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Backpack and Camp at Shi Shi Beach

Neah Bay, Washington

based on 3 reviews



4 miles

Elevation Gain

200 ft

Route Type



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: https://www.theoutbound.com/wa...

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Backpack and Camp at Shi Shi Beach Reviews

This is one of my favorite backpacking trips. Several options for campsites, including the beach. Take time exploring the tide pools during low tide and enjoy the beautiful sunsets. If you have ever wanted to do a backpacking trip on the coast this is the perfect spot! Make sure you get the appropriate permits, if you want beer for your trip you have to stop somewhere before Neah Bay and stop by Calvins Crab Shop on your way out for great fish and chips!

Finally decided to grab the backpack and do an overnighter at Shi Shi. Not sure what took me so long to check this place out, but I'm glad that I did! This entire region is very beautiful; however, Shi Shi might very well be the best attraction in the area. My assumption is that most backpackers know that a couple of permits are needed to stay overnight, so I'll skip that part. In case you don't, information can be easily obtained at the ranger station in Port Angeles (you can also call). Once permits are secured, and you are off to Shi Shi, note that there are two parking lots about a mile away from the main trailhead. If my memory serves me correctly, parking is $10. I parked at Donna's (the first parking area that you will see), and the trek to the trailhead was a little over one mile from her parking lot. The trail itself is mostly flat, until the descend down to the beach - which isn't that bad. Take your time down, as secure footing can be an issue. Once on the beach, another couple miles will put you in the vicinity of Point of the Arches. There are also a couple fresh water sources on the beach - the most prominent one being Petroleum Creek (which is near the arches). The only downside of this beach is the number of people who are traveling from all over to experience this wonderful place. The ranger stated that there were 300 campers on the beach when I visited. So, do not expect to be alone (especially on sunny days). That being said, the beach is so majestic, the crowd may not be an issue. Certainly a great trip for sure! Will come back again late summer or early fall when the crowds die down a bit.

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.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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