Epic views on the olympic national park coast at shi shi beach

Ultimate Guide to Camping and Hiking at Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park

Shi Shi Beach is one of the last hidden gems in Washington and Olympic National Park. It’s full of wonder, stunning coastlines, majestic rock formations, and without the crowds that you’d typically find at a popular national park. 

On my trip here in 2023, we enjoyed cooler temperatures, muddy trails, and low tides, highlighting everything you can expect to see on your visit. 

Inside, we are diving into everything I learned and know from my adventure hiking to Shi Shi Beach that will help make your trip exciting, safe, and rewarding! 

As you adventure here, please remember to practice leave no trace and treat the area with respect.

Waves and rock formations at the Point of Arches near Shi Shi Beach. There are clouds in the sky with rocks jutting out of the water at the horizon.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Your Guide to Hiking Shi Shi Beach in Washington

One Minute Guide to Hiking Shi Shi Beach

Need info quick about Shi Shi Beach? Here you go!

  • Hiking Distance: 4-8 miles
  • Hiking Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
  • Estimated Hiking time: 4 hours
  • Trailhead location: Shi Shi Beach Trailhead

What you need to know before visiting Shi Shi Beach

Is Shi Shi Beach worth it?

Shi Shi Beach, in the upper northwest corner of Washington, is totally worth it. It’s a hidden gem in a state full of crowded landscapes. The picturesque rock formations, lonely beach, and immaculate scenery make it one of the top places in Olympic National Park

We were stunned once we exited the forest and onto the beach. Plus, with low tide, the remarkable rocks became even better, and the photography opportunities were endless! 

Once you visit, you’ll understand the hype and why it’s a treasured destination. 

When is the best time to visit Shi Shi Beach?

Good question! Like many (all?) places in Washington, summer offers the best weather and longest days. But it’s also when the crowds are most persistent. I visited Shi Shi Beach in April, and it was excellent. We had stunning conditions and blue skies. 

In the winter, it can get quite cold on the coast, but the crowds will be scarce. While this might require adding a few layers and probably forego going into the ocean, it could offer some unique moments! 

Rocks coming up out of the ground is what makes Shi Shi Beach so unique in Olympic National Park.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Makah Recreation Pass Required

Anyone who visits Neah Bay must purchase a Makah Recreation Pass before enjoying the surrounding hiking, beaches, and ocean. They are $20 and last the calendar year. They must be bought in person and cannot be purchased online. See below for where you can buy them in person.

  • Makah Marina – Open until 5:00 p.m.
  • The Museum at the Makah Culture and Research Center – Open until 5:00 p.m.
  • Pat’s Place
  • Makah Mini Mart – Summer Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
  • Makah Tribal Center, Financial Services – Open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
  • Hobuck Beach Resort
  • The Cape Resort
A beach and ocean at sunset with a reflection of the clouds off the small amount of water sitting on the beach. This is near Hobuck Resort.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Neah Bay has few amenities

Neah Bay is not a tourist town, to say the least. Located in the furthest northwestern point of Washington, the tribal town is like many tribal towns in the US and has not received the economic support it deserves.

There are only a few restaurants and a single grocery store (at least that we saw), and some places to eat were closed even on a weekend. 

While I’m all spending money in disadvantaged towns to help out, I recommend bringing a cooler full of food (or going to the grocery store in Neah Bay) to have food as a backup plan. We didn’t do a good job of preparing before going in and ended up not having a lot to eat while staying at Hobuck Resort. 

Camping and Lodging Options

I highly recommend Hobuck Resort while visiting Neah Bay and Shi Shi Beach. The campground has 200-300 spots in an open meadow near the water. So, if you’re worried about getting a spot, I think you’ll be fine. Camping rates are $25 per night.

They also have 10 RV spots on the south end of the beach. These are first-come, first-serve and cost $50 per night.

We stayed in the South Cabins with an ocean view, which was terrific. The units are much more than just a cabin. We had a full kitchen, which you can make meals in, plus a front porch with lovely views. It was around $200 per night.

A female stands on the right side of the frame holding coffee. The wind is blowing her hair. This was taken at one of the ocean view cabins at Hobuck Resort near Shi Shi Beach Trailhead.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Where is Shi Shi Beach located?

Shi Shi Beach sits in the upper northwest corner of Washington state. Located in Olympic National Park, this stunning beach is 15 minutes south of Neah Bay. It is one of the most remote beaches in Washington and offers ridiculous views, sea stacks, and rock formations. 

Distance from Seattle

From Seattle, Shi Shi Beach and Neah Bay is a trek. On a good day with little traffic, it’s over 4.5 hours from Seattle. I would not recommend visiting this area for a single day, but make it a full weekend or three-day adventure. 

The entire Olympic Peninsula is beautiful, and you’ll want to really dive into the best places to visit in Olympic National Park

The unique rock formations at Shi Shi Beach. There's rocks sticking up in all directions with some water in the bottom left.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Hiking to Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches

Shi Shi Beach was such an incredible hike! The first two miles are through a forested area with a mostly flat trail. However, and this is crucial, the trail is almost always muddy.

And not just slightly muddy. It’s full-on wet, soppy mud. You can avoid this by taking some side trails, which is annoying. We saw some people wearing Muck Boots/Waders, and they were walking directly through it all. 

So, I recommend wearing waterproof boots, sandals, or the Muck Boots. The latter will allow you to enjoy the hike without a care in the world. 

Once you get to the beach, you have a series of steep switchbacks that bring you down to the beach. (There’s a campsite or two here also.)

From here, it’s time to explore the 2+ miles of Shi Shi Beach and possibly Point of Arches if you plan to go that far. While it’s nice walking in the forest, there’s not much to see or do. The beach is why you came here.

