Shi-Shi Beach

From Cape Flattery, I drove to the trail head for Shi-Shi (pronounced Shy Shy) beach, also located on the Makah Reservation. For overnight parking, plan to park on the front lawn of a private residence– be warned parking is ten dollars a day. Overnight parking is not permitted at the trail head, which is heavily patrolled. I did not know this, and I’m lucky I had cash on me. It also adds another mile to your hike from the lot to the trail on an asphalt road. Once you hit the trail head, you walk several miles through reservation land to get to the Olympia Park boundary. The trail was fairly muddy through unremarkable second growth forest for the majority of the hike, though the first mile was nicely manicured with boardwalks. From the mud patterns, I realized that I lucked out; for the majority of the year, large areas of the trail become massive unavoidable mud pits requiring boots for navigating.

Once you hit the Park boundary marker, there’s a small kiosk with permits if you hadn’t already obtained a backcountry permit for overnight camping and paid park entrance fees (I had purchased both at the Quinault Ranger Station on my way up the coast). From there, it’s a quick descent down a 150 foot cliff. Quick– not easy! There are a series of rope easements to assist with the sheer switchbacks navigating huge root-systems from the surrounding trees. It looks more treacherous than it is; on my way back, I saw several families with small kids making their way to the beach.

I snapped this with my iphone on the way down:

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After finally reaching water level, I made my way through the trees to the beach. By now, it was 5pm. It had been about an almost two hour hike and I was tired and hungry. The coast was still totally socked in, so the breathtaking views I had only read about were nowhere to be seen. There were a few tent sites already set up but definitely not as many people as I was expecting. It was a Thursday, but still the height of summer in the Pacific Northwest. I hiked in as far as I could, keenly aware of the tide lines in the sand. I found a little site surrounded by driftwood logs and pitched camp there. Gathering wood, I made a small fire and cooked dinner. Just as I was settling in for the night, the fog lifted and I was finally able to see in the distance the mile-long archipelago of sea stacks that make this beach so famous.

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I passed out in the tent, waking briefly in the night as the ocean reached high tide. I had to check that it wasn’t going to sweep my tent away! The waves were so loud. Upon waking at the crack of dawn, I found that the tide was out– waaaaay out– and the resulting tidepools were some of the best I’ve ever seen!

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I grabbed a small back and began the mile walk down the beach just as the sun came out. The beach was gorgeous, more beautiful than I had ever imagined and photos truly don’t do it justice.

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After a magical morning of exploring, the early afternoon heat began to rise. I had to get out of the sun. I came back to the tent for a respite before packing up camp and hiking back to the car. This experience was the second time this summer where I hadn’t planned properly and didn’t bring enough water. If I had had more water on hand I probably would have stayed another night and foregone the Hurricane Ridge adventure I had planned for the following day.

I’m glad that I stuck to my plans, however, as there is nothing quite like being on a remote, wild beach one morning, and a mountain top talking to marmots the next.

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