Post Summary: Cape Flattery Trail and What To Expect Here On The Olympic Peninsula
Cape Flattery – an epic display of natural beauty in the Pacific Northwest.
Situated at the point where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific Ocean, this gorgeous Washington photo location is a sanctuary of nature. Filled with deep coves and magnificent sea stacks, we’re sharing exactly how you can experience this amazing part of the Olympic Peninsula for yourself!
One of the best things to do in the Pacific Northwest, Cape Flattery is on a level all its own! In this post, we’re taking you through exact driving directions to get here, the different viewpoints to see, and a little bit about the amazing wildlife that lives in the area, too!
From amazing sunsets to socked-in rainy days, this place is worth a visit (and another and another…) so let’s get started!
What To Expect On The Cape Flattery Trail, Washington Coast
Where is Cape Flattery, Washington?
Cape Flattery is the most Northwest corner of the contiguous United States, which means this is the most “Pacific Northwest” you can get! It is located in Clallam County on the Olympic Peninsula. It is also on Makah Tribal land which belongs to the indigenous people of the Washington coast.
Cape Flattery is VERY often mistaken as part of the Olympic National Park, but it, in fact, is not. As we stated earlier, the land belongs to the Makah Tribe and has its own laws and regulations.
Cape Flattery Map
Below, find a Cape Flattery map, nearby attractions, and places you can purchase a Makah Recreation Pass! You can also click on the left-hand side of this map and save it on your own Google Maps app!
Directions to Cape Flattery Trail
If you’re wondering how to get to Cape Flattery, we should warn you that it is VERY out of the way from any other places to see on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s not particularly close to anything, and if you have it on your Olympic Peninsula road trip route, expect to spend at least a half-day getting there, exploring, and finally returning to your route on Highway 101.
You’ll have to be alert on Highway 112 as you reach the town of Neah Bay. The roads are narrow and winding in many parts.
We also noticed that it was hard to pay attention to the road after Clallam Bay – there were just too many beautiful scenes along the water! Pullover as many times as you like (we have a few spots in mind, scroll to the bottom for these stops!), just make sure to pay attention to the road as you’re driving.
From the town of Neah Bay, go as far west as you can, and then follow signs to Cape Flattery Road and head south. After 7.7 miles (a 15-minute drive) the road will take you to the trailhead parking lot.
In the Cape Flattery parking lot, there is room for plenty of cars (maybe 20) and some RV spots are available as well. Bathrooms are at the trailhead to use before you embark on the trail! If you’re taking a winter road trip to the Olympic Peninsula, you won’t have to worry about parking. The parking lot is rarely full in the winter months.
Important Note: Make sure to obtain a Makah Recreation Pass before visiting Cape Flattery! They can be purchased in town at Neah Bay, for $10 cash. It’s good for the entire year and also includes places like Shi Shi Beach.
Cape Flattery Hike Details
- Distance: 1.5-miles out and back
- Elevation Gain: 215 feet
- Difficulty: Easy (although some dirt sections and plenty of mud)
Beginning of the Cape Flattery Trail
You’ll begin this gorgeous Washington hiking trail under the thick canopy of Sitka Spruce trees, Western Hemlocks, and Red Alders as you walk deeper into the lush coastal rain forest on the Washington Coast.
Nearly everything is covered in a layer of bright green moss, and the ground is littered with fallen branches, logs, and leaf debris (just like a rainforest should be!). The path gradually slopes downhill, so prepare for a little bit of a trek returning to the parking list.
The path will transition between relatively flat dirt to circular sections of tree-trunk stumps, to elevated boardwalks as you continue on your way. The closer you get to Cape Flattery, the wetter and narrower the path becomes. You’ll definitely encounter sections of deep, foot squelching mud on those rainy days.
PNW TRAIL TIP: It’s actually recommended that you walk straight through puddles rather than walking around them. This helps protect the brush to the sides of the trail and the fragile ecosystem of Cape Flattery to ultimately follow Leave No Trace principles! Therefore, wear some good rain boots or waterproof shoes!
As you continue down the Cape Flattery trail, it slowly turns into boardwalks that wind through the forest close to the cape. We found this place to be incredibly beautiful but incredibly challenging to photograph, especially on our Leica M6 Film Camera.
When capturing Cape Flattery images, make sure to brush up on your skills in shooting with low light. On cloudy, overcast days, the dense forest can be incredibly dark!
