Summer was quickly coming to a close, and I had yet to take any coastal backpacking trips. So with a sunny weekend on the forecast, we packed up the car, and made way for Shi Shi Beach.
Getting access to Shi Shi is no easy matter. There are multiple permits, food storage regulations, and overnight parking fees. I will go into detail about all of this at the end of the post. So if you are reading this for the first time, and want to know what it takes, just hop to the end.
I have published a video from this adventure on my YouTube channel: Outside+Stuff. I’ve linked the video here, so have a look. Otherwise, continue scrolling for the blog post.
It took us a long time to get to Shi Shi from Seattle. We left at 1pm, and after ferry delays, ranger stations, permit purchases, and parking fees, we were able to hit the trail around 6:30pm.
The trail to the beach is beautiful in places, and a little muddy in others. It’s only two miles to the coast, but if you have the time, make sure you enjoy the beginning portion of the trail with all the old boardwalks and forest bridges. After that, it becomes a bit of a slog through mud as you get closer to the coast.
And you will know when you are getting close. You should be able to start to see the horizon through the trees. And if you happen to see some trails off the side, check em out. You might get a decent view.
I managed to luck out and pick a trail that had an awesome preview of what’s to come.
It was practically night in the forest. But thankfully we were able to make it down to the beach just in time to catch the sunset.
Looking back (north) you get another view of the monolith we saw from the trail.
We only made it one mile down the beach before having to stop and set up camp. There are other camp sites further down the coast, but I wanted to take advantage of what light we had and get the food and shelter going.
As we were setting up camp for the night, a couple was just hiking out for the trailhead. Looks like they will be making the two mile trek through the woods in the dark.
That night, after things finally got dark enough, the Milky Way way came into spectacular view. I tried to take a photo of it, but I didn’t bring my tripod and I couldn’t find a suitable structure to prop my camera on and guess. I was a bit bummed, because this was the best view I have ever had of it.
Even later in the night was dead low tide. So I grabbed my light and headed to the tide pools along the shore. Over turning stones, catching fish and picking up crabs, it was like being a kid all over again. If I ever stopped being a kid. But it was getting late, and time to get some rest for the early morning hike.
We left for Shi Shi on a Friday afternoon. And made camp Friday night. The location is remote enough that we practically had the beach to ourselves come Saturday morning. In this shot, you can see Vancouver Island in the far background.
With breakfast over with, it was time to make our way south and explore the various monoliths and caves found at Point of the Arches.
As we made our way southward, the sun began to peek though the forests canopy.
About half way towards the southern cape, if you take a look out at the monoliths, you can get a clear view of the three main arches in the main rock.
This is a good spot, and there are a few camping sites here. But it’s still not very close to the fresh water supply found at Petroleum Creek. Yum, petroleum.
With the tide getting close to it’s low point, the sand was holding a thing sheet of water and reflecting the deep blue sky.
I think you can easily say I was a bit obsessed with this rock. I spent far too long waiting for some decent waves and taking the same photo over and over again.
The end monolith with a decent right break.
And speaking of decent breaks, there were a few backpackers who brought their wetsuits and surfboards out. I was a bit jealous, but that faded when I remembered they had to hike those a couple miles through the forest and then a couple more down the beach. And that’s along with all of their regular gear. Respect to them for sure.
Closer shot of one of the many monoliths at Point of the Arches. If you don’t like photos of large rocks in the ocean, you might want to turn back now.
Point in case.
And yes, the pun was intended in that last one. 😉
As we made our way out the the arches, we meet the Park Ranger who was over seeing the area for the weekend. Talking with him was one of the best things to happen to us. He had been out here quite a few times and was able to give us some tips on what to see and when to see it.
Basically, you want to make your way out to the arches at dead low tide. If need be, take off your shoes and wade out a little. But use that small window to explore the arches for the tide starts to come back in. Once you’ve done that, head around the bend and explore the coves and monoliths towards the south. You’ll have a couple hours before the tide gets too high and blocks the passage to the beach.
The ranger said it was perfectly fine to walk on the rocks. I was a bit worried a first, walking on the rocks barefoot and all. But not all of the rocks were covered in mussels like the ones in this shot. Most of the rocks have tiny barnacles or soft seaweed on them. Making for quite the exfoliating experience. However, don’t let that fool you. You still need to be very careful of where you step. No need to get a laceration on your foot, five miles from the trailhead.
Arches! And lots of them. This one was particularly interesting in how it only connected via a tiny point.
Looking further south, as we made our way out to the arches…you will start to notice a theme out here.
Here’s that crazy arch, but from the other side, looking back towards the beach.
And after trying multiple ways to make it out to the arches, without taking our shoes off. We finally gave in, and wore the shoes on our hands instead. Brilliant idea.
So many arches to choose from. We explored every one we could. However, I will warn you that each of these are impassable due to deep water on the other side. Which reminds me. If you have water shoes, bring them.
A view of the moon peeking through the edge of a monolith.
With tide now on it’s way in. It was time for us to make our way out of the arches and head around the bend and explore the coves.
Please note, the shot above is actually looking North towards where we came from. The trail head is towards the left, where the beach ends and the rocks take over. It might not look that far, but it’s roughly a 2.5 mile hike.
This was one of my favorite rocks. I have a thing for spindly rocks with trees growing out the tops of them.
This one looks like it’s been covered in a bit of snow…let’s go with snow.
Once you make your way around Point of the Arches, you are greeted with this view. If you look towards the left of the shot, you will see something that almost looks like the silhouette of a backpacker in the distance. Bonus points if you can spot the sea otter floating on the waters surface.
