Cape Flattery Trail is a 1.5 mile out-and-back to the furthest Northwest tip of the continental United States. Use of the trail requires a Makah Recreation Pass, available at Washburn’s General Store or in Neah Bay. The pass is good for one year and also allows entrance to Shi Shi Beach, another photographic beach along the Washington Coast.
The hike to the Pacific Ocean includes almost no elevation gain, making it ideal for families and small children. The three lookouts feature scenic rocky coastline where hikers can often see marine life such as otters and sea lions play. During whale seasons it is possible to spot gray whales swimming through the Ocean. Also visible is Tatoosh Island, owned by the reservation.
Dogs must be leashed in this area, and there are restrictions on certain breeds (pit bulls, Dobermans, and Rottweilers are not allowed on the trail).
From the parking lot, the Cape Flattery Trail begins on a wide gravel path. Descending into the forest, soon the path becomes a boardwalk through a boggy area. It is important to stay on the trail so as not to disturb the area. Once over the wild salmonberry and through this wet area, the trail will change as you notice many roots in your path. There are two very brief detour hikes once you are on the peninsula before the official viewpoints named “Lookout Spur Trail”. The first of three observation decks is at the Hole-in-the-Wall Viewpoint to the left. The view here is of rugged cliffs formed from the Pacific Ocean.
Continue along the Cape Flattery Trail for the final observation decks. These views include more rocky islands and coastline carving out coves. The tops of the cliffs include impressive and lush forests.
From the final observation deck you can see Tatoosh Island, the Cape Flattery Lighthouse, and on clear days, Vancouver Island. Bird watchers with binoculars should look out for puffins, guillemots, seagulls, and murres in the incoming surf or perched in their nests in the cliffs. Whales, seals, sea lions, and otters can also be spotted in the area.
The coast along this part of Washington changes drastically depending on the area you are in. Once you've visited Cape Flattery, make sure to check out the equally worthy Shi Shi Beach. Or, head into the Olympic National Forest to explore waterfalls such as Sol Duc Falls, or the Hoh National Rainforest!
The area around the Cape Flattery Trail was inhabited by the Makah people living in five main villages along the Pacific Coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the early 1800s their population was between 2,000-4,000. The villages included large cedar plank longhouses for housing large, extended families, as was important to their culture and way of life. The Makahs are known as skillful seamen, with a deep history of fishing salmon, whaling, and sealing.
By the late 1700s European settlers had made contact with the Makah people. This brought epidemics of smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza, and whooping cough. By 1852, the population of the Makah people was greatly reduced because of the diseases. In 1855 the Makah people worked out a treaty with the United States that included cultural protection of the Makah way of life, including whaling and sealing in exchange for 300,000 acres of land. The continued Makah way of life and the use of the Makah language can be seen as small successful points of resistance to attempts at cultural assimilation and a continuance of their historical culture.
The name Cape Flattery was given to the area in 1778 by Captain James Cook.