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Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches

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Revered through the ages, Shi Shi Beach has its share of disciples, from First Peoples to first-time visitors, naturalists, bird-watchers, hard-core hikers, beach bums, conservationists, politicians, and just plain ordinary folk. And Northwest hikers have consistently rated Shi Shi as one of the region's most beautiful beaches. Though this natural gem's history has had a few blemishes, including access issues, thankfully many of those problems have been washed out to sea.

One of the last additions to Olympic National Park, Shi Shi Beach's inclusion in 1976 was met with a fair amount of resistance. Abutting landowners had to be convinced to allow public access. Land developers had to be discouraged from turning the area into an enclave of second homes. And once the Park Service acquired title, they had to remove counterculture squatters and tidy up the mess left behind. Even then the fight to secure Shi Shi for the public wasn't over; in the late 1990s the trail was closed in a land-access dispute. But after much wrangling and negotiating, the Park Service and landowners broke the impasse. The Makahs developed a new trailhead and built a new trail to the beach, and it's top-notch in both design and standards.

The first mile winds through pockets of mature Sitka spruce, traversing rain-saturated bogs via cedar-planked boardwalks and bridges. The new trail then intersects part of the old trail, where 0.5 mile of somewhat muddy terrain must still be negotiated. Eventually this part of the trail will be rehabilitated. At 1.75 miles you'll reach the national park boundary. Now, the only thing separating you from the spectacular beach is a steep trail down a 150-foot bluff.

Brace your knees and emerge at the northern end of the 2-mile sandy beach. Taste the salty air. Feel the pounding surf at your feet. Embrace the raw beauty of this wilderness beach and immediately forget about the civilized world. Dunes and bluffs hem the sandy shoreline. Giant logs dance in the thundering breakers. Eagles belt out high-pitched welcomes from overhanging snags.

In 1.3 miles from the bluff descent you'll come to Petroleum Creek. Cross it and continue. Point of the Arches, a mile-long cavalcade of sea stacks and natural arches, comes into better view. It's 1 mile farther to reach them. During a low tide, there's no better place on the Olympic Coast for admiring these wind- and water-sculpted landforms. The only thing grander than Shi Shi's natural beauty is its resilience in the face of forces that would have prohibited us from enjoying and admiring this national treasure.
Driving Directions:

From Port Angeles follow US 101 west for 5 miles to the junction with State Route 112. Turn right (west) on SR 112, continuing for 64 miles to the community of Neah Bay. (Alternatively, take US 101 to Sappho and drive SR 113 north to SR 112 and then on to Neah Bay. This way is longer, but not as curvy.) Just past the Makah Tribal Museum is Washburn's, where you can purchase the required recreation pass. Continue west on Bay View Avenue for a scant mile, to the end of the straight road, then begin following brown signs for "Cape Flattery". Turn left on Fort Street for one block, then right on 3rd Street (unmarked). In another block (0.1 mile), turn left on Cape Flattery Road. (The sign is partway down the road.) Follow this road 2.5 miles, then turn left over the bridge onto Hobuck Road. Staying on the main paved road, follow signs for the fish hatchery. Pay close attention to the speed limit, which fluctuates between 15, 25, and 35 mph. Drive to the parking lot at the trailhead (day use only), located on your right at about 5 miles.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 66 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches — Apr 12, 2014 — madvillain
Overnight
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail
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5:00am -- wakeup 5:30am -- leave for Bainbridge ferry 6:10am -- board ferry 9:00am -- stop for br...
5:00am -- wakeup
5:30am -- leave for Bainbridge ferry
6:10am -- board ferry
9:00am -- stop for breakfast port angelos
9:30am -- stop at ranger station for wilderness permit
12:15pm -- stop at neah bay general store for rez permit.
1:15pm -- arrive at trailhead and depart for beach
2:00pm -- arrive at beach
2:30pm -- setup camp

As you can see, there is no quick way to get to Shi Shi. The benefit of leaving as early as we did is that we were the 2nd overnight group to arrive for the day and had our pick of camp sites. We ended up camping about a quarter mile before Petroleum creek at a really nice spot marked with buoys.

The beach was relatively clean but the remnants of the Japan earthquake are everywhere -- crates, buoys, etc, all marked in character.

I've said everything about the beauty of Shi Shi in previous reports. This is now my 5th overnight and truth be told it will probably be my last for a minute, it's incredibly expensive with gas, permits, ferry, etc and as special of place as Shi Shi is I've pretty much explored all of it at this point.

