Making the Trek out to the New Dungeness Spit Lighthouse


Time to read 4 min

The Dungeness Spit is a wonderful beach formation full of wildlife and ocean sounds found just north of Sequim in Washington State. It was formed over many years from sand eroding from cliffs to the southwest combined with a river to the east. What is left is a narrow strip of land that extends out more than 5 miles (and growing!) into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Of course, the tip of this land would be the perfect spot for the New Dungeness Lighthouse and a great goal for a beach hike!

I lived in the area during the 6th grade and visited this area several times. Maybe due to my age, endurance, or willingness of my parents, I never found myself making the 10 mile out-and-back to see the lighthouse up close. We'd hike down to the beach from the upper parking lot and play around in the sand then return to the car. 

I finally returned this year and decided that I was going to make the trek to the end. The tide was low, a requirement to make the last portion to the lighthouse that can be underwater in normal to high tide times. 

overview of the Dungeness Spit
View of the Dungeness Spit from a lookout platform. The lighthouse is visible as a few white pixels on the horizon on the very right. (iPhone 13 Pro Max)​​

The hike to the New Dungeness Lighthouse

The hike begins up in the parking lot. There's a small fee to pay ($3 when I was there in 2023) then it's off into the woods on the way to the cliff edge for a great overview look of the spit, ocean, lighthouse and sometimes Mount Baker in the distance. The day I was there, I got a great view of the New Dungeness Lighthouse and mountain with my 600mm telephoto lens as seen in the leading image in this post. 

A quick descent and you are standing on the beach with a view of the Olympic Mountains to the South and what seems to be an endless beach spanning north into the distance. 

beach and trees on the left and ocean on the right. in the background, far away, are the Olympic Mountains.
Looking south at the beginning of the hike (top of hill) and Olympic Mountains in the distance.  (iPhone 13 Pro Max)​​

From there, it's a sandy hike along the waterfront on the ocean side. The lagoon side to the east is off-limits to protect the wildlife. You can pop up there on the driftwood and have a look but then continue back on the ocean side to the New Dungeness Lighthouse. 

After about an hour, I realized that the hike would be much better with a friend. Alone, I became somewhat bored with unchanging scenery: beach waves to the left, sand at my feet, driftwood up to the right, and, for most of the hike, no end in sight. I suppose I'm just used to winding forest trails, streams, rock scrambles... that's my jam.  

waves lapping the beach and driftwood on the right with the trail heading off into the far distance
The rhythmic waves on left, driftwood border on the right, and an endless hike ahead.  (iPhone 13 Pro Max)​​

I found some cool views on the beach including a starfish and rocks that made cool patterns from retreating waves. As I plowed along, I noticed many inquisitive seagull perching on the driftwood with the grand Olympic Mountain Range behind. There were many other interesting birds hanging out on the lagoon side hunting fish or just chilling in the calmness. I enjoyed the contrast between the high-energy side facing the strait and the protected, mellow side.

driftwood on beach with seagull perched on top with Olympic Mountains spanning the background
Hello Mr. Seagull.Those are awesome mountains, huh? (iPhone 13 Pro M​​ax)
waves coming in across sand and a buried black rock making a patern
Cool, black rocks with the waves coming in  (iPhone 13 Pro Max)​​
a red starfish sitting upside down in the beach sand away from the waves
Founda cool starfish in the sand and tossed him back just in case there was any life left  (iPhone 13 Pro Max)​​

The New Dungeness Lighthouse

   massive driftwood tree with lighthouse in the background
Just have to hike around this driftwood (iPhone 13 Pro Max​​)
Shadow of hiker celebrating arrival at lighthouse destination   massive driftwood tree with lighthouse in the background
Success is near! (iPhone 13 Pro Max)​​

Just after the 1/2-way-out-mark, the trail takes a bend and and the New Dungeness Lighthouse becomes visible. It's still small but now there's a target. To my left, over the strait, Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands can be seen. 

I knew the real goal of this hike was to get the alignment of the lighthouse and the volcano which isn't possible this far out so I increased my pace to visit the New Dungeness lighthouse and then make the return trip as fast as possible to prepare for the sunset photo I wanted and then sprint back to the car before the gates were locked. 

The wonderful, new Dungeness Spit Lighthouse at the tip of the spit
 (iPhone 13 Pro Max)​​
signs at the Dungeness Lighthouse saying reality back to mainland and serenity towards the lighthouse
Serenity now,reality 5 miles back to shore (iPhone 13 Pro Max)​​

The Hike Back

The sun was getting low so I hightailed it back to the mainland. Again, without the a winding trail crossing streams, dodging roots, and other distractions, the time seemed to drag on with a destination far in the distance. I finally made it to the trailhead just before sunset but the haze in the distance entirely obstructed the view of Mount Baker. The initial photo I took at the beginning turned out the best but this hike is now on my list of "return and try again" for a sunset version. I still do like the blue sky version in the gallery right now. Head over to to my print gallery to check out sizing and pricing. Happy hiking! 

room with white couch and New Dungeness Lighthouse with Mount Baker
Check out the prints available in premium acrylic or glossy aluminum.​​

Gear used for hiking and getting the shot:

Be aware of a few things:

  • There's a parking fee. Bring cash. It was $3 and an envelope to deposit at trailhead when I was there in May 2023.
  • The hike to the New Dungeness Lighthouse is 10 miles but, because of sand, it feels like 27. A significant % of each step is wasted to moving sand and rocks.
  • The land near the New Dungeness Lighthouse is impassable at mid to high tide. Plan to have tide at around 1 foot or less at your midpoint of hike.
  • There's no drinking water along the trail; plan to take a liter or more. 

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