Hiking to Glass Beach in Port Townsend, WA With a Dog
If you’re looking for a unique dog friendly adventure, look no further than Glass Beach in Port Townsend, Washington.
I spent half of my life growing up in Port Townsend and it was always magical to hike out to glass beach.
Now that I’m an adult, I love to go back and hike out there with my dog.
UPDATED: originally published July 2011
What is Glass Beach?
Glass Beach a beach in Port Townsend, Wa where you can find a high concentration of natural sea glass.
People from all over the world visit Glass Beach to dig up glass for art projects, to make jewelry, for fun, or for wedding centerpieces like me.
The beach that was created from years of garbage being dumped in an area known as the “Glass Beach dump” before there were houses there or environmental regulations about dumping trash.
But those people’s trash is now your treasure.
Over time, garbage that made it way to the beach was tumbled into perfection by sea and sand for you to find.
An article I read said it can take approximately 20 years of being tumbled in the sea for a jagged shard of glass to become a smooth, rounded, frosted gemstone.
While 30 years ago there was glass on the beach everywhere you looked, and it was easy to find a large piece of light blue sea glass (one of the most coveted colors), years of “mining” by beachcombers has left mostly smaller pieces.
Finding while, brown, and dark green glass the size of a dime or smaller is common.
However, larger pieces can be found, and if you are lucky, you will find an elusive glass marble (My parents told me there used to be a marble factory in Port Townsend but I can’t find any historical evidence of that).
The walk out to the real glass beach, where the dump used to be, is 5.4-miles roundtrip.
How to Get to Glass Beach in Port Townsend, WA
Because the name is generic, you will find several beaches named “glass beach” around the world if you search online.
But this is how you get to the one in Port Townsend
The “trail” to glass beach starts at North Beach, on the west end of Fort Warden State Park, and heads west for approximately 3 miles from North Beach to McCurdy Point (the location of the old dump).
The address for North Beach is 5880 Kuhn St. Port Townsend, WA 98368.
The road to the beach passes through a residential neighborhood, the parking lot only holds about 20 cars, the parking lot is shared with those hiking into the old Fort Warden military bunkers, and this beach is incredibly popular in the summer.
If you arrive to a full parking lot and choose to park on the street, please obey the signage and be respectful of the surrounding residents.
Beware that there are a couple areas of beach you walk through that have large cobblestones covered with seaweed and barnacles.
These large rocks can be ankle-twisters for both you and your dog if you’re not careful and the seaweed can be really slippery.
Barnacles are sharp and can cut your dog’s paws.
When is the Best Time to Visit Glass Beach With Your Dog?
The weather in Port Townsend is temperate and typically ranges between a low of 38 degrees and a high of 75.
Therefore, there is almost never a time of year when the temperature will be too hot or too cold for your dog.
Although it can rain a lot in Port Townsend, or be really windy, which could make stroll out to the beach feel more like a trudge, weather is not the most important factor to consider when making plans.
The beach you walk has a tall buff on one side you won’t be able to climb up if the tide comes in on you so you have to time it right.
Whether you and your dog can make it out to glass beach or not will depend on the tides.
You’ll want to start your beach hike when the tide is on it’s way out and head back before it starts to come back in.
I would give yourself at least 2 hours to get out there, 1-3 hours to dig for glass at the beach, and another 2 hours to get back.
You will need to check the glass beach tide table to make sure the water will go far enough out that day to reveal the beach.
Port Townsend has what is called a “mixed tide” – two high and low tides a day of differing magnitudes.
In my experience, the tide isn’t low enough to give you time to walk out to Glass Beach and back unless the low reaches the 1 foot (above sea level) mark.
Unfortunately, while the summer lowest tide happens during the day, the winter lowest tide happens at night when it’s dark.
Therefore, the best time to visit Glass Beach is late spring to early fall.
How to Find the Beach Glass
Although the true glass beach is 3 miles west of North Beach County Park, you may start to see glass as soon as you start walking.
The motion of the waves has spread the glass along the beach, both east and west of glass beach, over decades.
However, the larger pieces will be found very near, and at, glass beach proper.
It is possible to find the sea glass by just walking and keeping your head down.
Some glass gets churned up from deep below the sand on a daily basis as the tides wash in and out and end up on the surface of the beach.
The sea glass also has tendency to gather around the base of large rocks. You will know where to look by all of the little pebbles built up.
You can dig under the sand to see what you find.
Many people bring knee pads, a bucket, and a shovel or rake to do this.
The downside is that you have to hike out to the beach carrying that stuff but, speaking from personal experience, using your hands to dig in the sand can rub them raw.
How to Occupy Your Dog at Glass Beach
Obviously, while there are plenty of interesting things for your dog to find at the beach, they won’t be helping you to find sea glass.
