place before retracing your steps back to Shi Shi Beach.

Hikers at Point of Arches on Shi Shi Beach Trail in Olympic National Park.

Observe the intricate ecosystem of tide pools and witness the daily activities of coastal creatures. Take a break from carrying your pack and let yourself bask in the beauty of one of the most stunning locations in the entire Pacific Northwest.

The breathtaking beauty of Shi Shi Beach is revealed during low tide, when a vibrant world of small rock formations and tide pools emerges from the depths. But tread carefully, for among these treacherous waters lurk anemone that congregate in menacing swarms, hairy chitons with razor-sharp spines, keyhole limpets that cling to unsuspecting prey, and the formidable Pacific geoduck waiting to strike.

And don’t forget about the purple sea stars that lay hidden, ready to ensnare any wandering foot. As if that weren’t enough, the magnificent sight of breaching whales can be witnessed from the shore. At high tide, seek refuge on the sandy beach, sheltered by heaps of driftwood. But beware of the Point of Arches, where the rising tide turns impassable and leaves unwary adventurers stranded in its powerful grasp.

Secluded beach bay at Shi Shi Beach.

Park Permits and Passes

Before visiting, make sure to acquire two necessary permits:

  • The Makah Recreation Pass, sold at locations like the Mini Mart, Marina or Museum in Neah Bay. It costs $20 and is valid for the calendar year.
  • You will also need a Wilderness Permit from Olympic National Park, obtainable at either the Visitor Center in Port Angeles or (when available) the South Shore Ranger Station at Lake Quinault.

Overnight parking is not permitted at the Shi Shi Beach trailhead. To park overnight, drive back towards Neah Bay for approximately one mile and use the private, paid parking lot across from Tsoo-Yess Beach.

If you plan on camping, consider renting a bear canister that meets park regulations from the Visitor Center in Port Angeles. When exploring along the coast, always consult a tide table and be aware of surf conditions. And when setting up camp, it’s crucial to stay above the high tide mark.

Safety Considerations

While the hike to Shi Shi Beach is relatively straightforward, there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind. The beach can be rocky and slippery, especially at high tide, so sturdy footwear with good traction is recommended. Additionally, the area is remote and lacks cell phone reception, so hikers should be prepared with adequate supplies, including food, water, and a first aid kit. It’s also essential to respect the natural environment and wildlife, staying on designated trails and avoiding disturbing nesting birds or other sensitive habitats.

Always be aware of the tides when exploring Shi Shi Beach. Carry a map and tide chart with you so you can plan your route accordingly. During high tides, some headlands may be inaccessible and require hiking over trails instead. Make sure to camp above the high tide water line when staying overnight on the beach.

Before embarking on this hike, it’s essential to check the weather forecast and tide tables. Coastal conditions can be unpredictable, with fog, wind, and rain common throughout the year. Additionally, the hike requires traversing sections of the beach that may become impassable during high tide, so consulting tide tables is crucial for planning a safe and enjoyable hike.

Strong winds or storms can significantly elevate tides and create hazardous conditions, particularly in the fall, winter, and spring. Be attentive to your surroundings and never underestimate the power of the Pacific Ocean.

Before you head out for a coastal hike, it is always worth checking the marine forecast on NOAA:

Shi Shi Beach Camping

Location and sites: The campsites are scattered throughout the beach and surrounding forest.

Toilet Facilities: There are three pit toilets available at Shi Shi Beach. One is located at the south end of the camping area, in the wooded park boundary; another can be found behind the wooded campsites on the south side of Petroleum Creek; and the third one is near Willoughby Creek. It is important to always use these designated toilets.

Water Sources: You can find water from Petroleum Creek and Willoughby Creek. However, due to the naturally occurring tannin leaching into the water, it may have a tea-stained appearance. To ensure safety, always filter or boil this water as cryptosporidium and giardia may be present. Note that using iodine will not eliminate cryptosporidium.

Stock: Bringing any kind of animal into park beaches and beach trails is strictly prohibited.

Special Concerns: It is important to practice Leave No Trace principles during your stay in order to protect vegetation and other wilderness resources. Only camp in preexisting campsites or on sand, as setting up tents on delicate vegetation can cause damage. Do not build any driftwood furniture or alter the natural environment.

Campfires: If you wish to have a campfire at Shi Shi Beach, please only use driftwood as burning other materials can harm the coastal forest. Use existing fire rings if available, or make sure to build fires on the beach instead of in the forested areas to avoid damaging tree roots.

Conclusion

Hiking from Shi Shi Beach to Point of Arches is a truly unforgettable experience, offering a glimpse into the untamed beauty of Olympic National Park’s northern coast. From sandy shores to rocky headlands, this hike showcases the diversity of landscapes and ecosystems found along the Pacific Northwest’s rugged coastline. With careful planning, respect for the environment, and a sense of adventure, hikers can embark on a journey that will leave them with memories to last a lifetime.


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Terms of Use: As with each guide published on SKYBLUEOVERLAND.com, should you choose to this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While taking a trail, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. SKYBLUE OVERLAND LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following this route.