The first time I walked around the extraordinary rock formation known as Point of Arches, a sensation of awe came over me.
It felt like an otherworldly realm of sculpted sea stacks, rugged cliffs, and monolithic passageways instead of a beach just a few hours from home.
This geographical wonderland on Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park is a must-see destination.
Drawing from my inspired hike to Point of Arches, also known as Point of the Arches, in this article, I share helpful tips and all the information you need to prepare for your adventure.
I’ll tell you how to get there, what to expect on the Shi Shi Beach hike, what to bring, and offer accommodation options, including how to camp here.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
What is Point of Arches?
It’s a unique configuration of over 30 sea stacks comprising a coastline beachscape extending into the Pacific Ocean.
It’s a testament to the power of nature and time.
Over eons, tides and waves chiseled away at the cliffs on this stretch of the Olympic Peninsula. These impressive sea stacks are what remains.
When I arrived at Shi Shi Beach after a 2-mile hike through the coastal forest, I saw the rock formation in the distance and felt underwhelmed. Weekend trips to Second Beach in La Push have made me spoiled.
For the forest hike to be worth your time, walk all the way to Point of the Arches.
Once I arrived there after a 2-mile beach hike, I was awestruck by my surroundings.
Walking around the towering rocks of varying shapes and sizes, I felt incredibly grateful to live near this magnificent place.
Check the tide chart to plan your trip around low tide. You can’t access all areas around Point of the Arches at high tide, and getting there will take a lot of work.
The rocks here tell the story of millions of years.
Much of this beach is covered by materials left behind from glacier movement.
You’ll also see remnants of volcanic activity dating back to 34 to 56 million years ago.
What sets Point of the Arches apart from other remarkable coastlines in the region are sea stacks that are nearly 144 million years old, older than any others on the Olympic Peninsula.
National Natural Landmark Designation
Point of Arches was recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior in 1971.
This program celebrates the preservation of natural sites that showcase exceptional biological and geological resources.
Where is Point of Arches?
This landmark is on the southern end of Shi Shi Beach.
Once you reach the sandy beach from the trail, you’ll see the collection of rocks in the distance to your left.
Shi Shi Beach is on the rugged Pacific Coast of Washington State in Olympic National Park. It’s twenty minutes south of Cape Flattery, the northwest tip of the continental US.
It’s an hour and forty-five minutes west of Port Angeles.
Neah Bay, on Makah tribal land, is the closest town.
Shi Shi Beach Hike: Things to Know
This trail is open year-round.
A Makah Recreation Permit must be displayed in your vehicle’s window. You can pick one up in Neah Bay for $20 or online here.
There is a small gravel parking lot and a bathroom at the trailhead.
Almost every trip report you’ll read will mention mud on the trail. I’ve included a section on this below.
Seeing Point of Arches from afar is much less exciting than walking around it.
If you don’t have time to walk all the way to the rock formation, or if you only want to spend time on a beach, consider skipping this hike altogether.
Check the tide chart before arriving here and plan your visit around low tide.
Walking the beach at high tide will require maneuvering over logs, which can be dangerous.
Also, if you explore beyond Point of Arches, keep an eye on the tide so you don’t get stuck!
Areas on the beach become impassable as the tide rises.
How Hard is the Hike to Shi Shi Beach?
- Hike length: 8.8 miles roundtrip
- Elevation gain: 561 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Restroom: At trailhead
You’ll hike through the forest for the first mile, crossing wooden bridges and boardwalks.
You may encounter some mud. It’s a mistake to think: “What’s the big deal?”
It’s on the second mile when you’ll see what everyone is talking about.
Mud aside, it’s a straightforward, relatively easy hike if you regularly hike because the elevation is minimal.
Plan for a 5-6 hour adventure.
Prepare for Mud
I cannot emphasize enough just how much muddy this trail is!
According to this guidebook, the Makah Tribe ran out of funding to continue the construction of boardwalks.
Since it was August when I did this hike, I thought that some of that mud would have dried up. Perhaps it had, but it was still a lot of mud.
Don’t let the photo below fool you. It was taken at the beginning of the roughly .5-mile section of mud, when it was relatively tame.
There are side trails you can take to avoid some of it. But be cautious of slick tree roots. I slipped on one and fell on my tailbone.
I realized then how even “easy” trails with little elevation have hazards that can cause nasty injuries.
Luckily, I could stand up and continue, but my tailbone was tender for two months afterward!
The end of the trail before you reach the beach is steep. But there are wood rails to help you stay balanced.
What You’ll See
The sky was overcast when I landed on the beach from the trail.
The weather changes quickly on the coast, so bring layers. More on what to bring is included in the section below.
Seeing the rock formation from afar and walking around it are very different experiences. At that moment, I was underwhelmed by what I saw in the distance, but I continued the journey.
I stopped often to take photos of the activity on Shi Shi Beach.
I saw surfers retreating back to shore from the ocean.
I watched backpackers hiking toward their destination.
I was struck by the beauty of seabirds gathered on the sand.
And to my delight, the sun broke through the clouds.
As I approached Point of Arches, I immediately understood the hype.
Walking around its huge sea stacks, you’ll feel like you’re in paradise in the Pacific Northwest.
The tide pools here are fantastic.
During a minus tide, you can wander over acres of marine terrain.
Be cautious as you explore the tide pools, and avoid stepping on sea life.
But what I reveled in the most was walking through passageways made of monolithic rock.
This is an extraordinary place that every PNW adventurer should experience at least once.
What to Bring
Carry at least two liters of water on this hike. I recommend bringing three liters on a hot summer day.