Given that you will be there for an hour or two, you won’t want your dog to get bored.
Legally, it’s required that dogs be on leash. Locals often ignore this rule though (so be aware you could run into off leash dogs).
While you are searching for glass at the beach, tie your dog up to something, or keep them very close to you using voice control, so they don’t bother others or wander off and get lost.
Your dog will be spending a lot of time sitting or laying while they are waiting for you.
To help prevent boredom, take frequent breaks to let your dog sniff around (mental exercise) or play fetch.
You can also bring an enrichment toy like a lick mat, or a natural chews like a bully stick, to help occupy your dog.
A Local’s Perspective on the Removal of Seaglass
My Love Affair with beach glass began in Port Townsend when I was a kid.
I have so many good memories of glass beach.
I’ve hiked it dozens of times with loved ones – both humans and dogs – that have now passed.
The amount, size, and type of wave-tumbled glass and porcelain you could find on the beach was the stuff of legend.
I still have so much of what I found over the years.
But the good ol’ days are gone and I admit it makes me a little sad.
You see, glass beach used to be a local secret. You didn’t talk about glass beach or what happened there.
You didn’t want the secret to get out.
But, with the exploding demand of sea glass for personal use, and to sell as a commodity, the secret did get out.
If you go out there now on a summer weekend, you may find dozens of people, dogs, and families out there collecting the glass.
Really, “mining” is more accurate.
The professionals head out there with full-sized shovels and 5 gallon buckets to dig in the sand and haul away all they can carry.
Someday, probably within the next decade or so, it will be near impossible to find a piece of sea glass.
Sure, garbage still finds its way into the waterways but the era of dumping trash in a big hole near the bluff to fall into the sea is gone.
Port Townsend Glass Beach treasures are not a renewable “resource”.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t disagree with the collection of this stuff.
If I said I did, I would be a hypocrite because I pick up glass every time I visit the beach.
What doesn’t quite feel right to me is the people who go out with big buckets and rakes and spend all day combing through the sand and rocks trying to get every last piece and not leaving any treasures behind for others to find.
But that’s the way it is. Times change. And some even view it as picking up trash that doesn’t belong there.
If you are in Port Townsend and see a bunch of sea glass in a yard planter or in jars, there is an extremely good chance it came from glass beach.
This beach is one of the most abundant areas for sea glass in the state, if not in the world.
Glass Beach can only be accessed when there is a low tide of 1 foot above sea level or lower during the day.
However, it’s possible to find glass all along the beach from North Beach, west 3 miles to Glass Beach, and a bit beyond.
You and your dog likely won’t have any energy left after a long day at the beach but Port Townsend is a great town to take your dog on a weekend vacation.
For more information, read my article about visiting Port Townsend with your dog.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
I love sea glass. That’s cool you know a good place to gather some, but bad that others go out there and get lots of it just so they can sell it. It’s a sticky subject to be sure.
It doesn kind o fruin it for others…but then again if one person chooses not to do it on morals the next person will do it anyway….
I loved hunting the beach for sea glass. You can still find some on the beaches of Vancouver Island from Victoria to Sooke but you really have to hunt for it. I agree people shouldn’t be out there with buckets and rakes taking all they can get that is just wrong .
I love sea glass too! I only found tiny bits of it on the beaches in Oregon – always a treasure when I did! 🙂
Love beach glass. Headed to port t today-any other hikes you recommend?
You guys are in Port Townsend??? On your road trip? Where is home base?
I don’t know of any other super great hikes in Port Townsend although hiking around Fort Warden is fun if you want to view all the WWII bunkers. There are some south of there in Quilcene though and some west. Email me at email@example.com and tell me what areas you will be visiting and I can make some recommendations for sure.
hey, we’re staying at ft. worden, LOVE it, but it’s pretty wet. hiked this am quite a bit, then drove to lake angeles 9no dogs- they stayed home). we’re from atlanta, ga, so this weather is like our winters, cool and WET! so beautiful here- and we plan to hike zion near Quilcene tomorrow.
All good hikes. Lake Angles is one of my old time favorites. I used to work at Olympic National Park. It is too bad you can’t have dogs on the trail though. The only National park TRAIL you can take your dog on is the Spruce Railroad Trail out by lake Crescent. The best part of the hike is about a mile in to the Devil’s punchbowl. Zion is nice too. Glad you are having a good time. Didn’t know you guys were coming up to Washington….
You all sure do go on some nice hikes and adventures. The sea glass is beautiful! Hugs and nose kisses
I have never heard of beach glass. It is very pretty.
It’s wonderful when you can find it. I used to collect lots of beach rocks but I ended up with too many rocks so I switched to the much rarer beach glass.
