Distance: 10 miles (16.1 km)
Elevation: Sea Level
Time of Year: Anytime
|A pair of bald eagles|
At 5.5 miles in length, the Dungeness Spit is the longest sand spit in North America. It is formed by longshore flow that takes glacial sediments from the bluffs of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and deposits it at the end of the spit as a rate of 13 feet per year. Since the lighthouse was built in 1857, the spit has grown 1/2 of a mile. The entire spit, as well as, its side branch Graveyard Spit and the Dungeness Bay is protected within the boundaries of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is home to thousands of sea birds including gulls, brants, loons, sandpipers, plovers, curlews, bald eagles, and terns. In addition, numerous harbor seals hang out on the beaches and near shore waters.
|The forests of the Dungeness bluffs|
The trail begins within the Dungeness Recreation Area located on Kitchen-Dick Road about 5 miles west of Sequim. There is a $3 per family charge to visit the refuge unless you have an Federal Interagency Pass. The trail starts out as a 3/4 mile trail through a dry Douglas fir forest that will descend gently down the bluff to the beach. Near the bottom of the bluff there are some nice overlooks with telescopes for you to look out across the lagoon for birds.
|The view of the 5 mile spit from the top of the lighthouse|
Then, you basically turn right and follow the outer beach for the next 4 miles or so to the lighthouse. Officially only the Strait of Juan de Fuca side of the spit is open to the public, as the lagoon side is set aside solely for wildlife. But, you can walk up to the driftwood on the crest of the narrow spit to look over with your binoculars and spotting scopes to look for the 4,000 black brants in winter or diving terns in summer. Orca and even an occassional wayward grey whale have also been spotted in the lagoon.
|A view from the crest down the length of Graveyard Spit|
While the 5 mile route to the lighthouse has no elevation change, the hike is a little tougher than you might expect because you are walking on potentially loose sand and cobbles. Tides are not a concern here, as the beach is wide enough to walk anytime, but if you go during low tide you have more of the beach to walk on the harder packed sand, making it easier on your feet. Just be aware of potential rough seas in winter. Also, on an unusually hot day in summer it can be difficult due to the lack of shade and water.
|On the way to Banger Submarine Base|
In addition to the very interesting wildlife you can see along the way, for those interested in marine traffic, the Strait of Juan de Fuca offers a feast of options. Container ships, cruise ships, pleasure boats, and even nuclear submarines can be seen cruising toward Seattle and Vancouver. You can also look across the strait to the city of Victoria in Canada, as well as, the San Juan Islands and Mount Baker.
|A juvenile bald eagle|
The lighthouse is open to the public from 9am to 5pm every day of the year to welcome visitors. Throughout the year, volunteers come out from all around the country to operate the lighthouse and offer tours of the historic structures. The waiting list for occupying the lighthouse structure can be well over a year. Once you've gone up in the lighthouse and seen the 100+ year old structures, it is time to head back.
|A group of 30 bald eagles were gathered around a porpoise carcass|
Take your time enjoying the walk in silence and taking in the wildlife. There are not very many people after the first 1/2 mile of the beach, so for the other 4 miles each way, you will essentially have the spit to yourself. Enjoy that time and soak it all in.