Port Angeles, Washington
November 4, 2002
Start the hike at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, which is located easily by driving east out of Port Angeles on Highway 101 for about 10 miles, and then following the brown signs north to the parking area. There is a $3 fee at the trailhead. The hike is a beach hike and is best done at low tide (check the local telephone book for a tide table). It is best to wear hiking boots, and be warned that you will be hiking on a slant, which is hard on the legs and hips.
My husband and I picked the absolute perfect day to visit Dungeness. It was sunny and 60 degrees. Because we went on a weekday in April, we didn’t expect too many people. But we never expected the supreme solitude that we found! We saw only 13 people during the 11 mile, 5 hour trip to the lighthouse and back. In fact, we saw more harbor seals swimming along the shore than we did people!
Only the ocean-facing half of the spit is available for hiking. The half facing the mainland is protected by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. You can look into this protected bay (bring binoculars!) but cannot enter it. The spit and bay are famous for bird watching. I don’t get into bird watching, but enthusiasts I have met said they have seen birds from their "life list" on Dungeness Spit. The notable bird we saw (that we recognized) was an immature bald eagle.
The colorful rocks all along the Spit captivated me, along with the beachlogs and driftwood. Also fascinating was the lighthouse. It was originally staffed by the Coast Guard. But when they decided to close the lighthouse and leave it unstaffed, the Lighthouse Society took it over and has been sending volunteers out ever since. The volunteers (up to 6 at a time) work for 1 week tours of duty. They clean, mow the lawn, and give tours in exchange for staying in the living quarters. The volunteers we met greeted us with friendly smiles, and offers of restroom facilities and drinking water. Then we were given a tour up to the top--74 steps--along with some area history. There are a few picnic tables available for lunch before the hike back. It is such a popular "volunteer vacation" that there is a two-year waiting list!
Other details: Camping is available at the Dungeness Recreation Area near the trailhead parking area. Also, if you get a permit it is possilbe to kayak out to the lighthouse.
From journal Going Local in Port Angeles, The Olympic Peninsula