Jesus Christ! Are you serious……Don’t take all of our beach glass blah blah blah….Quit complaining. Washington beaches are covered in glass and if it wasn’t for the internet spreading the word about glass beach Port Townsend would have been gone a long time ago. Now the place is booming with tourists bringing their kids and their $money$ and I think revenue for the town is a hell of a lot better for Port Townsend then some Beach Glass….As to finding glass there…Me my girl friend and our best friend went last year and scored gigantic jewelry quality pieces with some of them well over half dollar size in red,teal(coke bottle) milk jug oranges, the normal green blue white also got tons of super sonic blue thats what we call it the bright blue. So if u think that beech is picked through your wrong you just may have to look a little bit….Its just not like a child’s Easter egg hunt anymore you might have to move a rock or two! Unless you got prior rock hounding or beach combing experience u probably will just get the normal tiny pieces with the occasional nice piece……. LOOK HUNT DIG maybe u will find something…..And shut up with oh don’t bring buckets and shovels shut up with that shit…..People that drive 6 hours from other states just to go there u best believe they are coming with shovels…I say get it by the truck load the sooner i can walk barefoot on our beaches safely…maybe by the time I have kids it will be free and clear of trash and glass…Do yourself a favor and quit wasting so much energy online bitching and get out there and do your part in picking up trash if you can’t find any glass….Happy Hunting
I did not write a rant post so I don’t consider that I was “complaining”. I merely mentioned a fact and may have reminisced that it didn’t used to be that way. I have many fond memories there and the increase in collectors has not made that place any less special for me. I have found in the past, and continue to find, many special pieces. I will point out that my blog is not about “bitching about this issue” so I am not “wasting energy”. I write a blog about fun adventures with dogs and happened to write about one of our favorite places.
Normally, I do not allow abusive comments – as the tone of yours clearly is. However, this time I will allow it. I think you have a great point about glass beach bringing tourist dollars to Port Townsend. Plus, I would like my readers to see the kind of angry and insulting comments that I have to deal with as a blogger who shares my views online. However, the next comment you leave like this will get you banned. I do not tolerate personal attacks or abusive comments.
If you would like to respectfully add to the conversation you are more than welcome to do so. I always welcome different points of view. If you would like to view my comment policy before leaving your next comment, you can do so here http://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/legal-stuff/
what an amazing responce..you are great. we have a park near me in Olympia wa and my 2 boys and i always find beach glass. i don’t think jewelry worthy but none the less a treasure for a 4 yr old..i crawl around on my hands and knees and people look at me like i’m goofy and often ask what did i lose. i always hesitate to say what i’m looking for. we went yesterday and i saw a woman walking up the trail with a gallon zip-loc and i was like dang it,maybe we won’t have luck today,but we did. we are happy to find a couple pieces to add to our collection that sits in a dish on the back of the toilet. whenever we find pieces that arent ready we always throw them as far as we can back into the ocean so maybe some lucky person will find it a different day when its ready. our dream is to find just 1 sea glass marble. that would be amazing..thanks for your blog you ROCK!
Thank you Jessica!
i appreciate every single piece of beach glass that I find too. I have such happy memories of the beach in Port Townsend, and of Port Townsend in general, I would be lying if I said I won’t be a little disappointed when I can no longer find glass at my favorite spot. I understand that things change, and situations change, though.
I always throw the jagged pieces back too 🙂
Thanks for reading my blog and I am glad you find some useful/entertaining information here. Have a great day!
Hmm ever thought Port T own send is a tourist town it didn’t need the glass to attract people! You obviously didn’t look around the town. It grew up there and tourist are ALWAYS part of the make. Get off the high city slicker attitude
I really need to get out more! I would love to hunt for beach glass. I thought it was only something people in California did – I’ll have to make a list of places to go when we thaw out next year.
Funny…I was planning a trip with my weiner to Port Townsend this week specifically to see if I could find a few pieces of beach glass and Google presented your blog asa search result for Glass Beach. I’m sad to see that it’s likely that I won’t find a thing since it’s been an additional 3 years since you wrote your blog. Sigh.
Oh, that’s not true at all. If you start at North Beach and walk left (I’m not sure which cardinal direction that is) you can still find pieces of glass all along the beach You won’t find the most until you get to glass beack (which may not be ppssible with the tide) but they’re still pieces to be found. It’s less common to find blue than it used to be but its still very possible.
