- Parking: Yes paved
- Hike Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
- Hike Difficulty: Easy, well established trail with boardwalk planks. Very gradual incline with a few stairs
- Restrooms: Yes. Separate men and women’s foul smelling latrines.
- Permit: Required to park. Purchasable from Washburn’s General Store (7 pm close), The Makah Museum (5 pm close), and the Makah Mini Mart (10 pm close)
There is a particular feeling you get when you stand on one our Nation’s geographic extreme points. There is no where further you can go. You are there, at the end. You are standing at the very spot our manifest destiny stopped. You can look over your shoulder knowing that all of your fellow countrymen are behind you in this giant blob of a country.
I first felt this when I hiked to Cape Flattery, the furthest Northwestern corner of the contiguous United States. If you check a map, the cape is a super thin finger that points out from the already sharp looking Olympic Peninsula.
You should note that this is NOT the country’s westernmost point. That distinction goes to Cape Alava. But not by much. Just 1 minute and 8 seconds of longitude keep Cape Flattery from claiming the title of westernmost point. As a further insult, Cape Alava is just 10 miles to the south as the crow flies. However to get there you must negotiate another 1hr and 23 hour meandering coastal drive.
Enough about Cape Alava. You are here to see Cape Flattery. To get there you face an two hours detour off Highway 101. The drive is along painfully beautiful coastline and extremely rural domiciles in the Makah Reservation. Even though it is stunning, it does get monotonous. But don’t give up. Remember, as a Completionist you shouldn’t complain about the extra drive time.
Most of the drive is along state route 112. The road swings back and forth along the jagged coast. At many points you might be wondering if you might have passed the final turn off. Keep with it. The last bit of civilization you will see is when you drive through the tiny fishing village of Neah Bay. While in town, pull off at the Makah Mini Mart (open until 10 PM) to purchase a Recreational Pass which is required for you to park at the trail head. From Neah Bay, turn onto Cape Flattery Road. Take it until the road dead-ends at the trail head parking lot. There is one last restroom here. Follow the trail sign to “Cape Trail.”
The trail is made up of a very established boardwalk keeping you out of muddy ravines. At points the trail bobs under twisted trees and around huge forests. The whole experience almost feels like exploring an Ewok village.
Towards the end of the hike, there are observational turn offs so you can get views of the sudsy Pacific ocean crashing on the rocks. I recommend skipping them for now and heading to the final lookout so you don’t spoil the dramatic reveal at the end of the hike. Then, catch these turnoffs on the return hike to your car.
The trail ends at a tight observation deck that can only hold about a dozen selfie-taking tourists. As you look out to the sea you might notice the island with the lighthouse. It is Tatoosh Island. Don’t worry, islands don’t count as part of the contiguous US so you can still confidently brag that you are on the North-Western most point.