Laugh a little. Adventure a lot!

Shi Shi Beach {Olympic National Park}

Shi Shi Beach {Olympic National Park}

It is always interesting to go places that most people don’t go – there is more that is unspoiled and you aren’t tripping over scads of tourists. There is nothing quite like being pulled upstream into the flow of tourist pouring off a bus and into the parks office.

When this happens, my first instinct, and the one I follow, is to run away as quickly as possible; with a map and some hiking recommendations, of course.

Shi Shi Beach is tucked away on the most northwestern corner of Washington State.

A place that you want to get to, but which is also not for the faint of heart.

The only reason this place is checked off on my list is because I found myself with a three days of consulting in Vancouver this past summer. I flew in on the Thursday prior to work and Speedy grabbed me from the airport as he drove by on his summer travels and adventures.

  • We hit the open *AHEM* I mean severely clogged up with traffic, road and eventually made it to Tacoma in the middle of the night.

Another long morning of driving landed us in Port Angeles and after getting the last campsite with bathrooms in Olympic National Park, we were set up to drive out to Shi Shi the next morning. From Port Angeles, where you can fill up on fluffy pancakes and huevos rancheros at 8:00 am, it is a 2 hour drive one way.

With our bellies full and maps and tide tables in hand from the ranger at the Olympic National Park Office, we were ready to go.

The drive there is picturesque and requires some stopping along the way – you can’t just drive by every beautiful place!

On the way to Shi Shi Beach

On the way to Shi Shi Beach
The road twists and turns and follows the coastline out to the most northwestern point of the state – sometimes you just have to stop and take a picture or twelve!

The only issue was the tide, I wanted to be on Shi Shi for low tide and so we had to keep going.

There were tide pools, sea stacks and cliffs that needed to be explored!

One of the weird things about going to Shi Shi is that you need a pass to park at the trailhead and there isn’t a Parks Office in Neah Bay. As it is Tribal land, you simply have to find a vendor who will take your $10 and give you a brightly coloured piece of paper that you put on your dash. We found a man who ran a trailer park and had just rolled out of bed. Leaving $10 poorer and with a 8×11 piece of neon paper fresh from his inkjet printer in his trailer, we were ready to explore, officially.

  • As ridiculous as it is, it is better to follow the rules rather than deal with the repercussions of random bureaucracy. $10 to enjoy a beautiful place for the afternoon isn’t horrible. 

The small parking lot at the trailhead was full, which was somewhat disappointing. So many people had beat us to the beach that day and many of them were probably camping overnight. The trail into the beach is around 2 miles one way, so we decided to run it as a warm up for exploring … and to try to gain back some time and get to the beach by low tide.

the trail into shi shi beach
The forested and mucky trails were a lot of fun to explore – but be careful, you could lose a shoe in some of that mud!

I love running or hiking through a forest to suddenly find yourself on a sand beach with craggy rocks full of tide pools and interesting things to explore. This is on of the reasons why I LOVE exploring Vancouver Island and the Pacific Northwest.

shi shi beach point of arches

Shi Shi Beach point of arches
Don’t ask my why, but I love standing on giant rocks.

Once the trail meets the beach, you have the option of going directly down to the beach or hiking parallel to the beach and then taking one of many access points along the way. We grabbed the first route down and weren’t disappointed. Heading north on the beach, we found ourselves at low tide with coves, sea stacks and tide pools to explore.

shi chi beach point of arches
Sea stars! Growing up, we called these starfish but due to the fact that they aren’t actually fish and I am no longer 7 years old, sea stars they shall be called!

As the tide came back up, we made our way south on the beach to see what was on the other end. Beaches have a way of distorting distance. 5 km later, we were at the other end and the tide was definitely coming in; there was no way to get around to the interesting places now hidden from us. And waiting for the second low tide of the day wasn’t an option as it was rainy, we didn’t bring headlamps, and we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us to get back home for the night.

Unwinding the hike on the beach and looking out over the slightly stormy waters, I smiled.

Happiness finds its way into your heart when you explore.

If you are planning or want to see Shi Shi and other beaches in the area like Ruby, I suggest planning in advance, which is not something I do much of — learn from my chaos and book things before you arrive.

  • Campsites. They book up FAST and in advance in the summertime. There are many campsites that don’t take reservations, but they go quickly each day. Knowing where you are going to stay and having it booked is much better than driving around for hours trying to find somewhere to stay.
  • Showers. Call me a princess, but I like to shower every single day. There are a lot of campsites in the area, but fewer than suits this woman have showers. Grab a map from the visitor’s centre by Port Angeles on your way into the park and check the Olympic National Park website for more information about camping and lodging in and around the park and to find out where the showers actually are.
  • Food. I am a “sleep in a tent, eat in a restaurant” kind of a woman. The towns on the peninsula are small and there isn’t much along the way – have some snacks in the car!
  • Groceries. They are expensive and few and far between. For example, Neah Bay is one of the ‘larger‘ places on the tip of the peninsula and is basically a smattering of run down homes and campsites without many amenities. If you plan on camping and hiking, bring as much food with you as you can rather than try to find what you need at exorbitant prices.

If you want to explore the Olympic Peninsula, have more than 3 days and are able to plan further ahead than I do (aka more than 5 days in advance) – I highly recommend doing a loop of the area. Start in Olympia and go counterclockwise around the peninsula. Book in at each campsite for two nights as you stop in along the way with your car packed full of food and simply enjoy!

Shi Shi Beach
It is worth the trek! And if you are slow getting to the beach, you won’t be able to frolic on the point of arches for very long until a swim is required to get back to dry land.

I definitely need to go back and do a whole lot of exploring, there are so many places on the Olympic Peninsula that landed on my list of ‘must explore’.

  • Unfortunately for me, the high heels and suits in the trunk were calling and I had to get back to Canada by Monday night.

Four days is just NOT enough time … 

I give this hike a 6 star rating. Somehow I think it had been a negative tide day and sunny, it would have gotten an 8 or 9 star rating. I highly recommend you go visit if you ever find yourself in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.



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