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Ozette Lake to Shi Shi Beach Backpacking, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
September 2008

pic
Click for larger, complete map of the route

GPS Data: Map, Track, Waypoints

Click here for GPX GPS eXchange format file.
Click here for GDB Garmin format file.

Track and waypoints: Approximately 45 waypoints, all created en route except just a
couple created from the actual track. The track itself has been edited to remove
backtracking and most side trips... and just generally cleaned.

Waypoints included are:

  • W## = water, this is USUALLY major water that looks like year round water supply.
    These only mark accessible water.
  • LW## = little water, might not be year round supply but were accessible on my trip.
  • F## = trail fork
  • CAMP## = our camp sites
  • RGR = ranger stations
  • VIEW## = view point
  • TIDE## = tide issue - taken from the Custom Correct map
  • ROPE## = rope aid over a headland to avoid tide problems

GPS Stats and other info:

  • Milage: 17.25 miles
  • Time: 4 days/3 nights
  • Elevation: The route just south of Point of Arches climbs to the top of the bluff
    twice at 250 feet.

Logistics: (see also the links and resources section at the end of this page)

  • If you are overnight camping in Olympic National Park you need a backcountry permit
    $5 + $2 per person per night
  • If you leave a car on the Makah Reservation (north end Shi Shi beach trailhead)
    then you'll need to get a Makah Recreation Permit ($10 per car)
  • The use of bear canisters are required by the park. The ranger stations will loan
    you a can for a suggested donation of $3.
  • If you are camping anywhere from Ozette north to Point of Arches you have to
    make reservations with the park service. Shi Shi Beach itself does not require
    reservations.
  • Since this is a one-way hike, you'll need to arrange some kind of transportation
    at your exit point.
  • You'll need a tide table - the range stations can supply you with this.
  • The best map is made by Custom Correct and shows impassable headlands and
    points that are only passable at a give (approximate) maximum tide.

Trip Report

8/30/08 (Saturday) - 9/2/08 (Tuesday) Ozette Lake to Shi Shi Beach backpacking trip with me (Chris M), Joan, Russ & Celia, Jeff, Chris S

This year's annual Labor Day beach backpacking trip completes our trifecta of Olympic Park coastal hikes. (see also Oil City to Third Beach and Rialto Beach to Ozette Lake). Shi Shi beach is often described as the most beautiful beach in Washington and it didn't disappoint us. There was adventure and incredible beauty around nearly every corner and a great group of people to experience it with.

Our plan is to take two days to hike from Ozette Lake to Shi Shi beach and then spend two more days hanging out and exploring. Since we haven't ever had any problems in the past with last minute camp site reservations I'm still wondering why this time was different. The weather report is really iffy and I just can't imagine there's going to be a lot of people hiking. But when I finally call the ranger station ALL the camping areas from Ozette to Shi Shi are taken! I tell the rangers "In that case, we'll go all the way from Ozette to Shi Shi in a day and just risk a 'forced' bivy". They point out, that could be difficult strategy but strangely, they don't try to talk me out of it. I talk it over with my group and we agree that we'd rather be "legal" but otherwise, so be it. So basically, I fell down in the planning department.

8/30/08 Saturday Day 1

We catch the 7:10 AM ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and by 9 AM we're at the Port Angeles ranger station. We get our permits and bear cans. I inquire about the camp site reservation situation but it hasn't changed. Oh well. By 11 we're at Ozette Lake and Chris S and Russ take off to shuttle a car to our exit point on the Makah reservation at Neah bay. In the mean time, I visit the local ranger station to check out the reservation situation one last time. No change, but the ranger suggests camping at Wedding Rocks which (VERY loosely speaking) is anything south of Cape Alava. It's a little bit in the wrong direction but we decide we'll go for that.

Russ and Chris S are back from the shuttle in about two hours and at 2:50 PM we are on trail. Back during our planning meeting I told Russ that my rain strategy is that the dorkiest hat provides the best protection. I've since forgotten and today he and Celia are talking about their "door cats" and I don't know what the hell they're talkin' about!  See group photo.

Photo Credits: Chris Marsh, Chris Sexauer, Russ Schwartz

We call... ourselves... "door cats"

The 3 miles from Ozette to Capa Alava is almost completely board walk. It's an easy way to get our hiking legs.

flora ? fauna
    Joan
gang   Celia

 

Joan   Russ, nearing the beach

When the trail reaches Cape Alava the sun breaks through the clouds and it is glorious ! Plus it never feels like a beach hike until my feet are in the sand.

