Trailhead: 2.5 Mile Marker on Point Defiance 5 Mile Drive
Length: ~.75 miles
Despite this being a properly maintained trail that actually exists on most maps, it’s still very lightly used compared to other nearby trails in Point Defiance. It’s more of a shortcut than a standalone trail but the shortcut it provides is the real fun part that makes it worth mentioning. Most beach walkers start at the more popular Owen Beach. This puts you out more than half a mile closer to the point.
The distance noted for this trail is from the 5 Mile Drive trailhead, down to the beach, and around to the extreme northwest point. The trail through the forest is less than a quarter mile of that. The mile marker is easy to miss so once you pass the Vashon Viewpoint, keep an eye out. The trailhead is just past the mile marker on the right. If you get to the Mountaineer’s Tree, you’ve gone too far.
There are a couple low-hanging branches over the path and the last part down to the beach is a bit of a scramble but it’s an otherwise easy walk. Once you’re on the beach, you’re really only limited by the tide in terms of how far you can go. If it wasn’t obvious, you’ll want to check the tides before heading out along the beach. If at any point in your excursion the tides are higher than 7 feet, you’ll run the risk of swimming back to the trailhead. Most of the beach is fairly flat around the point so even a space of just 30 minutes can mean the difference between 10 feet of walkable beach and none at all.
A few big landslides in the last couple years have eaten into the north-facing cliffs and littered the beach with a gauntlet of trunks and branches. Once you find your way through that, you’ll find a nice sandy beach with a pleasant little lagoon near the navigation light below the Gig Harbor viewpoint. Depending on how low the tide is at that point, it’s essentially a straight shot all the way to Salmon Beach.