That said, this is a WOW experience for any new comers and Olympic Peninsula virgins.
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Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches — Jan 31, 2014 — Tallulah
Overnight
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail
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I acquired a national parks permit for camping on the beach while I was in Port Angeles. I stopped a...
I acquired a national parks permit for camping on the beach while I was in Port Angeles. I stopped at the Makah Tribal cultural center to get a recreational use permit but was informed I didn't need one if I parked at the private parking lot a half mile from the trail head. Parking was 10 dollars a night here. So all in all I spent 17 dollars for the one night.

The trail is pretty easy, but very very muddy. Hiking poles would have been nice to test depth, but I was glad to have boots with high ankles to wade through the muddy parts. The beach is fantastic, grab a tide table when you pick up your camping permit, I found that very helpful, especially in travelling over to tide pool at the point of the arches.

As expected the night was very wet and cold, but enjoyable as I had the entire beach to myself. It was quiet and idyllic. Well worth the long drive out there from seattle.
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Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches — Jan 15, 2014 — Doctorlight1
Overnight
Issues: Mud/Rockslide | Mudholes | Water on trail
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Getting to this remote beach was a challenge. From Bellingham, it required boarding a ferry and 7 h...
Getting to this remote beach was a challenge. From Bellingham, it required boarding a ferry and 7 hours drive. Along the way, I had to stop by the Port Angeles Park service to get the 2 nights camping permit (bear can if you do not have one). I also stopped by Washburn's Grocery store to get the Makah's recreation permit.
     There are two private overnight parking area. One is at Donna's which is about 1/2 mile from the trail head; the other parking area is about 1/3 mile. It costs $10 per day.
     What can I say about the trail that have not already been said. Bring your rubber boots. It had just rained and to some mud pits went up to my ankle. I brought my trekking poles to probe how deep the path was before taking a step. It took me one hour and twenty five minutes to go from the parking lot to trail leading down the cliff.
     The trail down the cliff is very eroded. Carrying a heavy backpack makes this last part of the trail a dangerous endeavor. A slip or loss of balance would literally mean breaking bones or worse. Tread carefully.
     Once you find your way to the beach, all that hard work is soon forgotten. Being January, I had the beach to my self on the first day. On the second day, there was one other party of four people. During the three days that I camped there, I saw only 8 people.
     Point of the Arches takes about 30 walk from Petroleum Creek. Tide greater will 9 feet will make it difficult if not impossible to visit Point of the Arches. Get your tide table from the Park Ranger in Port Angeles.
     This has been one of my favorite backpack trips.
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Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches — Sep 29, 2013 — waterworld
Day hike
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail
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OK so we hiked to Shi Shi beach on a "stormy" afternoon ignoring all the trip reports warning of '...
  OK so we hiked to Shi Shi beach on a "stormy" afternoon ignoring all the trip reports warning of 'mud on trail'. We found out later our "stormy" afternoon had 70mph winds and pouring rain! Yes there was a river running down most of the trail. Mud to our ankles. But it still was a fabulous trip. Shi shi is a perfect example of the wild Olympic coast at its best. Do not let the mud keep you away!
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Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches — Aug 31, 2013 — Mtn. Mama
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail
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WARNING... rant to follow, It was muddy, as always. This is not part of the rant. You're in the r...
WARNING... rant to follow,

It was muddy, as always. This is not part of the rant. You're in the rain forest it will be muddy.

Here goes my rant.

First off, if you are going to go out into the back country, learn how to #&@! in the woods. There are three toilets along the beach. USE THEM. Nobody wants to find your toilet paper right next to the nice piece of drift wood they have just decided rest upon for some lunch. Once you find the trail to the toilet, go all the way up the trail don't squat in the middle and leave your TP. And if you can't stomach squatting over the toilet and decide to go two feet away (but please, just grow a pair and use the toilet) at least take the effort to dispose of the TP.

Second, If you have been to Shi Shi before you know that the last bit of trail down to the beach is a doozy. It's getting worse. Do you know why? because people stopped using the trail and try to make their own way down. In my family we have a name for those cut across trails. We call them "cheater trails." So don't be a cheater. Cheaters erode hillsides.

Lastly, from what I heard this weekend Olympic National Park is pretty much out of money. That means fewer patrols and less trail maintenance. But that should matter because Shi Shi belongs to us. It is a gift. A gift from the generations before us and if we take care of it, it will be a gift to the generations who follow in our foot steps. Let's take care of it.
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Point of Arches.jpg
Inge Johnsson's photo of Point of Arches took 2nd prize in WTA's Northwest Expsoure Photo Contest in 2008.
Location
Olympics -- Coast
Olympic National Park; Makah Nation
Statistics
Roundtrip 8.0 miles
Elevation Gain 200 ft
Highest Point 200 ft
Features
Coast
Rivers
Established campsites
User info
Good for kids
Dogs not allowed
National Park/Refuge entry fee required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Cape Flattery No. 98S
Custom Correct North Olympic Coast

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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