Cape Flattery Viewpoints
Alright, you came to Cape Flattery for the views, right? Those dramatic headlands, deep caves, and stunning sea stacks are just waiting to be witnessed! At Cape Flattery, you can find four different observation decks, and we’re sharing exactly what to expect at each of them below:
Classic Cape Flattery View
Often called the “Hole-In-The-Wall” Viewpoint, this is one of the most popular places to capture photos in Washington state.
The sea stacks you see in the distance are called the Kessiso Rocks, which break the waves as they enter the cove. You’ll also observe the beautiful towering sandstone cliffs that have trees growing right up to the edge!
Spend some time sitting on the nearby bench to soak it all in – this is Pacific Northwest beauty at its finest!
View of Washington Coast Coves
This Cape Flattery observation deck gives you an amazing view of the seaside cliffs and coves to the north.
This is a great place to see a living example of how these coves are built over time. We recently came during high tide, and the waves relentlessly crashed and churned as they entered the caves, slowly carving them out over time.
South View From The Tip
After a quick trek on another boardwalk, this pentagon-shaped observation deck gives you another southern perspective of the Kessiso Rocks and the headlands to the south.
From here, you can see into deeper coves, observe the dramatic 40-80 foot sandstone cliffs, and appreciate the coniferous rain forest literally at the edge of the world.
Peeking in the opposite direction to the north, you can observe the finger-shaped rocks that jut out into the ocean.
Depending on the time of year you visit and the tides, this place on Cape Flattery can look very different. We’ve included two photos of the same location, the left during high tide on a stormy day and the right was during low tide on a sunny day.
See the difference the Cape Flattery weather can make?
Platform To Tatooth Island Viewpoint
The last Cape Flattery viewpoint (and the literal most northwest corner of the US!) requires a short climb up to a circular viewing deck. This place provides more than a 270-degree view, displaying cliffs to the north and south and Tatoosh Island directly ahead. If it’s a clear day, you are able to see Vancouver Island to the northwest!
Tatoosh Island was named after a Makah Chief and the community would often go out there in the summertime to run a fishing camp. The standing Cape Flattery lighthouse out on Tatoosh Island was constructed in 1857 by the US Coast Guard but is no longer in commission today.
Love Lighthouses? Check out the amazing Heceta Head on the Oregon Coast!
So, Is Cape Flattery Worth It? Is it Worth The Long Detour?
Getting to Cape Flattery is quite the trek, but we think it’s totally worth a visit if you’re taking a weekend trip from Seattle! The beautiful sea stacks, the stunning display of nature, and the opportunity to see it with your own eyes are completely worth it in our opinion.
To make the most of your time here, consider packing a picnic and eating lunch at the picnic tables around the observation decks. Just make sure to pack out your trash because there isn’t any waste disposal on site!
Another Long Detour Worth The Trip: Burgdorf Hot Springs in McCall, Idaho!
Frequently Asked Questions About Cape Flattery
What Kind of Wildlife Can I See At Cape Flattery, Washington?
There are several opportunities to see different kinds of Pacific Northwest wildlife, and it all depends on the time of year you visit. For a quick overview, you may see many types of birds, otters, sea lions, seals, and even whales!
Birds include tufted puffins, guillemots, and murres that live along the cliffs below and catch oysters and small fish in the tide pools.
You can spot sea otters tucked in the protected coves, and possibly even sea lions and seals sleeping on the rocks just south of Tatoosh Island.
If you’re lucky, whales can often be spotted farther out, specifically Grey Humpbacks and Orcas that migrate past Cape Flattery. You may also spot a bald eagle flying about!
How Much Rainfall Should I Expect at Cape Flattery?
Cape Flattery receives around 100 inches of rainfall every year. Regardless of the time of year, you plan your visit to Cape Flattery, it never hurts to pack an extra rain jacket in the car, just in case! Also, read our post about Washington coast gear if you plan on staying on the coast for a while!
What Else Is Nearby Cape Flattery To Explore?
Like we said earlier, there really isn’t a whole lot near Cape Flattery. The closest major features are Rialto Beach to the south and the Hurricane Ridge hike to the east near Port Angeles, both residing in the Olympic National Park.
For another day hike (or even an overnight backpacking trip!), drive from Cape Flattery to Shi Shi Beach. From the trailhead, you’ll have to hike through a muddy trail to the beach, but it’s worth it in the end!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Cape Flattery?
There is never a wrong time to visit Cape Flattery. We actually would encourage repeat visits, because, with each time we return, we discover something new or see it in a new light (literally, sunsets here change by the day!).
For a super rainy experience, come in the winter months between November and February for a wet Washington hike. To capture a Washington Coast sunset, come in the summer months between June and August to have a better chance of catching the colors in the sky!
READ MORE WASHINGTON ADVENTURES
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