Dungeness Spit Hike
Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge/Dungeness Recreation Area
I’ve had my eye on this hike for a really long time, so I chose Dungeness Spit for our family camping trip last summer. A “Spit” is a narrow point of land extending into a body of water. Dungeness Spit is the longest natural sand spit in the United States and there is a working lighthouse at the end of the 5 mile trek. You can read more about the New Dungeness Lighthouse here.
A satellite image of the spit.
One of the great aspects of this hike is that there is a campground at the trail head. You cannot backpack over night on the spit so the campground makes it a doable trip if you are coming from a long distance. Dungeness Recreation Area has 67 campsites, 3 bathrooms (2 with showers) and the views are AMAZING! Just mere feet away from our campsite was a bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. You can read a more detailed blog post about the campground here.
My friend and I set out early the next morning to take advantage of the low tide. You must take into consideration the tide tables when considering this hike. If you try to hike during the high tide it will be much more difficult. As the water moves in the sand disappears and you will be climbing over logs and rocks. This is a great tide table website. The trail starts in a dense, forested area. A fog had rolled in so I was really hoping it would clear up on the beach. I wanted to see everything. ** There is a $3.00 per family or group of 4 adults daily entrance fee. Children under 16 enter free. Be sure to bring enough water and sunscreen.
This was our view at the start of the hike. We were slightly disappointed but were still excited to get going. Within a matter of minutes it cleared up and the sky was a perfect shade of blue. There weren’t as many hikers as I’d expected so it was a peaceful hike. My friend and I talked for the 3 hours it took to reach the lighthouse. We had a great time!
We came upon this sign as we got closer to the beach. It reminded me of how far out we actually were. From the lighthouse it’s only 13 miles to Victoria BC. The spit juts out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca so we saw cruise ships and quite a few huge cargo ships.
The hike really was as incredible as I thought it would be. It was so tranquil and beautiful. The 5 miles goes quickly and it feels like a different world being that far out surrounded by water. On the east side of the spit is The Dungeness National Wildlife refuge. It is home to 250 species of birds, 41 species of land mammals and eight species of water mammals. The east side of the spit is protected and no one is permitted. The tip of the spit is also closed. The tip of the spit continues to grow at the rate of 13 feet per year.
Lying within the Olympic rain shadow, the spit receives less than 20 inches of rainfall annually, making it a great winter destination when surrounding areas are socked in. It can get windy so I brought a light jacket and I wore pants. I saw a few people with shorts and sandals. I would not have been comfortable in sandals and I’m pretty sure the wind would have made me wish I had pants. I wore my waterproof hiking shoes (North Face) and they were perfect.
This was the small trail that lead to the lighthouse. By this time we were pretty tired and hungry. The lighthouse has a picnic area, a small museum and you can climb the stairs to the top for an amazing view.
This sign says it all. It really was like a different world and I wished we could stay longer. I imagined what it would be like to stay out there at night. Actually, there is a way to be a lighthouse keeper for a week. My friend and I decided right then that we would bring our families and make it our vacation sometime in the future. For more information on being a lighthouse keeper for a week click this link:
The two photos below are an example of hiking during the low tide (left) and hiking during high tide (right). The tide wasn’t even all the way in when I took the photo. Simple planning can ensure a much enjoyable experience.
This is a definite 5 star hike in my opinion. The shear uniqueness makes it worth it. Please feel free to comment if you have any questions or if you want to share your experience.
The New Dungeness Spit derived its name from Captain George Vancouver who named it after Dungeness Point on the rugged coast of England where a lighthouse had stood since 1746.
In 1868 eighteen Tsimshian Indians, (men, women & children) were massacred by the Clallam Indians as they camped on the spit. One pregnant woman escaped and was sheltered by keeper Henry Blake. The victims were buried on what is called Graveyard Spit which is a restricted access area only accessible by boats.