A visit to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula

Perched on the edge of the continental U.S., Cape Flattery won’t disappoint

By Marguerite Cleveland on November 21, 2019

Heading out to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery is a doable day trip from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but it is a long one at almost four hours each way.

Spending the night on the Olympic Peninsula when it isn't daylight savings time is advisable, as it gets dark so early now. But heading across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, it is a nice drive without too much traffic through the Kitsap Peninsula to the Hood Canal Bridge. From there, the final push brings visitors to Cape Flattery and Neah Bay, the northwestern tip of Washington state. The area is the ancestral home and reservation of the Makah Indian Tribe, which has graciously opened its tribal lands to the public.

Upon arrival in Neah Bay, stop and get a Recreational Use Permit (RUP), which is required for any recreational activities like hiking, camping, kayaking and fishing on the reservation's facilities, lands and trails. Cost is $10, and the permit is good throughout the calendar year during which you purchase it. You can buy one at the Makah Museum, Washburn's store or the Makah Tribal Center.

From there, follow the signs to the Cape Flattery trailhead. It is a about a 15-minute drive and there is a nice parking lot with pit toilets at the trailhead. The trail is an easy three-quarter-mile hike with a slight downhill grade.

Before you start, there is a big sign which has hiking sticks available for use. I would suggest using one. The trail is very uneven and the cedar-planked board walks have no railings, and are designed simply to get you up and out of the mud. On a rainy day it can get slippery, so the walking sticks certainly help. The forest is lush and green, with plenty of old-growth trees. Many have interesting shapes, and one even resembles an elephant and his trunk.

At the end of the trail, you will reach one of the most stunning views in the Pacific Northwest. Rugged, rocky cliffs overhang stone and earth walls carved out by the pounding ocean surf. Here, you may discover sea lions sunning themselves on off-shore rocks.

There is also a plethora of sea birds. This is where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific Ocean. On a sunny day you can see Vancouver Island in Canada. From the viewing platforms you can also spy Tatoosh Island and the picturesque Cape Flattery Lighthouse, which was built in 1857. If you are lucky, you may even see whales or bald eagles.

Slow down to take in the incredible and majestic views. After all, this is a bucket list moment.

If you have time, visit the Museum at the Makah Cultural and Research Center. In 1970, the Makah Tribe and Washington State University began an archaeological dig on the site of the village of Ozette, where a landslide had buried a group of longhouses in mud which preserved the traditional tribal homes and the materials inside. It took 11 years, and 55,000 artifacts were recovered that tell the story of the Makah Tribe.

Known as the Ozette collection, the 500 best artifacts are now on display at the museum, including a full-sized longhouse, dioramas and replica canoes. It is a very well-done museum and well worth a visit.

For more information about visiting Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, go to: NeahBayWA.com.