Hiking Cape Flattery at Neah Bay | Strait of Juan de Fuca Byway
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While filming the Olympic Peninsula quest drive, I momentarily halted its production to divert to the Strait of Juan de Fuca quest drive which is 60 miles out and 60 miles back to get back on the Olympic Peninsula drive to Cape Flattery.
I couldn’t come all the way out here and not travel over to the farthest Northwest corner of the lower 48 states which is Cape Flattery at Neah Bay on the the Makah Indian Reservation. This is my first time in all my 15 years of living in Washington state that I've traveled to Western Washington and to Cape Flattery.
I know – I can't believe it either!
Lyre River Campground – Free Camping
Since it’s the end of the day, and I did quite a bit of sightseeing on the Olympic Peninsula drive, I’ve decided to stop for the night at a place I found online for some free camping, called Lyre River Campground. You only need a Washington State annual Discover Pass in order to camp there for free.
There’s very limited spots, but I thought I’d just try to see if there was anything available. It’s the middle of the week and not a holiday so my chances are better, but there’s not much out here for free so it could have turned out that it was completely full.
I snagged the last open spot and feel so fortunate there was one left; else I would have driven all the way to Neah Bay and had to, most likely, pay for a dispersed sight at an RV park.
While there I met another couple who actually built out their Mercedes Sprinter van and started on this full-time nomadic journey just 6 months after I did. We all have similar stories of having some wanderlust in us and this idea of living more simple and seeing these beautiful lands.
They also work from the road and just roam where they want. They told me this story of how they found a place in Oregon to have lunch and then they were going to keep traveling north, but ended up staying three weeks.
We do that sometimes.
We get to a place, fall in love, wander around and explore, and then move on.
I guess that’s one of the perks of having your house with you all the time.
Preparing the Camper Van for Travel
Well, I thought I was going to get up early and drive to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery; however I must have been really tired because I woke up and it was 8 am. Of course I was trying to work last night, but the Internet connection at my spot was awful. Even the cell booster wasn’t boosting enough.
After walking Lily and making a strong cup of coffee I prepared the van for travel, you know like:
- Taking the front window shades off and storing.
- Making sure the drawers were all latched, because I keep forgetting this one until I turn a corner and the drawer comes flying out.
- Safely securing the Berkey water filter. Thankfully I’ve NEVER forgotten this one, because spilled water all over the RV would be, well, just awful and painful to clean up.
- All windows are shut.
- Fantastic fan in the bathroom is closed.
- Water pump is off.
- Inverter is off.
- Both Lithium batteries are on so I can charge both while driving.
- Awning is in.
- Toilet seat is down and all water is flushed.
- Glass tops on the kitchen counter are down and items are secured.
- Mobile cell booster antenna is removed from the roof top and stowed inside.
- Lily’s harness is on and seatbelt is fastened to harness.
- Propane gas is off.
- Emergency break is down – yep I’ve tried to drive with that thing up. You can’t see it since it's on the left side of the driver seat way down at the bottom, so I forget sometimes until I hit the gas and I'm not going anywhere.
- Lastly, keys are in the ignition and it’s time to go.
Oh wait, I forgot to eat breakfast. It’s one of those mornings where I’ll just eat on the go, so I grab a banana and some more freshly picked raspberries that I picked at a berry farm in Sequim, Washington.
You’ll see that in the upcoming video. I realize it’s a bit out-of-order. I started the Olympic Peninsula quest drive, but then part way through there is a different quest drive, this one, the strait of Juan de Fuca that you’re reading about now that would require me to travel back over 200 miles if I didn’t do it now.
So I did it now. Anyways, I picked the berries in the next episode which, historically is before this episode in real-time, but after in blog and YouTube time. Hope that makes sense.
Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway Drive to Cape Flattery
I’ve been on some incredible drives over the last year, but this one is right up there with:
…and well… I’ve never said this one before –
Motion sickness inducing.
At least for me. I’ve never gotten car sick driving myself, but wow – this one really got to me. I don’t know if it’s for the lack of eating something more substantial and having a triple shot of espresso in my coffee, coupled with the excitement of hiking to Cape Flattery.
I had to pull over a couple of times and just breathe and that was no easy thing either, because there are warning signs everywhere, for approximately 40 miles of these winding roads that are between 15-40 mph (25 mph being about the average speed) that this area has slides and washouts.
The last thing I wanted was to feel sick, pull over and have a slide take me out.
Despite the sickness and the ever-present notion that there could be a slide or a road washed out down the cliff side and into the ocean waters, it was still a fantastic drive and I’d do it again.
The roads were somewhat rough in a couple of areas and signs giving you plenty of warning for bumps, but most of the road was pretty smooth.
In order to actually get to the most Northwest tip of the continental United States, you have to actually hike out there for 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Since Cape Flattery is on the Makah Indian Reservation, they require you to have a $10 recreational permit, which you can obtain from several locations in order to park and hike the trail. These locations can provide you with the permit in Neah Bay:
- Makah Marina
- Museum at the Makah Cultural and Research Center
- Washburn’s General Store
- Makah Mini Mart
- Makah Tribal Center
- Hobuck Beach Resort
So before heading out to Cape Flattery for the hike I stopped by the Makah Mini Mart to pick up my permit and hang from the rearview mirror.
Then it was another 8 miles of winding roads, so about 20 minutes, until the trail head of Cape Flattery.
Hiking Cape Flattery to Farthest Northwest Point of Continental United States
Once I arrived at the trailhead to Cape Flattery, I geared up with my Camelbak backpack and water supply, another banana, some sesame crackers, walking poles, camera, and dug out my hiking shoes since it’s supposed to be a little muddy in some areas.
