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Winter Backpacking on the Beach // Cape Alava - Shi Shi - Cape Alava

  • (1/13 - UPDATE)The weather forecast looks incredible for this hike. Cold but no storms or rain are anticipated. You could probably even use a down sleeping bag. This will be a spectacular trek. With no storms and no precipitation the river ford will be relatively easy and without any storm surge we should be able to walk almost entirely along this impressive and beautiful coastline. This will be adventure of the first order. Your event host has traversed this coast route more than a dozen times - always in winter. On only one other occasion did I complete this route in dry conditions. This is a rare opportunity to experience this coast route with assistance from a professional guide in dry weather.

  • Rating: moderate to difficult
  • Route: The drive from Olympia is 211 miles one-way and takes 4-5 hours. The hike is 26 miles round-trip
    Gear: In addition to 10 essentials and overnight camping gear the following items are required
  • • Teva sandals or other suitable footwear for fording rivers.
  • • Hard-sided bear container for food
  • • Backcountry Permit (available at TH)
  • ---------------------------------------------
  • The following items are highly recommended
  • • Synthetic fiber sleeping bag (NO down bags!)
  • • Synthetic fiber or wool clothing (NO cotton clothing!)
  • • Lightweight golf umbrella
  • • Trekking poles
  • • Rubber muck boots 12-16 inches high
  • • Large plastic trash bag to line inside of your backpack
  • • Pack cover
  • Carpool: Rendezvous at 7:00 AM - Top Food & Drug • 1313 Cooper Point Rd • Olympia, WA. We will meet at the North side of the main parking lot just South of Pier One Imports. We will carpool from Top Foods Parking lot to the trailhead at Ozette Ranger station. We leave on time and do not wait. Please bring $25 per person to reimburse drivers.
  • Cross-Post: This meetup has also been posted with Seattle Outdoor Adventurers and Pacific Northwest Hiking & Backpacking groups. Please only RSVP once if you are a member of multiple groups.
  • Links: How to ford a river w/ John E Hiker
  • Backcountry Permit required
  • No dogs allowed in National Park
  • Please contribute $25 gas money to your driver
  • Bring bag for wet clothing and boots
  • Disclaimer: We will be in the wilderness. Serious injury or death can occur. We are not professional guides nor do we claim to be experts. It is not our responsibility to get you to the listed destination. We hike at our own pace. By attending this hike you are assuming responsibility for your own personal safety and we will not be held responsible.

Trek Description

Backpacking is NOT just a summer sport. This winter beach hike from Ozette Ranger Station to Shi Shi Beach and back is about 26 miles round-trip. Winter hiking along the Washington wilderness coast is a spectacular and exciting time to experience this coastline without all the crowds typical in summer months. The Northern section of the coast walk is considered the most difficult of the three sections. It is challenging in summertime but winter conditions add another element of difficulty. This hike will be cancelled due to severe winter storm only. Therefore, participants should be prepared for wet and cold conditions throughout. This trip is NOT recommended for novice hikers. Hiking along the coast is tide dependent. With that in mind, we will take three leisurely days to walk North to Shi Shi Beach and only two days to retrace our steps. Weather permitting, this hike is designed so we can walk along the beach on day three and navigate the famous house-sized boulders South of the Arches. On Day four we will head South via the overland route. Although this is NOT a guided trip participants will be asked to hike as a group throughout most of the route due to treacherous terrain, river fords, and difficult route finding on the overland sections. Participants will be required to sign a liability waiver at the trailhead.

We do not allow guests on our hikes - you must be a member to join us.


DAY01 - Drive to TH at Lake Ozette Ranger Station hike 3.1 miles to Cape Alava 1/17/13

DAY02 - Hike to Seafield Creek 4.3 miles 1/18/13

DAY03 - Hike to Petroleum Creek (Shi Shi Bch) 4.6 miles 1/19/13

DAY04 - Hike to Ozette River 6.2 miles 1/20/13

DAY05 - Hike 6.8 miles to TH, drive home 1/21/13

What you can expect

• Ozette River ford (twice) - This is a serious crossing any time of year. The river is wide, cold, and at least knee deep for most folks. For a thorough explanation of river fords on video see enclosed link

• Higher tides than predicted on tide tables due to storm surge

• Wet conditions - Rain

• Steep, muddy, and slippery trails

• Rugged and treacherous walking conditions

• A true wilderness experience (unlikely to see other campers)

• Large campfires

• The longest wilderness sandy beach on the coastline (3.6 miles)

• Washington's "Most Beautiful Beach" - Shi Shi Beach

• Abundant wildlife - even in winter!


I cannot over stress the importance of having warm and dry feet when winter camping for multiple days. You can have a Mt Everest down parka but if your feet are cold you'll be miserable.

Trekking the Washington coast is wet in summer months. There is abundant mud and the curious hiker is drawn to tide pools when waves retreat. In winter the coast is that much wetter. In my experience, leather hiking boots are just not up to the task. Especially when you consider five-days in these conditions. I've seen people tear-up expensive nylon gore-tex footwear in a few days due to sharp rocks and salt water. In the winter you cannot just walk your boots dry like a summertime hike in the mountains.

You can walk in leather or nylon hiking boots if you like. However, your Event Organizer has over 200 miles of winter hiking experience on the Washington Coast. As a former Outward Bound instructor he has guided many groups along this coast in winter. PCOBS quickly learned that high-top rubber boots were the preferred footwear and issued them to all participants. Cheap high-top rubber muck boots work very well and are recommended by your Event Organizer. Suitable alternates to rubber muck boots include high-top classic LL Bean boots or Sorels. In both of these boots the seam should be well-sealed (two coats) where leather and rubber meet.

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  • Mac

    Spectacular! Fantastic trip.

    January 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    EPIC!!! 'Nuf said.

    January 22, 2013

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