I recently had the good fortune to once again visit Shi Shi Beach, at the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.
I arrived from the south, the long way, after hiking the beach from Lake Ozette.
Over the years, I’ve hiked pretty much the entire Olympic wilderness coast and have come to the conclusion that Shi Shi is the absolute apex. If the Olympic coast was fireworks, Shi Shi would be the grand finale.
Here then, are 10 reasons why Shi Shi is the best beach on the Olympic coast (and hence, the best beach in the Lower 48).
Point of Arches: The chorus line of sea stacks, many of them arches, is unquestionably the scenic highlight of the coast. Visible from anywhere on Shi Shi, it provides a super-dramatic backdrop, the best this coast has to offer.
Eagles: Sure, eagles are common everywhere on the Olympic coast, but at Shi Shi, they seem to be just everywhere. In the trees. On the beach. Flying overhead. Too many to count.
Length: Shi Shi stretches for more than two miles, an unusually long strip of sand on this rock-tortured coast. Lots of easy walking.
Camping: Wonderful places to pitch your tent abound; protected enclaves back in the greenery above the beach (for when the weather is questionable) and countless sandy spots amid the prodigious driftwood (for those clear, star-spangled nights).
Water: Two major creeks (Petroleum and Willoughby) provide fresh (if ice-tea colored) drinking water for overnight visitation, a sometimes rare commodity on the coast.
Portage Head: The area north of Shi Shi, on the Makah Reservation, is a wonderland of surf and rock pinnacles. Access is from the beach (at low tide) or overland from the Makah trail.
Tide Pools: Truly the best tide pools the Olympic coast has to offer (and that’s saying a lot!), the Point of Arches and the area below Portage Head are bristling with starfish, anemones and countless other tidal denizens. Come during a minus tide and discover a new world.
Access: The trail to Shi Shi from the Makah trailhead is short, easy and straightforward. No ropes to climb, no boulders to navigate. Luckily, it’s ridiculously muddy and invariably brushy, keeping the riff-raff out. Or perhaps, letting them in.
Proximity to Further Wonders: A short, easy day hike from a camp on Shi Shi will take you south around the Point of Arches and on to the wonders beyond. Behold the Totem. Slip through a sea arch. Climb a fixed rope to the Aerie. Just watch the tides.
Sunsets: The end of the day on Shi Shi can be a religious experience. With the right combination of clear skies and clouds, the scene is transcendent. If you’re camping, enjoy every moment. If you’re day hiking, enjoy every moment. Then hike back in the dark.
To find out more about the many wonders of Shi Shi Beach, head to http://www.wta.org
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