Lily was geared up to with her walking harness – and well that’s it – except for the leash attached to her harness.
I was so glad to see they allowed dogs. Since this on an Indian reservation they seem to be a little more lenient as National Parks would never allow it.
The trail immediately starts off in the forest where you can hear water trickling through small streams and water falls somewhere deep in the forest.
Birds were singing.
Sometimes there was just nothing but stillness and quiet, save for the occasional hiker walking as well. People of all ages were hiking. Some with dogs. Some with kids. Some solo.
What I loved was to see their faces as they rounded each turn and marveled at the beauty as well. People were quiet and seemed at peace on this land. Maybe we were all just looking forward to the reward at the end.
The hike is 1.5 miles and all downhill with all different types of terrain from hardpacked dirt, mud, carefully planted walking stones, large tree roots to be navigated over, wooden planks rising above the muddy ground, and stone steps that gradually allowed us to peek around trees and see blue ocean beyond.
And then – there it was.
The beauty at the end of the trail. The reward for driving over 60 miles (at least from where I started that day), paying a $10 permit, walking the 1.5 miles downhill knowing it’s another 1.5 miles back uphill all the way, the motion sickness from the winding roads, and defying death from washed out roads or landslides.
Was it worth it?
I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
The raw beauty of the blue Pacific ocean water tossed against the cliffs and rocks. Waves turning into giant, foamy splashes as it crashes against magnanimous rock formations and hollowed out caves in the cliff side.
What is it about water that seems so calming? Even with its angry waves that can cause so much destruction?
It’s calming presence creates this meditative state that relaxes me. Her waters make me feel free and alive. Just breathing in the saltwater fills me with such happiness.
Listening to the water flowing back and forth, crashing against the beach, and going back out to sea soothes me.
I didn’t grow up around the ocean, but something pulls me towards her.
Lily and I hung out for a while just gazing at the blue water and chatting with others over the incredible sight, then we started back up the hillside and back to the camper van.
Finally – a Name for My Hymer Aktiv
Oh my goodness!
It just hit me.
As I was writing what the blue ocean waters means to me and how she makes me feel, then how Lily and I were headed back to the camper van, and it clicked. A name for my Hymer Aktiv van!
Her name is Oceane which represents the feminine word for ocean.
She personifies all the things that calm me about the actual blue ocean waters, running rivers, and glacier lakes:
Yes, this is her name. Oceane!
Now I can always have the “ocean” with me! Okay corny, but yes it’s true.
What a great day.
I ended the day with the drive back to Port Angeles, Washington to continue on the Olympic Peninsula quest drive.
See you on the road my friends.
Road Trip Report & Map
Average Miles per Gallon: 17.2
Road Conditions: Roads were fairly smooth except in some areas that were clearly noted for bumps; however this scenic byway has 40 miles of warnings for slides and washouts. Roads are very winding with 15-45 mph limits with an average of 25 mph through that 40 mile stretch.
Weather Conditions: Temperatures were cool in early July between 58 – 75 degrees, full sun, and no clouds on this day.
Time of Year Visited: Early June
- Lyre River Campground
- Cape Flattery
- Neah Bay, Washington
- Port Angeles, Washington
Overnights & Places Visited
- Lyre River Campground, Port Angeles, Washington / $0
- Walmart, Port Angeles, Washington / $0
- Cape Flattery / $10 Recreation Permit from the Makah Indian Reservation
- You can drive this route in any RV but it will be slow going along the curves. There are 4 long, RV parking spaces at the actual Cape Flattery trailhead, but if you don't get there early and get a spot, there is literally nowhere else to park. It does have an RV turn around though. All the other spaces are for passenger cars or vans.
Cell Phone Signal Strength: 0-1 bar at Lyre River on the AT&T network and the Verizon network even cell boosted I had issues. No service at Cape Flattery and very spotty 3G service on the drive to Cape Flattery and Neah Bay.
Park Pass: $10 recreation permit from Makah Indian Reservation
Panasonic Lumix G85 Camera – For most still images and vlogging
Sony Action Cam FDRX3000 – For dash cam and walking/talking video
Joby Gorillapod – Used for holding the cameras as a tripod or mounting to just about anything to capture a shot.
Xenvo Iphone Wide Angle (and Macro) Lens – Clips onto your iPhone did give you a wide angle view of your surroundings.
Ulanzi Metal Smart Phone Cold Shoe Mount – Attaches to a selfie stick, but allows you angle the camera and it has a mount for an external microphone.
AllStays app – Use on phone or desktop for finding gas stations, RV parks, campgrounds, propane, and more on your travel route.
Verizon Data Plan – Best nationwide coverage as of this post while traveling.
Hi Amber. What a wonderful, scenic report! I can almost smell the sea air and hear the crashing waves. You are living my dream.
Safe travels and God Bless you and Lily.
Can’t wait for your next report!
Hi Linda – Didn’t I meet you in Pagosa Springs, Colorado at the BLM land area? Maybe I have your name mixed up with somebody else? My apologies if I did.
The Pacific Northwest is my next destination for several weeks after attending the Pacific Crest Trail Days east of Portland in the middle of August.
Your site is phenomenal, and your dedication to travel is awe-inspiring with photos and videos detailing your adventures. I have forwarded your website on to women friends of mine who I know will draw inspiration from your travels to conquer their fears of travel.
Stay safe in your travels and continue your journey. 🙂
Hi Marty – Oh how cool on the Pacific Crest Trail Days! Enjoy your travels around the PNW! It’s pretty awesome! I’m so happy you’re enjoying my blog/videos and feel it worthy enough to share with your friends! Truly thank you. I hope you and your friends find something of value that keep you story chasing for those beautiful moments in life.