Olympic National Park has many varied areas—temperate rainforest (think the Hoh rainforest), alpine mountains (think Hurricane Ridge), and the coast. After exploring all of the Oregon coast in summer 2017, we were excited to see the Washington coast so we prioritized hiking the coast during our first visit to the park. We stayed in Forks close to the beach area and spent several days hiking around Ruby Beach, Rialto Beach, and last, but not least, Shi Shi beach. Shi Shi beach was over an hour drive from Forks but worth every minute.
We’ve heard horror stories of the crowds in these popular PNW locations. Maybe it was because it was fall, maybe it was because it was mid-week, but we had the entire 9 mile Shi Shi Beach hike almost entirely to ourselves. Seriously, we passed two sets of two people who had camped over a mile apart from each other. And we passed one party on their way out to Point of the Arches on our return to the trailhead. Being from the south, we are not the kind of cold-weather hearty that most PNWers seems to become. With sun on our faces and a chilly breeze coming in off the Pacific, our light weight ‘winter’ jackets were perfectly cozy for the first half of the hike and we dropped layers as the afternoon warmed us on our return.
The trailhead for the hike is located along Neah Bay (trailhead and other info here). We secured the necessary Makah Recreation Pass ($10 annual pass, worth it for this one hike) from the Mini Mart. The clerk was friendly and cordial, even graciously correcting our pronunciation of the trail to the correct Shy-Shy beach name. I can’t remember what time we started the hike. It was early but not nearly as early as we often make it out. The drive from Forks to the trailhead was much longer than we anticipated, even after checking the route with a driving app.
The first two miles of the trail were through classic Pacific Northwest coastal rainforest. Lush ferns, some boardwalks, and lots and lots of mud. The trail was pretty wide but there was no escaping the mud. Eventually we made it to the steep drop-off to the coast. The sea stacks of Shi Shi beach greeted us and we began walking toward Point of the Arches, just about three miles from the beach. We ended up at Point of the Arches at low tide, although it wasn’t entirely planned. This let us creep around the corner to find more sea stacks and sea caves. The point was quite windy, which chilled me a good bit as Kelly shot a time lapse.
The way back was as delightful as the way to the point. Being a beach walk, the trickiest parts were uneven and dense sand and one river crossing with rocks & logs as a makeshift bridge. The mud and elevation gain from Shi Shi back up to the rainforest weren’t pleasant but still keep the hike pretty easy. All in all, this day is one we could just repeat over and over again.
After our hike here, we used our Makah pass one more time to park at and hike out to Cape Flattery, which is located on the same peninsula.
One final pro tip—don’t let the cool PNW air fool you, if the sun comes out, you’ll get sunburned. Carry bug spray and sunscreen.