Escape the gray days and avalanche danger which can plague many mountain trails by heading to perennially sunny Sequim, home of Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge. Here you will embark on a scenic seaside trek on the longest spit in North America. Its primary draw, however, is abundant bird sightings and grand views that encompass the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Olympic Mountains, North Cascades and British Columbia. The hike concludes at the New Dungeness Lighthouse, a fully operational facility with interpretive exhibits—all of which visitors can tour for free.

©Jenni Denekas

Your adventure begins at Clallam County Park on the well-marked Dungeness Trail. You will descend about 0.5 miles through verdant forest laced with interpretive signs and a viewpoint before emerging onto the rugged coast. You will be immediately greeted with views of sea cliffs, the jagged Olympic Mountains and distant peaks of the North Cascades as you enter this log-strewn expanse. Mind the off-limits area where shore birds often nest and stick to the left side of the spit until you pass this fragile, protected area.

Bend right and follow the shoreline as it arcs into the sea. The views of the Olympics and Cascades will steadily improve as you progress along the spit—and after about 2.5 miles, you will round the bend and the Dungeness Lighthouse will swim into view. Don’t be fooled: there is plenty of walking ahead—another 2.5 miles’ worth. However, an abundance of sea creatures, birds and interesting debris offer plenty of ways to keep entertained along this rich shoreline. Bald eagles in particular are often spotted along the route.

©Jenni Denekas

Soon you will reach the trail’s end, appropriately delineated by a sign indicating that you have arrived at “Serenity” (Reality, meanwhile, is 5 miles behind you). Make sure to stop in for a guided tour of the historic lighthouse, including a trip to the top. There is also a small beach and an interpretive trail detailing the history of the lighthouse and surrounding area.

©Jenni Denekas

Please note that you cannot continue past the lighthouse into the grassy area at the very end of the spit; this is closed to retain undisturbed wildlife habitat. However, this also means that there are abundant birds and marine animals in this area, so it is worthwhile to allow plenty of time to soak in the sightings before retracing your steps to the trailhead.

Hikers also are advised that the spit is very narrow and would be dangerous to hike during severe storms. High tide does not make the spit impassable, but be aware that you will be forced towards the center, where you will be clambering over logs. This is a fun test of agility, but it will be significantly more time-consuming than walking along the beach at low tide. Check the tide schedule and weather conditions before you set off to avoid any surprises that might leave you soaked or swimming back.

Finally, if you have fallen in love with this rugged seaside setting, you should investigate a unique volunteering opportunity through the New Dungeness Lighthouse Association. For a fee, visitors can be lightkeepers for a week. Both the funds and work generated by this arrangement help the lighthouse to remain in operation. In fact, the New Dungeness Lighthouse has been solely operated by volunteers since 1994. More information is available at the Dungeness Lighthouse Website.

©Jenni Denekas

Directions: From Seattle: Take the Bainbridge Island Ferry. (The ferry schedule is available at: http://www.wsdot.com/Ferries/Schedule/Default.aspx After an approximately 35-minute ride, you will reach Bainbridge Island. From the ferry terminal, take Harborview Drive SE towards the Waterfront Trail. Follow this road for 0.1 miles to the on-ramp for WA-305, delineated by a stoplight. Merge onto this highway, heading north. In 13.3 miles, you will turn right to merge onto WA-3 North toward the Olympic Peninsula. Follow this highway along the coast for about 7 miles, then turn left onto the Hood Canal Bridge (Highway 104 West). After about 15 miles you will merge onto Highway 101 North. Follow this highway to the city of Sequim. Turn right (north) at milepost 260 onto the oddly named Kitchen-Dick Road. In 3.3 miles, Kitchen-Dick turns sharply right, becoming Lotzgesell Road. Soon you will turn left at the well-marked entrance for Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, on Voice of America Road. Follow the park road until it ends in about 1 mile at a large parking area.

Length: 10 miles round-trip
Variety: Out-and-back
Elevation gain: 150 feet
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Season: All
Open to: Hikers Only
Passes/Permits: Day-Use Fee or Interagency Pass
Facilities at Trailhead: Restrooms, Potable Water
Maps: USGS: Dungeness, WA

©Jenni Denekas


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