Best 100 Miles: Shi Shi Beach to Cape Alava, North Coast Route, Olympic NP, WA
These 15 miles of beachfront property are among the best 100 miles of trail in the whole national park system.
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Sea stacks line Shi Shi Beach’s southern end. Photo by Joel W. Rogers
15 Miles / Beachfront Property
With due respect to the sugar-sand beaches of the world, we like our coastal treks wild, rugged, and with a chance of rain.
You could parachute into any of the park’s 73 miles of coastline and have the trip of a lifetime, but the very northern tip of the beach gets our nod for its density of sea-sculpted rocks, gritty scrambling, and the oasis of Shi Shi Beach.
After 2 miles of Sitka spruce and Western hemlock forest on the Shi Shi Beach Trail, shimmy down a 50-foot bluff to pop out on Shi Shi Beach, with wide swaths of sand, pyramidal sea stacks, and tide pools rich in starfish and hermit crabs.
Point of the Arches, at the beach’s southern boundary, offers a mile-long parade of pinnacles, boulders, and precariously balanced sea arches. For the next 2 miles, the Pacific swallows the beach at several vertical headlands during high tide (carry a tide table and round them only when the tide ebbs).
After the last crossing (around mile 7), the route widens into 4 miles of driftwood-scattered beach end-capped by the Ozette River, a shin-deep ford that swells to an impassable flood at high tide. Once across, stroll 2 miles to the turnaround at Cape Alava.
Trailhead 48.319167, -124.675556
Total hike 30 miles (out and back).
Camping Allowed at 7 designated sites (can’t go wrong); reserve permits for sites south of Point of the Arches starting March 15 ($5 + $2/person/night). Also requires a $10 Makah Recreation Pass; makah.com/activities)