When it comes to picturesque views of the wild and rugged Olympic Coast, Shi Shi and Point of Arches tops the list. At only 8 miles round trip, this hike can easily be done in a day, but also makes for an easy backpack. Photographers might want to spend a night or two attempting to capture a prize-winning sunset over the sea stack-strewn Pacific.
Begin your hike at the trailhead near the fish hatchery. The first mile of recently-rehabilitated trail winds through brushy clearcut and groves of Sitka spruce. There are several bridges and boardwalks to cross. The second mile is much messier and is almost always muddy and wet. Slog through this section quickly to the edge of the bluff and descend steeply into Olympic National Park and Shi Shi Beach on an eroded trail.
Here is your reward. The sandy beach stretches southward, littered with bleached logs, stripped and battered by the surf. Enjoy waves crashing on the stacks offshore while eagles and seabirds glide overhead. Strip off the boots and continue southward with the sand in your toes. After 1.3 miles of beach walking you cross Petroleum Creek. Campsites can now be found around the beach and in the sheltered forest upslope.
Continue the last stretch to the Point of Arches, a mile-long parade of rocky sea stacks. Wander the tide pools and observe the daily goings on of the resident coastal critters. Drop your pack and spend your time relishing being in one of the most scenic locations in the Northwest.
Visitors will need two permits: The Makah Recreation Pass, which can be purchased in Neah Bay at the General Store, Mini Mart, Marina or Museum. It costs $20 and is good for the calendar year. You will also need an Olympic National Park wilderness permit, available at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles or (when open) the South Shore Ranger Station at Lake Quinault.
If you plan on camping, consider renting a park-approved bear canister at the Visitor Center in Port Angeles. As with all coastal hiking, use a tide table to plan your visit, and always be aware of surf conditions. Make sure you camp above the high tide mark.