Celia & Joan Russ Gang
Ozette Island Chris S nearing the beach Joan, Celia, Chris S, Chris M
Chris M Everyone celebrates the sun... ... in their own way

We find some nice inland campsites not too far south next to several small water sources. Joan and I are setting up our tent when two deer practically walk into our camp and stop to chew on the bushes. After a while we're all mostly set up, starting to think about cooking... Chris S is walking back to her tent on the beach and discovers a bear rooting around !!! I run for my camera but by the time I get back it has wandered up the hill and is gone! GAK. I have never seen a bear during a hike. Fortunately it hasn't caused any damage and just seems to be passing through.

First dinner is always a little special: Wine, fresh veggies. For desert the stars come out and the liquor flows. We have a little bit of food that doesn't fit in the bear cans and we hang it... yah, yah, I know. My bad. Russ and Celia report raccoon eyes staring back from the woods but the food bag survives the night.
 

 

 
"Hey Boo Boo"   Rocky Raccoon

8/31/08 Sunday, Day 2

We get a (bit too) leisurely start at 10:15. We pass Cape Alava - it's a popular spot amongst the folks who hike the boardwalk and then plant themselves for a couple days. A bit farther we pass Tskawahyah Island island and get our first view of our destination - Point of Arches - in the distance.
 

In and around Cape Alava

A beautiful crescent beach continues north. Near the end, high on the gravelly beach where you might not notice is an odd pile of faded yellow fiberglass... maybe a wrecked boat, I'm thinking, but once I get close I realize it's a dead whale.

 
Dead whale    

The crescent beach ends in a point and here we find that we've cornered two more deer... though after a moment we discover that they have two fawn with them. None of them seem very concerned about us.

The point might be passable but there's a short trail aided by a rope over the saddle. It looks faster so we go that way. Here a series of pocket coves leads eventually to the Ozette River. Each one has it's only little point that is more or less awash. We skirt the slippery rocks but eventually decide the easier route is to take off our boots and wade. In the last cove, two fathers and their four sons are camping. They tell us the water is too deep to cross the Ozette right now but we have to see for ourselves.

Uh... er... They are pretty much right.... pretty much.

Farwn Joan on the inland passage Approaching the Ozette R
 
The mouth of the Ozette... somewhere in this picture   Waiting  for the tide to change

This fellow visited us by the river side while we were waiting.

The river here, looks to be at least chest deep... so we try some advanced strategies: We explored up river looking for a place to cross but find nothing. We find some rope and think about setting up a zip line. We try to build a raft. Russ maintains our spirits by cooking quesadillas for everyone. We wade repeatedly into the river only to turned back by the depth or the current. Finally the tide turns but it still takes another two hours for the backed up water to drain. When we finally cross, the current is still rippin' and makes everyone nervous. One of the campers we passed earlier has joined us and hovers close by to catch us if we fall. We never get his name but we are very thankful. Finally we're on our way again.

 
Tired of waitin' and I'm goin' for it   On our way againg
somewhere between Ozette and Seafield

By the time we reach Seafield creek it's getting dusky. We decide to stop. Officially, there's only one campsite here, on top of the bluff... with a great view... It's late and no one is there so we decide to... take it. Alas, after we've set up tents and are starting dinner, just at sunset the party arrives who's site we have poached. We offer to move but they are gracious and let us stay and there is after all plenty of room. They are a family: Dad, mom and son (13) and daughter (12) who have just come 14 miles (!!!) from Norwegian Memorial. Talk about hard core. They eat pretty quickly and once the kids are in bed the parents join us by the fire. We share our liquor with them. We owe 'em.

They tell us that the rangers have given them conflicting stories about the Ozette River campgrounds, saying they are either full or are closed due to lack of water ??

There are cabins here - private residences that have been enveloped by the park. In the dark we can see the glow of lights from the windows of one on the other side of the creek valley.

Joan and Jeff hard at work View from Seafield camp spot Camping on grass!

 

9/1/08 Monday, Day 3

After yesterday's tide fiasco we decide to get up early (for us) at 6 and are hiking at about 8 AM. There's a big headland between us and Shi Shi beach. It is supposed to be full of big rocks, tide problems and be pretty slow going and difficult.  But right now, the tide is way out and we have sidewalk sand interspersed with tide pools for a mile and a half.
 

