Nature Photography: Visiting Cape Flattery, Northwesternmost Point of the Contiguous U.S.

Getting there

Cape Flattery is the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States, and it’s a great location for nature photography. It is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and can be accessed by driving West along Highway 112 toward Neah Bay. At Neah Bay, follow the signs for Cape Flattery. The Cape Flattery road ends at the trail head; the trail to Cape Flattery is approximately .75 miles (1.2 kilometers) long. The hike is downhill nearly the entire length until it reaches the viewpoints overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Just be prepared for the uphill climb to return to your car!

 Cape flattery trail

nature photography stairs

The Olympic Peninsula is covered with lush green forests, and the Cape Flattery Trail does not disappoint. While it may not have moss dripping from the trees, as you can see in the Quinault Rain Forest, there is still plenty of moss and other beautiful green plants to observe.

The forest is thick with trees and plants until approximately 300 feet (91.5 meters) from the coast. Portions of the trail have a boardwalk that, when combined with the dense forest surrounding the trail, can make one feel a bit like a member of the Swiss Family Robinson.

For the majority of the trail, I utilized my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens to ensure that I captured the full view of the forest. I used my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM lens for some shots to capture the details of soaring trees, but I quickly switched back to the 24-70mm lens to see the wider angles.

Once I reached the lookouts, I continued to use my 24-70mm lens primarily. The 24-70mm lens worked the best at most of the lookouts, as this part of the coast is full of closely packed inlets and caves created by the Pacific Ocean.

nature photography island

The only time it was necessary to use the 70-200mm lens was to accurately see the Cape Flattery lighthouse and capture details in the ocean. The Cape Flatterly lighthouse is located on Tatoosh Island, approximately .5 miles (.8 kilometers) from the shore. With my 24-70mm lens, I was able to capture panorama shots of the island and lighthouse, but the 70-200mm lens was needed to capture the red roof of the lighthouse and the moss clinging to the cliffs below, due to the distance. Brown palm kelp beds and forests of bull kelp beds surround the Cape, drifting just below the surface of the ocean. It is easy to observe sea otters playing and feeding in the kelp beds and seals swimming by the area.

nature photography cliff

Low lighting conditions are common in the area due to weather conditions. It is frequently cloudy and drizzly throughout the Olympic Peninsula. Be prepared with a jacket and waterproof shoes. While Cape Flattery often has gray skies, the views are spectacular and well worth the trip. Standing on a 100-foot (30.5 meters) cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean is quite an awe-inspiring feeling. And to be able to say that you’ve visited the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States is quite something to be said.

nature photography lighthouse

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