It is no secret that Olympic National Park has some of the best hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest and Shi-Shi Beach is no exception. Having both impressive forest and beach views, Shi-Shi beach incorporates two of the three things that make the Olympics so great. This blog includes information about how to access the hike, necessary permits for this hike, a trail description, optional backpacking information, and other hikes to do in the area!
Table of Contents
Map to Shi-Shi Beach Trailhead
Shi Shi Beach is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla and Makah tribes. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
Region: Olympic National Park
Distance: 8.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 ft
Time: 4 hrs or Overnight
When to go: Year-Round
Pass/Permit?: Makah Recreation Pass
Dogs Allowed?: No
Bathroom?: At Trailhead & Privy
Getting to Shi-Shi Beach
Shi Shi Beach is located in the furthest Northwest city in the contiguous United States, Neah Bay. From Seattle, there are two main routes to get to Neah Bay: via ferry and through Port Angeles or down and around through Tacoma and up through Forks.
The road getting into Neah Bay is one of the most beautiful drives along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is referred to as the Whale Trail because whales, specifically orcas, can frequently be seen along the drive. Seals, porpoise, and otters are also extremely common.
Once in Neah Bay, you will have to make a stop along the way to purchase a recreation pass from the Makah Nation. The trail is only fifteen minutes out of town and has a small parking lot with a bathroom.
Permits for Shi-Shi Beach
Hiking this trail requires a Recreation Pass from the Makah Nation. This trail is located both in the Makah Nation and Olympic National Park.
Driving into Neah Bay, there are a number of signs reminding visitors to purchase this pass. The cost is $20 and is good for an entire year. The website linked here can provide more details and a list of places to purchase this recreation pass.
If you will be backpacking Shi Shi Beach, you will need to purchase a backcountry pass. More information on this can be found here.
Hiking Shi-Shi Beach
The hike to Shi Shi Beach begins in the forest. One of the things I loved about the forest section of Shi Shi Beach Trail is the time and care that was clearly taken in creating the trail. This part of the trail has long sections of boardwalks and bridges.
The forest section is roughly 2.0 miles long. As you hike closer to the ocean, the crashing of waves can be heard in the distance and glimpses of the beach can be seen through the trees.
During periods of high rain, the forest section can become extremely muddy. To determine if this is the case, I always like to check AllTrails for any recent trail conditions that were reported. If the trail is muddy, some waterproof hiking boots will do the trick. My favorite waterproof hiking boots are the Oboz Bridger. They’re extremely comfortable and I also wore them on this trail when it was extremely muddy!
After the forest section, hikers will come to a sign indicating that they are entering Olympic National Park. There is a billboard with plenty of information about local wildlife, rules and regulations, and any hazards to look out for. This sign also indicates that no pets are allowed.
The short section from the forest to the beach is pretty steep, but with the beach in view, it was easy to forget that I needed to walk back up this part of the trail later.
Walking out to the beach is breathtaking. The water is a brilliant blue and the Point of Arches can be seen in the distance.
With the view in the distance and a knowledge of the length in mind, walking through sand for over two miles is a little rough. But as you get closer and closer, the excitement grows. Along the beach hike to Point of Arches, there are various spots to stop and do a little tide pooling. Unfortunately, due to Sea Star Wasting Disease, tide pooling in this area was largely impacted.
Sea Star Wasting Disease is an illness that is affecting Sea Stars along the pacific coast. The disease passed on by a virus ultimately forms large lesions on the sea stars and causes them to decompose.
Some of the marine life that could be seen on this trip included numerous bald eagles, sea gulls, sea urchins, and crabs. On a previous trip out to the Olympic Coast just a couple miles south from this trail, I saw orcas from the shore.
Getting to Point of Arches was beautiful. The striking rock features are wonderful to explore and the time that you spend on this trail is entirely up to how much time you want to spend in this area. While the trail is accessible during high and low tide, the section just past Shi Shi Beach Point is impassable during high tide. If you intend on exploring this area, bring a tide chart.
Trudging through the sand for two miles back to the forest section can feel long! I took a couple short breaks on the way back since walking through sand is a little tiring.
Then that last push up the steep switchbacks to the forest trail and you’re almost there! The forest was just as great the second time around.
Backpacking Shi-Shi Beach
This is some general information if you’re planning on backpacking Shi-Shi Beach Trail.
Just like a day hike, you will need a Recreation Permit from the Makah Nation. In addition to the Recreation Permit a backcountry permit will need to be purchased from Recreation.gov for Shi-Shi Beach. Below is the area and campsite you will need to select for your permits.
There are limited fresh water options on this beach especially during periods of minimal rainfall. Always bring a way to filter water during backpacking trips. Currently, the water at Shi-Shi Beach has Cryptosporidium and Giardia. This requires a more specific treatment process.
Listed at the trail leading down to the beach, Olympic NP posted the methods for treating this water. The most effective way is boiling the water for a minute, second to filtering.
If you buy a filter, it must have a label that says it can filter out Cryptosporidium. The packaging should specifically say any combination of these 4 messages according to the CDC;
- Reverse osmosis. (with or without NSF 53 or NSF 58 labeling)
- ABSOLUTE pore size of 1 micron or smaller.
- Tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or NSF/ANSI Standard 58 for cyst removal.
- Tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or NSF/ANSI Standard 58 for cyst reduction.
If your filter does not list any of that information, it can NOT filter out Cryptosporidium.
More info here: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/gen_info/filters.html
There are a number of campsites along the beach. There is a privy at the beginning section of the beach. Below are the marked campsites, but any space outside of the range of the tide with flat ground is sufficient.
At campsites without a privy, please remember that all catholes need to be dug 6 inches deep and 200 ft away from water sources. This is why Shi Shi Beach currently has Cryptosporidium. Pack out all toilet paper.
For overnight camping, bear cans are required. This can be rented from an Olympic National Park Permit Office if you do not own one. If you find that you’re backpacking frequently, my favorite bear cans are from BearVault! They have lots of different sizes to choose from for various lengths of trips.
Fires are allowed on Shi Shi Beach. Make sure to minimize the impact of your fire. There are a number of “established” fire pits along the beach that have been made to keep fires contained and small. Never leave your fire unattended and be sure to extinguish it completely.
Should Shi-Shi Beach be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
Shi Shi Beach should absolutely be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. It is one of my favorite beach hikes along the Olympic Coast because there is so much to see along the way. I like that this trail can be completed in one day or done as an easy overnight trip.
What to do after Shi-Shi Beach:
There is so much to do in Olympic National Park, but since this hike is located on the coast, let’s look at some beach hikes!
Cape Flattery is the farthest northwest point in the contiguous United States. The hike out to the point is just about 1.5 miles long with 200 ft gain. Located just 20 minutes away from the trailhead of Shi Shi Beach, it would be a great stopping point if you’re feeling up to it and have the time!
Another 100 Classic Hike of Washingtonthat also incorporates forest and beach. However, this hike is a loop trail! One of the draws to Ozette Triangle is the petroglyphs along the beach.
Toleak Point is a great backpacking trail! With various stopping points along the way similar to Point of Arches, Toleak Point will leave you mystified. It is 17 miles one way.
Enjoy exploring one of the greatest National Parks in the US! Happy Hiking!
Not sure what to bring hiking?: Ten Essentials of Hiking