If you have a water bottle with a built-in filter, you can fill it up at Petroleum Creek. A filter is necessary to avoid parasites.
Here’s a list of the things I brought with me and two things I did not bring that I wished I would have!
- Hiking boots – My waterproof Oboz boots were necessary to navigate through all the mud.
- Backpack – It was summer when I did this hike, so I didn’t bring my waterproof shell layers. This meant I could take my 22L unisex Osprey pack instead of my 40L pack.
- Snacks – I love a combination of sweet and savory snacks to stay fueled.
- Water – I always keep a Katadyn water filter in my pack.
- Sunhat – You’ll never catch me hiking without a sunhat.
- Sunglasses – The same goes for sunglasses! I wear them even on overcast days.
- Trekking poles – My poles helped me balance as I traveled through muddy ground and over tree roots.
- Teva sandals – I wish I had brought my Teva sandals with me to walk through shallow sections of water around the rocks.
- Headlamp – I’m usually a “ten essentials” evangelist, but I failed to bring my headlamp on this hike. It would have helped on the hike back to my car through the forest.
Even though it wasn’t dusk, the trail was much darker than when heading to the beach.
About an hour prior, I spoke with another solo female hiker just setting out on her beach hike toward Point of Arches. I thought of her and worried for her safety, wondering how dark the forest would be when she embarked on her trek back to the parking lot.
Hopefully, she had a headlamp!
Best Time to Hike to Point of the Arches
Low tide or a receding tide is almost mandatory for exploring this beach. Check the tide chart in advance.
Late June through early September offers the best chance for dry weather. Dry conditions mean less mud to contend with!
My ideal weather is exactly what I experienced on a Saturday in August. I didn’t have to pack too many layers.
I marveled at the contrast of the spectacular sea stacks against a jewel-blue summer sky.
However, if you want a quieter adventure, come here on weekdays or during the shoulder months of April, May, and October.
How to Get to Shi Shi Beach
From Neah Bay, head west on Bayview Avenue. As you pass Fort Nunez Gaona – Diah Veterans Park, the road turns left.
Turn right onto 3rd Avenue, then left onto Cape Flattery Road.
On your left, you’ll see idyllic views of the Wa’atch River. Look for signs for Hobuck Beach Resort and turn left on Hobuck Road.
Stay to the right, and Fam Camp Road will take you to Makah Passage, a road parallel to the water.
I recommend stopping at the pull-out near Bahobohosh Point. To the left, you’ll enjoy the scenery of the winding Sooes River. To the right, you’ll see sweeping views of Hobuck Beach, captured below.
Continue to Tsoo-Yess Beach Road, where peek-a-boo views of stunning Tsoo-Yess Beach will beckon you to pull over.
Turn left onto Fish Hatchery Road to arrive at the small parking lot and trailhead.
Camping at Shi Shi Beach
This is one of the busier destinations in Olympic National Park for beach camping.
I suggest dropping off your gear with a backpacking partner at the trailhead. Overnight parking is only available on the private lots of locals, about a half-mile away on Tsoo-Yess Beach Road.
Bring cash! It’s $10 for each day your car is parked.
Take your pick of campsites on the beach, but remember to camp above the high tide line. The last thing you want is to wake up to ocean water filling your tent!
A limited number of campsites are also available in the forest.
Always use the toilets here. Three are available. Or, use blue bags to dispose of later.
Leaving no trace means precisely that!
All food, garbage, and anything scented must be stored in a park-approved bear canister overnight and anytime you leave your campsite.
Water is available at Petroleum Creek and Willoughby Creek. I’ll repeat: you must boil or filter collected water to prevent parasitic diseases.
Lastly, fires are allowed on the beach, but you must burn only driftwood.
Shi Shi Beach Accommodations: Where to Stay
Nearby Neah Bay offers accommodation options to suit a range of budgets.
Stay at least one night to give yourself time for other outdoor activities, such as the Cape Flattery trail.
📍 Cape Resort
We stayed the weekend here in our RV. This no-frills resort has small cabins, RV spots with full hookups, and camping sites.
The exterior does not do justice to how nice it is on the inside. The two rooms available for booking are spacious, accommodating up to six people.
📍 Hobuck Beach Resort
This resort is located just off the ocean. The South Cabins will give you the best views of the water. Or you can tent camp or RV camp here.
Shi Shi Beach FAQs
Is Shi Shi Beach worth it?
Plan your trip to arrive on the beach from the trail within an hour of low tide so you can walk to Point of the Arches. Seeing it in the distance pales in comparison to walking around it. I advise skipping Shi Shi Beach if you don’t have time for Point of the Arches.
Can you get to Point of the Arches at high tide?
Technically, yes, you can reach Point of the Arches at high tide. But the navigation will be challenging. According to a local who does this hike monthly, a high tide that is +8’ will make areas of the beach impassable without climbing over driftwood. You’ll have to cross a deep creek.
Can a child hike to Shi Shi Beach?
The answer depends on the child’s conditioning and exposure to longer hikes. I’ve read trip reports from parents whose children loved the experience and comments from adults who believe the hike is too strenuous for kids. Add extra time to your planning if you bring kids on this hike.
Are dogs allowed on Shi Shi Beach?
Pets are not allowed on Olympic National Park coastal beaches and trails. There are some exceptions to this, such as Rialto Beach.
Point of the Arches on Shi Shi Beach Wrap-Up
Walking around Point of Arches at low tide is an unforgettable experience.
It was one of my best summer memories, and I cannot wait to return.
The landmark’s towering rocks, sea stacks, and tide pools comprise the best coastal scenery in all of Washington.