Backpack and Camp at Shi Shi Beach

Washington Shi Shi Beach Parking

Added by Chris DeAntonio

With it's amazing tidepools and primitive beach camping, Shi Shi Beach is the destination of choice for anyone looking to get a true Pacific Northwest experience.

My friends and I decided to head out to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) from Philadelphia to do some backpacking and beach camping.  We choose Shi Shi Beach for it's terrific beach camping and extraordinary photography potential.  Here is a rundown of the out and back, 2-night backpacking trip we made to Shi Shi.  Our trip started at Port Angeles, Washington and during the week to avoid crowds.

The Permits:
It took a few phone calls to understand what permits are required for Shi Shi because you need two from two separate groups- one from Olympic National Park and one from the Makah Tribe.  And you will have to do this in-person before heading out to the trailhead.  Here is how to do it:

1. Stop at the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles and grab your backcountry permit and bear canister there. Click here for more info.  They were very helpful and explained the parking situation at the trailhead as well.

2. Next, head East to Neah Bay and buy your Makah Tribe recreation permit at Washburn’s General Store.  Currently the permit is $10.00. Check the store hours before going because they don't open too early.

Parking and The Hike In:

Once you have your permits, you will continue East by car, following signs for Shi Shi Beach.  You will reach a small parking area with restrooms and limited parking.  You are not supposed to park overnight here, but about 500 yards back down the hill from which you came.  

The hike in is via a 2 mile trail in a coastal forest maintained by the Makah tribe.  Some parts can be fairly muddy, so wear boots.  At about mile 1.5, you will start to get excited as you start to hear and see the Pacific Ocean!  Eventually, you will reach the end of the tribal land and see a small wooden sign that says "Olympic National Park" and an obvious route down the headlands to the beach camping area.

The hike down 200 feet is very steep and there are handlines for assistance.  Once at about sea level, you will find some primitive camp sites in the wooded area and beach access.  Out on the beach, make the left and head South and you have your choice of where to make camp.

I would recommend making camp just South of the creek (see next section) to have quick access to fresh water and just a .25 mile walk down the beach to the main attraction - Point of Arches.  There is a ton of driftwood all along the treeline.  You can use that for firewood to make small fires, but the park asks that you don't make giant driftwood forts and furniture.  And be sure to set up camp well above the high tide waterline.

Fresh Water:
There is a freshwater creek called Petroleum Creek that drains out onto the beach and into the Pacific. This is your best fresh water source. There is no sign for this, but you will notice a small stream of water draining onto the beach from the treeline.  Follow it up into the forest a bit and you will find a good flowing creek.  Bring a legit water purification system that can remove cryptosporidium and giardia (Iodine tabs alone will not do this).  Also, the water will have a brown look to it even after it is purified. This is normal and due to a high level of tannin leached from leaves in the water.  Don't worry, it tastes great :)

Point of Arches and The Tidepools:
The Southernmost point of Shi Shi Beach is Point of Arches, which is a collection of sea stacks and, at low tide, incredible tide pools that are alive with sea life (crabs, starfish, mussels, etc.).  You can spend hours walking along the exposed rocks viewing the sea life and taking pictures.  Just be sure to keep an eye on the rising tide to make sure your exit doesn't go underwater.  Bring a tide chart.

The Hike Out:
The hike out is just back tracking the way you came in.  To find the trailhead back into the forested area, just look for the headlands overland marker, which is a circular sign with red and black quadrants.  And as always, remember to Leave No Trace.

If you're planning to day hike to Shi Shi Beach, check out this adventure:

Pack List

  • Standard backpacking gear, tent, etc.
  • Tide chart
  • Water shoes for tide pool exploring
  • Bear canisters are required and you can rent one in the Olympic National Park's Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles.
  • Water purification system capable of removing cryptosporidium and giardia
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Hiking

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



4 Miles

Elev. Gain:

200 Feet




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How to Get There

3 months ago

Incredible Beach

Just getting to this beach can be a hassle and very muddy, but it's oh so worth it. Stunning scenery morning and evening, and even when it's busy you can find solitude. Few things have been as peaceful as sleeping here and listening to the waves crashing on the beach.

3 months ago

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