Hello! I know this is a bit of an older blog post, but I enjoyed reading about your treasure hunting experience. I’ve been beachcombing since I was very young, but just recently got more into sea glass collecting. I started with petoskey stones in Michigan (where I live) and progressed to shell-hunting on Sanibel Island with my parents. Now as an adult, I still visit these places with my husband, looking for shells and seaglass, keeping the tradition alive. 🙂
I’ve surprisingly found quite a bit of seaglass in Florida – mostly small green, whites and browns with the occasional aqua and blue. Though most pieces are small, we still enjoy the excitement for finding a treasure amongst the sand. For experienced beachcombers, we know the days can be fickle – and while on one trip you can find many pieces, another it seems you find nothing at all! And even more so with the lessened use of glass and prevalence of plastics, it makes finding the occasional piece even that much more precious.
I’ve never been to Glass Beach, and experiencing my first trip to Seattle last year, I decided I definitely would like to check it out this time! It perhaps may not be as plentiful as in its past, but I think I would still enjoy the journey!
Do you have any tips for me perhaps? I’m not sure of the best starting point (I think there is public access near Fort Warden and Glass Beach exists below McCurdy Point?) but I know it is a lengthy walk, one that is best done at low tide! I think we will be going in mid-March, hopefully this will be before those evil bucket collectors normally strip the beach in the spring / summer like you mentioned!
I hope someday to be able to visit more glass beaches, as they are a rapidly dwindling treasure. This year I’m also hoping to check out Jacksonville Beach and next year the famed Glass Beach of Kauai Island. Though these all may be once in a lifetime trips, I look forward to the new experiences and the potential treasures found therein.
Thanks for your post!
P.S. Our lil 11 yr old weiner stays home on our out of state trips, but as rambunctious as she is, I’m sure would enjoy it! 🙂
Hi Ashley. I really appreciate you leaving a comment even though it was an older post. I still read them! 🙂
I got into sea glass collecting as a necessity of sorts. As a kid, I used to collect rocks. I ended up with too many so I started collecting only the most special and unique ones. I still ended up with too many. I switch to sea glass because it’s more rare. Ha, ha. Also because I find it amazingly beautiful. The theme for my wedding was sea glass.
The best way to get to the central part of glass beach is to walk there from North Beach. Glass beach is just west of Ft. Warden state park. You take Kuhn Street to get there. Walk left from the parking lot along the beach. You can start finding glass right away.
The old dump location, where most of the glass originates, is about 2 miles down the beach. You can’t get there unless the tide is pretty low (less than a 2.0 I think). I am not sure it will be that low in mid-March. You used to be able to access the beach directly from a really steep bluff trail but, as far as I know, that access has been cut off because of the danger and private property issues.
You’ll still be able to find glass even if you only walk part way down the beach. Have fun!
Thanks so much for your reply! 🙂 It’s funny you mentioned rocks, cause I loved collecting those too as a kid. In fact, this year my mum got me a jewelry-grade rock tumbler for Christmas! So I guess I’m still trying to recapture my childhood as adult way haha. My fascination with seaglass too pertains to jewelry making, as I currently make necklaces and would love to incorporate seaglass into my designs. 🙂
Thanks for your tips as well! I’m really excited to go, and I checked the tide table, and it looks like at noon-1pm low tide will be at .9, so it looks like I’m set! My dream is to find a piece of red / purple seaglass someday, though I know the odds are quite slim with those colors being so rare!
I did have another question about the trek to glass beach – is there any chance of getting “stuck” by the tide? I’ve heard people mention this before, and it sounds kinda scary – I’d hate to be swimming back to my car in the freezing cold waters of March!
Also, if you are into collecting shells, I highly recommend taking at least one trip to Sanibel / Captiva Island in Florida. My first experience with low tide was there – tidal pools filled with shells, star fish and other creatures! I can even give you a couple of beach tips on where to go for the best results. It’s really a fun experience, one that cemented my own love of beach collecting. 🙂
P.S. – What’s your rarest beach find?
Thanks again, happy collecting! ^_^
Just happened to see your blog. Very interesting. I am planning a trip to Vancouver Island in early Sept. 2017. I love collecting rocks, driftwood and beach glass. We lived full time in a trailer for 7 years so my collecting did get to be a problem with weight limits!! I absolutely am in love with beachglass and hope to find a few pieces to wirewrap for close friends, family and myselft as special gifts. Any suggestions you could give me would be greatly appreciated. I am not looking to fill “buckets” – just a few nice pieces would make me very happy. We are also planning to drive down the coast of WA, Oregon and northern CA hoping to find some “treasures”.
Would love to hear from you. Loved the pics of your beachglass. I do think beachglass are treasures from the sea and I love to wonder as to where they came from and who might have used and loved whatever glassware they originally came from.
Hope to hear from you.
Hi Linda. I hope you have a great trip to Vancouver. I’m not familiar with beach glass in that area. You might know about this site but it’s helped in my beach glass research before. http://www.odysseyseaglass.com/where-to-find-sea-glass.html. I do know there is a great glass beach in California near Fort Bragg. I hope to visit it someday.