  Approaching the headlands south of Point of Arches Chris S and Joan
     
 
     

At the headland, there's about a quarter mile of big (BIG) boulders. The going here isn't to bad if you're comfortable rock hopping 12 feet off the ground, otherwise you're left with winding between the boulders on slippery seaweed. Eventually the boulders give way to a couple cove beaches and monolithic rocky points that were much easier to cross. There's an inland passage that we didn't use because the tide was out but in hind site it might have been faster. One of the beaches ends at "the sign" where our trial goes inland - following multiple ropes pretty much straight up the bluff for 250 feet. If this had been muddy and slippery it would have been treacherous. Today it is merely steep.

Navigating the rocks From whence we came  
Chris S Chris M Chris S
More rocks... Survived the rocks Trail goes up

At the top of the bluff the trail descends gradually to the north through pleasant forest. It drops down another steep roped spot just long enough for us to cross a pocket cove and then climbs back into the woods. Just before the last steep roped section takes us back to the beach there is our first incredible view of (just a small subset of) the sea stacks of point of arches. The water sparkles.
 

     
  Jeff  

 

Back on the beach the going is easier...  The ones in our group who are more comfortable on the rocks and the ropes have been shuttling packs for those who aren't. This improves our speed but maybe not enough. It's clear the tide has come in a lot. Chris S has gone ahead maybe half a mile or more and just managed to cross the point of arches to shi shi beach without getting her feet wet ... barely. We have 2-way radios with us and she reports back that we better move our butts.


Gateway to Point of Arches


We're moving faster on the beach but there's a ways to go. There's are several really cool pocket beaches here and an arch that you pass through... I catch up with Joan and Jeff at the actual Point of Arches which is awash. Chris S. is on the other side and we can talk via the radio. According to our "custom correct" brand map, there's supposed to be an inland passage around this point but we haven't been able to find it on our side and Chris S can't find it on the other side. So our choices are to wait out the tide or wade. Chris S thinks the water is only about mid-thigh deep so we opt to wade. I watch as Joan and Jeff cross, winding their way about 100 feet. There are small waves and the water is a bit higher than expected - it's a little scary but it works and they make it to the other side.
 

I can see Russ and Celia in the distance about 10 minutes behind me so I wait to give them the beta about the crossing. We discuss the options and decide to go for it though by now the tide has come in some more and the water at its deepest is about up to our waists. It's scary, cold and tricky - you can't see very well where to step, the bottom is a mix of rock and sand... Celia has a brief moment of excitement when right at the end she steps in a hole and almost tips over but we catch her and then we're done.

It's Labor Day Monday afternoon and although hikers we passed on the way in said that Shi Shi had been crowded, there is no one here now. We find a spot near the south end near Willoughby Creek, unpack, and lay out gear to dry.

It is our beach. We have braved the sea, the tides, the rocks, the steep and the deep. We have been to the mountain! We have surmounted every obstacle and reached our destination. We ARE conquering heroes and we have earned our reward

and...

It is...

nap time.


Once we've settled in, we explore a bit. There's an infinite amount of beach camping and a handful of nice forest camp spots. There are signs that people before have had a lot of time on their hands and maybe civil engineering degrees... there's the "tiki lounge" and the "citidel"... engineering marvels. It's nice to have a lot of time to just hang out. Jeff hikes the trail to Willoughby Lake and reports that it is in ok condition.

The "Tiki Lounge" Christmas Tree The Citadel
 
Celia sketching   Russ

At 8:30 PM the tide is lowest so at about 7:30 we are out exploring the Point of Arches. The sea stacks are innumerable and everywhere. Chris S spies a climbing anchor on the back of the big triangular rock. We wander out to sea exploring the rocks as we go. From the southern approach to Shi Shi you can only see a couple arches and from our camp site you can't actually see any... but now, they are everywhere. Around every turn there's another. Chris S and I follow them all, wondering if each "cave" is going to turn a corner and come out somewhere else... and they always do, over and over. I'm wondering if we're going to have trouble finding our way back out ! Finally the darkness forces us back to the main beach and the others who have been exploring their own nooks and crannies. It is sooo cool. I could spend hours if not days playing amongst the rocks.
 

     
 
     

This evening we make a roaring fire and drink the last of our liquor. The stars shine.


9/02/08 Tuesday, Day 4


In the morning it is raining. In the tent, it always sounds a lot worse than it is. When I finally get up it's really just a sprinkle. We set up a big tarp to cover a cooking area which virtually guarantees that the rain will stop and it does. Chris S explores the point again during the morning low tide and brings back more great pictures.
 

  Critter tracks  
Boot Chiton    

Chris S and Jeff and I are going to hike out early so Jeff can catch a ride back to Portland in time to get to a class he's taking. We hike the two mile crescent of shi shi beach to the north end where we spend a while exploring the cool rocks and coves and sea stacks there. As we're about to leave Chris S is looking back in the direction of our campsite and sees a whale spout ! We watch that for a while and then start the hike back to civilization.
 