A vast beach with footprints leading to the left of the frame. There's a tiny hiker next to the ocean.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

As you enter the beach, you’ll see some pretty cool rock formations to your right (north). We ventured here on the way back, but I would head over there if you have a low tide. This is when the tidepools appear, and the rocks emerge. 

To your left (south) is the entire Shi Shi Beach with Point of Arches at the far end. (You’ll be able to see them from here.) The beach itself isn’t that notable, other than it’s stunning. Don’t rush the beach too much. We found some pretty cool things that had washed up, and enjoyed being alone in such a scenic area. 

One thing to note: 

If you go towards the rocks on the right, you can go up a small ridge and then drop down into another beach cove behind it. There apparently is a rope that will help you get up to the main trail a few hundred feet above. However, this is steep, and if it recently rained, it could be hard to navigate. 

I wouldn’t recommend this route.

Camping and Backpacking to Shi Shi Beach

Camping is allowed on Shi Shi Beach with the appropriate wilderness permit from Olympic National Park.

Here are some tips for Shi Shi Beach camping via the NPS

  • You need to store all food, garbage, and scented items in bear canisters when staying overnight in Olympic National Park.
  •  Purchase a Makah Recreation Pass in Neah Bay before arriving at any trailheads on the Makah Indian Reservation.
  • Overnight parking for Shi Shi is permitted only at designated private parking lots.
  • Utilize existing fire rings or build campfires on the beach to prevent damage to tree roots. Use driftwood only.
  • Expect large crowds at Shi Shi Beach during the summer months. There have been as many as 50 to 250 campers along Shi Shi Beach on busy weekends.
  • Pets, use of weapons, and wheeled devices are prohibited on coastal beaches and trails.
A little cove near Shi Shi Beach with various rock formations and trees.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Getting water while camping at Shi Shi Beach

As you all know, you can’t drink or filter ocean water. So, to stay hydrated while hanging out at Shi Sh Beach, you’ll need to find or bring your water. 

For an overnight trip, 5L would be enough to get you through without issues. The hike is relatively easy, and the nice weather will keep you from becoming dehydrated. But, if you’d like to find water sources on the beach, there are some. 

According to the NPS, Petroleum Creek and Willoughby Creek are good water sources. Additionally, if it has been raining lately, you should be able to find some run-offs coming down to the beach. 

Lastly, make sure to filter water. “Cryptosporidium and giardia exist in coastal streams and rivers; always filter or boil water. Iodine is ineffective against cryptosporidium,” says Olympic National Park.

Where to sleep 

There are various sites throughout the beach and forested areas. I don’t believe there are any places you cannot sleep, though established sites will likely be more protected and be better-located weather and water-wise. 

Just make sure to always camp above the high tide line, or you might find yourself wet or drifting out to sea. 

Fires on the beach

Fires are allowed at Shi Shi Beach. Make sure to burn only driftwood. 

A hiker looks out at the ocean as she walks near the water line.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Looking for another short hike? Head to Cape Flattery

Looking for another thing to do while in Neah Bay? Head of out Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the entire continental United States. It’s a short walk with a little bit of elevation gain on the way back.

It’s in really good condition, so most people should be able to do it without issues.

FAQ about Shi Shi Beach and Olympic National Park

How long does it take to hike Shi Shi Beach?

Hiking the Shi Shi Beach Trail typically takes around 2 to 3 hours one way, depending on your pace and the trail conditions. The round-trip hike can vary from 4 to 6 hours. It’s a beautiful coastal hike along the rugged Washington coastline, offering stunning views and access to Point of the Arches.

Can you drive up to Shi Shi Beach?

You cannot drive directly to Shi Shi Beach. To reach the trailhead, park your vehicle at a designated parking area and then hike the Shi Shi Beach Trail to access the beach. It’s part of the wilderness experience in the Olympic National Park, where vehicles are not allowed on the beach.

A boardwalk leading through a forested area in Olympic National Park. This is part of the Shi Shi Beach trail.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

How long is the Shi Shi Beach trail?

The Shi Shi Beach Trail is approximately 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) long, making it a 4-mile round trip. The trail offers a mix of forested sections, boardwalks, and beach terrain. However, this is only to the beach. 

If you want to reach the Point of Arches, this is another two miles of beach walking. It’s flat, but if you have any experience walking on sand, it can be tiresome. 

So overall, if you go all the way, it is close to an eight-mile hike.

How to pronounce Shi Shi Beach

“Shi Shi” is pronounced as “shy-shy.” It’s a unique name derived from the Makah Native American language.

Trees cover the left side of the frame with a tiny hiker on the right walking on the sandy beach.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Are dogs allowed?

Partially. Dogs are allowed on the Shi Shi Beach trail while on the Makah Reservation. But once you enter the Olympic National Park, they are not. This means dogs and pets are not allowed on Shi Shi Beach, nor at the Point of the Arches.

Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times to protect wildlife and other visitors. Make sure to clean up after your pet and respect the natural environment and other hikers while enjoying the beach with your dog.

Can I fly a drone at Shi Shi Beach?

Drones are not allowed at Shi Shi Beach. The area is in the Olympic National Park, and droning in the National Parks is illegal. Save your pack weight and leave it at home or in the car. 

The switchbacks leading up from the beach to the Shi Shi Beach trail.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Wrapping up – Shi Shi Beach and Olympic National Park

In conclusion, Shi Shi Beach is a hidden gem on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula that offers visitors a unique and unforgettable coastal experience. 

From its rugged beauty to its rich cultural history, this pristine stretch of coastline enchants all who venture here. Whether it’s exploring tide pools, hiking through lush forests, or simply enjoying the tranquility of the beach, there is something for everyone at Shi Shi Beach. 

So pack your bags and embark on an adventure to discover the magic of this remarkable destination. You won’t be disappointed.

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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