A twisted rock. Seriously, I want to know (watch) how these rocks were formed long ago.
Almost to the end of the cove section, the surrounding rocks blocked enough of the wind so I could get a reflective shot of this impressive hunk of stone.
A bit wider with the moon in shot.
Here’s a break from all the rocks. I had been looking all day for a shot of an anemone, and finally found one where it was surrounded by interesting things.
Back to the rocks!
We had made our way as far south as possible before coming to the end of the coast. From here we had our lunch and took in the sights of all the mighty monoliths and wondered if we would be able to make it back around the bend before the tide came in.
For those wondering, I did see a trail marker up in the trees. And if it’s anything like my experience at Third Beach, it’s probably some kind of rope ladder. I didn’t have the time to go investigate.
We made it back to the beach with plenty of time to spare. And before heading back to camp, we decided to fill our water pouches as well. This is a shot of Petroleum Creek. There isn’t much water and it’s not moving too fast. But if you hike in a couple hundred feet, you can hop onto that purple plastic pallet and get access to the deeper part of the creek.
I’ve had to source water from various places, and here, I used my buff as a particle filter over my nalgene which I then treated with my steripen. The water is permanently stained from the leaves, so just think of it as drinking tea. Otherwise the water is fine to drink. Just not as delicious as say glacially fed lakes.
The rest of our hike back to camp was spent looking for washed up floats and finding various tsunami debris. This rusting gas can has been turned into a piece of art by some hippie, I’m sure.
Once we made it back to camp, the sun was really beating down on us. So I braved a very quick swim in the ocean and then opted for a nap in the hot tent. Honestly, I was just trying to kill some time before we were to head back to Point of the Arches for sunset.
As we awoke from our nap, we discovered there was a young pair of deer feeding about 100 feet away from us.
It took me a little bit of time, but I slowly made my way towards them.
At first they were a bit concerned with my approach. But after assuming I was of no real threat, they mostly focused on eating.
I would have to actually make a bit of noise to get them to even look at me.
Now that I am rather close, you can see the details on the horns sprouting from this young buck.
The happy couple.
Having taken all the deer photos I could. I headed back to camp for a snack and to prep for the hike back down the beach.
We decided to leave a bit early so I wouldn’t feel rushed looking for a good photo spot. Having the extra time enabled me to take a closer look at the ground and find some interesting shots. This is one of the many tiny little jellies we saw washed up on the shore.
A bit of coiled seaweed casting a long shadow in the setting sun.
Just the setting sun making the tops of these sand ripples glow.
An old dungeness crab shell bleached and cracked from prolonged exposure to UV rays.
And finally the main show was about to start. The gentleman in this shot is the hiking or camping partner of the photographer who showed up shortly after I did. Looks like I wasn’t the only on with the idea to shoot the arches during sunset. However, he brought a tripod and was using a removable filter setup on his prime lens so he could swap out filters easily.
Most of the backpackers in the area made their way down to the arches for sunset.
As the sun was setting, we (the other photographer and I) had to move down the beach to keep the sun nicely framed in the shot. We never said a word to each other, never even acknowledged each other, but we were totally thinking the same things. I wonder how he felt about the drunk young couple continuously getting in front of his camera. 🙂
I’m just going to let these next shots roll without comment.
And there you have it. We made or way back to camp, had dinner and waited for the stars to come out again. Which reminds me, at one point in the night, it was so clear that you could easily see constellations in the reflection of the wet sand. It’s hard to describe, but imaging looking down and only seeing the constellation of the big dipper, all the other smaller stars have been removed. It was a fantastic ending to a wonderful trip.
Ok! So you’ve made it this far. Congratulations!
Here is what you will need in order to backpack Shi Shi Beach.
First you need to stop by either the Wilderness Information Center (WIC), or other permit granting National Park Ranger Station, and purchase an overnight backpacking permit. Please note that they close at 4PM. You can still go around the back for a permit, but that closes at 5PM.
In addition to the permit, you have to have a bear can. If you do not have one, you can rent one form the WIC. Otherwise the raccoons will make short work of your food bags. Even if you hang them, they will pull them down and destroy them. And if you tell the rangers you already have a bear can, they will ask you what kind.
Another thing you can pick up at the WIC is a tidal chart. A ranger will be happy to go over it with you. But rest assured, you do not need to monitor the tides to get access to the camping. You need it to know when you can explore the arches and the coves.
Secondly, you need to purchase a Makah Tribe Recreation Permit. This is only 10 dollars and is good for the calendar year that you purchase it in. You can get this one at Washburn’s General Store (open till 7PM) or the Mini Mart (open till 10PM). If you get it from Washburn’s, just go up to a register and ask for the permit.
Third, you CANNOT park at the trailhead. This is day-use only, and you will be towed. You have to drive back .6mi and park at the first trailer house with the large lot. You will see other cars parked in there. Just park in a row or start a new one. You have to bring cash for this. There is a deposit box on the backside of the home and paying is as follows. 10 dollars for the day you arrive and 10 dollars each additional day. So if you are camping two nights, it’s 30 dollars. If you are camping one night, 20 dollars. Pro-Tip: have someone stay at the trailhead with all your gear so you can easily jog back after parking the car.
And here are some other helpful hints. I had zero cell service (ATT) while I was out on the peninsula. So I had to (gasp) use my gps map to remember my way back. It was fun, just like old times. Also, you will see 15MPH speed limits, you are strongly urged to follow them. And finally, I didn’t check, but I am going to assume there is no alcohol sold on tribal land. So you’re best to get that far in advance.
And that’s it! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comment box below. And if you liked this post, check out my backpacking trip at Third Beach in La Push, WA.