Jeff relaxing in the Citadel Beach bootie ! Chris S, Chris M, Jeff
North end of Shi Shi


Our last view of Point of Arches

The trail back gets a lot of bad PR for being muddy... and it is. The last mile or so is a new trail built by the Mekah tribe with boardwalks and bridges. It's pretty nice. We hike the half mile of road north where we parked the car and drive Jeff to Sekiu where he catches his ride home.

Someone collected garbage Jeff on the new Makah trail Pimp my ride

Chris S and I drive to Ozette and back to complete our shuttle and pick up the rest of the gang
for the drive back to Seattle.

Critter List: Eagle, deer, bear, racoons, pelicans, sand pipers?, star fish, sea urchins, sea stars, whale (dead and alive), sea lion, hermit crabs, anemones, boot chitons, limpets, herons, merganser ducks, leopard slugs, barnacles, muscles, fishies, snails, snakes

Photo Credits:
Chris Marsh
Chris Sexauer
Russ Schwartz

Links and Resources:

    My other beach hike trip reports:

 

    Access and Information:

  • WIC - wilderness information center 360-565-3100 (Olympic National Park ranger stations)
    WIC operating hours depend on the season and are announced on their answering machine.
    Talk to them about National Park permits and regulations, bear cans, camping reservations,
    miscellaneous questions...  Camping reservations are accepted no earlier than 30 days
    before your trip.
  • WIC - wilderness information center web site: http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wic.htm
  • Directions to the Wilderness Information Center (ranger station) in Port Angeles:
    follow hwy 101 into Port Angeles. Look for signs for the Olympic Nation Park visitors Center.
    Follow Race street to the visitor center. The WIC is behind it in a trailer. 360-374-7566
  • There are also ranger stations at Ozette Lake and in Forks.
  • Makah Recreation Permit info at http://www.makah.com/permits.htm
  • The "Mekah recreation pass" is $10 per vehicle that enters the reservation for recreational
    purposes. Available at the "Makah museium" or the "Makah (Washburn's) general store" or
    the Makah Minimart or the Makah marina or generally any business in Neah Bay. It is good
    for the calandar year it is purchased.
  • Makah official shi shi beach trail site: http://www.makah.com/shishi.htm
  • Directions from Seattle to Shi Shi beach trailhead from Makah.com
    Take the Edmonds ferry to Kingston.
    Cross the Hood Canal Bridge.
    Follow Highway 101 through Port Angeles,
    Five miles past Port Angeles, veer right to Highway 12,
    Follow 112 for about 60 miles to Neah Bay
    When entering Neah Bay you will pass the US Coast Guard which is on the left side of the road across from the Makah Museum . Travel 1 1/2 miles (follow the road with the yellow stripe). Right past the Senior Citizen's Building, curve left, where you see the IHS Clinic on your right. Follow the curve to the right and then to the left (follow the signs to Cape Flattery). Go approx. 2 1/2 miles to a bridge on the left, turn and cross it and stay on the paved road. Be sure to mind the 15 mph signs and road humps. Follow the signs to the fish hatchery. Shi Shi trail is 2 driveways before the hatchery.
  • Washington state ferry schedules: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/index.cfm
  • Washington state ferry schedules: Edmonds <-> Kingston
  • Commercial shuttle service: www.windsox.com.us . I have used these guys and they are good.
  • Commercial shuttle service: All Points Charter & Tours http://www.goallpoints.com/ - I have
    not used this organization and don't know anything about it.  1-360-460-7131
  • Olympic National Park home page (NPS)
  • National Park Service coastal hikes page: http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/coastal-routes.htm
  • Way cool aerial photos of the whole Washington coast
  • Pacific Northwest Trail Association message board 
  • Pacific Northwest Trail Association web page
  • Metsker's maps
  • Hood Canal Bridge closure info etc at www.hoodcanalbridge.com
  • Good info re food ideas

    Tides and weather:

    Miscellaneous Notes

  • The Makah website says that the new (north end) Shi Shi Beach access trail is 3.2
    miles long. The Custom Correct map says it is 2.2. My GPS said it was about 2.4 miles.
  • The ranger station has never been helpful to me about answering any questions
    concerning the Mekah Reservation, their access, permit process or anything.
    I had to get that information from their web site Makah.com.
  • Verizon cell phones seem to work in Neah Bay and from Shi Shi beach. T-Mobil and
    AT&T cell phones did not work in Neah Bay


Our tide tables

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