Mason Vranish Photography

Pacific Coast and the Puget Sound > Shi Shi Beach

Point of the Arches from Shi Shi Beach
ID# NP12

     Washington has the distinction as having the only wilderness ocean beaches in the lower 48 states. All 57 miles of these beaches are contained within Olympic National Park on the Pacific Coast. Among them are Cape Alava, First Beach, Second Beach, Third Beach, Ruby, Rialto, and Shi Shi, in addition to countless other smaller unnamed pocket beaches. Imagine sea stacks, starfish, driftwood, and constant pounding surf and that is Olympic's coastal beaches.

One beach, however, stands out from the rest. Ranked #1 by Outside magazine as America's Sweetest Beach and Travel Channels #5 Best Beach is Shi Shi Beach (pronounced Shy Shy). Unlike the other top beaches, you can leave your swim trunks and beach towel at home. The draw here is the wilderness. In addition to the rugged coast in front of you, the beach features a forested backdrop that reaches right down to the sand. Deer, bear, and bald eagles are numerous in addition to seals, whales and countless shorebirds. Shi Shi beach occupies just 2 of those 57 miles, but it makes up for its lack of size with stunning beauty. It is the jewel of the bunch with a prolific collection of sea stacks at its southern end known as Point of the Arches.

Once used in the past by the Makah Indians as a summer village, Shi Shi's future had for quite some time been something of a question mark. During the 1960's, its distinction was that of being the host of a hippy squatters' camp. Prior to its addition to the Park Service registry in 1976, the area behind the beach was slated for development. Recently, groups have been trying to exploit an apparent legal loophole to mine the area around the beach. In addition, access has until just recently always been a problem. The park's official southern access route involves a crossing of the Ozette River, possible only at low tide, followed by a 13 mile epic beach walk involving skirting or climbing over several headlands. The newer northern route is easier, but necessitates purchasing a Makah Indian Reservation recreation permit (in addition to a National Park permit) and paying parking money to local landowners. However, it involves a much shorter 4 mile walk to the beach, 2 miles of which are on either boardwalk or graveled trail and the remaining 2 miles on a always wet and muddy trail.

The work, however, is worth the reward......

Keywords: Washington, Pacific Northwest, Coast, Olympic National Park, Ocean, Shi Shi Beach, Surf, Sea stacks, Waves, Black Sand

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