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Cape Flattery Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking north from Cape Flattery (bobcat)
Boardwalk, Cape Flattery Trail (bobcat)
Overlook on the Cape Flattery Trail (bobcat)
Cliffs and coves, Cape Flattery (bobcat)
Trail to Cape Flattery (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Cape Flattery TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Cape Flattery
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 270 feet on the way back
  • High Point: 330 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Cape Flattery, named on March 22nd, 1778, by Captain James Cook, guards the southern entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is the northwesternmost point on the mainland of the continental United States: this is a fine point of distinction as Cape Alava to the south is actually the westernmost point. Here, however, the coastline is even more rugged. You'll hike above 40-80 foot sandstone cliffs in a dripping coniferous rain forest to look over sea stacks, surging surf, and deep coves on a narrow peninsula that juts towards Tatoosh island and its lighthouse. The trail is on Makah tribal land and you'll need a recreation permit, obtainable in Neah Bay, to use it. Historically, the Makah hunted seals and sea lions here, and collected sea bird eggs from nesting sites on the cliffs. Now it is a tribal nature reserve: keep your dog on a leash (Some "attack" breeds are not permitted at all) and pack out your garbage.

From the parking area, take the wide trail, a former road bed, into a lush coastal forest of western red-cedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and red alder, a few old growth specimens among them. Descend to a boardwalk that wends its way through a boggy thicket of salmonberry and salad. The boardwalk transitions to a some circular paving stones and then drops on a rooty tread. You'll reach a narrow peninsula and find an observation platform on your left at the Hole-in-the-Wall Viewpoint. The cove here is bordered by vertical cliffs of sandstone and guarded at its mouth by a cluster of sea stacks known as the Kessiso Rocks. Flattery Creek splashes over a waterfall at the east end of the inlet.

Continue on the trail and enjoy two more observation decks that offer views to the cove on the north side of the peninsula. The convoluted coastline of low rocky islands and numerous sea caves is backed by sheer cliffs topped by the lush rain forest. Finally, reach the pentagonal observation platform on the middle claw of a three-clawed peninsula on the Cape Flattery headland. Look north and south at the indented coastline of coves, cliffs, fingers of rock, and stacks. Half a mile out to sea is flat Tatoosh Island, now part of the reservation and named after a revered Makah chieftain. The decommissioned Cape Flattery Lighthouse is visible. On a good day, the outline of Vancouver Island looms to the north. Look for seals and sea lions in the waters below or on Tatoosh Island if you have binoculars. Keep your eyes open for cormorants, murres, guillemots, and puffins in the churning surf or in nesting perches on the cliffs. You may even be lucky enough to spot a sea otter floating in the swells!


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Cape Flattery, WA #98S
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Olympic National Park
  • Discover Your Northwest: Olympic Peninsula Map

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash: Dobermans, Rottweilers, pit bulls not permitted on the Makah Reservation
  • $10 Makah Recreation Permit required: available at various outlets in Neah Bay
  • Restrooms at trailhead; picnic area at Cape Flattery

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula by Craig Romano
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Olympic National Park by Erik Molvar
  • Hiking Olympic National Park by Erik Molvar
  • Top Trails: Olympic National Park & Vicinity by Douglas Lorain
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades by Joan Burton
  • Hiking Washington's History by Judy Bentley
  • Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.