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Hiking SW Washington Coast Trip report Washington

Long Beach, Cape Disappointment State Park, and Fort Columbia

For the third day of our 4 day mini-vacation we headed north into Washington for a series of hikes along the coast from Long Beach to the Columbia River. We decided to start with the northernmost hike and work our way south. Our first stop was at the north end of the 7.2 mile Discovery Trail located on North 26th St. in Long Beach.

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Normally when we have a 7.2 mile trail we would just hike the entire thing out and back and call it a day, but on this rare occasion we were going to follow Sullivan’s easy 3 hike description. From this trailhead we were simply following the trail for .3 miles to a replica of Clark’s Tree. The replica represents a tree where William Clark carved his name on a tree in November of 1805 to claim the territory for the U.S.

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We took a short sandy path from the tree to the foredune to take a look at the ocean before heading back.

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For our next hike we drove south to Sid Snyder St. where a .4 mile stretch of boardwalk parallels the paved Discovery Trail.

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Interpretive signs lined the boardwalk including one showing all of the shipwrecks that have occurred in the area.

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We returned via the paved Discovery Trail and once again hopped into the car and headed south. We left Long Beach and continued south on Highway 101 for 3 miles to the stoplight in Ilwaco where we turned right on Highway 100 and entered Cape Disappointment State Park.

We were originally headed for a signed parking lot for Beards Hollow 1.9 miles away. We needed a $10 Discovery Pass to park there but, when we turned right into the parking area we discovered that there was no self-pay station. We had passed a Beards Hollow Viewpoint about a mile before turning into the parking lot which didn’t require a pass so we drove back uphill to the viewpoint parking lot and started our hike from there.

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A trail led downhill from the viewpoint to the lower parking lot.

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At the lower parking lot we once again picked up the Discovery Trail.

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We followed the paved trail through a wetlands which is a result of the building of the Columbia River jetties.

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When the Discovery Trail made a sharp right near the ocean we took one of several sandy paths to the beach where we turned south and headed for North Head.

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The beach was quite but judging from the number of tire tracks and amount of garbage lying around it gets a lot busier in the evenings. Near the end of the beach we came upon some nice tide pools which we explored briefly before heading back.

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After hiking back up to the viewpoint we continued south on Highway 100 and turned right onto North Head Lighthouse Road. A Discovery Pass is required to park here as well but we spotted a self-pay station near some signboards so we parked and I went to pay.

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I don’t mind having to pay for the passes, but I do get annoyed by how hard it is to buy them sometimes. We had to drive a couple of miles further along Hwy 100 to the park entrance booth where we were finally able to purchase the required pass.

After returning to the North Head parking lot we headed for the North Head Lighthouse.

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A short .3 mile loop passes several buildings that used to house the lighthouse keepers, but are now vacation rentals, before continuing out the headland to the lighthouse which is currently undergoing rennovations.

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After completing the loop we turned right at a sign for the 1.5 mile North Head Trail.

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Our plan was to follow this trail out to McKenzie Head then take a short road walk past Oneil Lake and explore a few more trails in the park from the area near the entrance booth. The North Head Trail passed through a pretty coastal forest going up and down, over and around ridges. We spotted lots of wildlife along this section of trail, mostly in the form of frogs and snakes.

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We crossed Fort Canby Road at a small parking lot for McKenzie Head.

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After stopping to read the interpretive signs we started up the .3 mile path to Battery 247.

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We explored the old bunker and took in the view from North Head before heading back down.

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When we arrived back at the McKenzie Head parking lot we turned right and walked along Fort Canby Road until we were able to cut over to a gravel campground road along Oneil Lake.

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We spotted an egret and an osprey at the lake.

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At the far end of the lake we crossed Jetty Road just west of the park entrance booth and located the Cape Disappointment Trail.

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We followed the trail uphill past a viewpoint of the jetty.

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The trail continued to climb from the viewpoint passing a set of stairs that led to a hilltop with a view of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

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The little hilltop was a dead end so we backtracked down the stairs and continued following the trail to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

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The aroma near the center was less than appealing due to the presence of sea birds on the rocks below.

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At the far end of the center we managed to find a spot in the shade where we couldn’t smell the birds and took a short break.

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It was another .6 miles to the lighthouse from the interpretive center so we sallied forth. The trail dipped down between a Coast Guard station and Dead Mans Cove.

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A narrow paved road led from the Coast Guard station uphill to the lighthouse and an impressive view.

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After another short break we returned to the interpretive center and walked around the east side and explored Battery Harvey Allen.

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After exploring the battery we returned to the park entrance booth. We headed out Jetty Road past the booth and park entrance sign toward the boat launch across Coast Guard Road. On the far side of that road we located a trail sign for the Coastal Forest Trail.

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There was a moment of hesitation when we read the caution sign warning of ground hornets on the trail. Growing up I had a huge fear of bees and any related species but as we’ve been hiking I’ve come to an understanding with most of the yellow and black insects. Hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets are not on that list. We decided to proceed but with extreme caution.

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Our plan was to do the 1.5 mile loop. At the far end of the loop near a bench a spur trail led out to a viewpoint.

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A heron was hunting in the grasses nearby.

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We completed the loop without running into any hornets and I was relieved when we got back to Coast Guard Road. After passing Oneil Lake on Fort Canby Road again we took the North Head Trail back to our car at the lighthouse parking lot. There were more snakes on the trail on the return trip than we’d seen earlier in the day which was fine with me since they weren’t hornets.

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We had one final stop left. Following signs for Ilwaco we left the park and returned to Highway 101 where we headed back toward Oregon. Eight miles from Ilwaco we turned right at a sign for Fort Columbia State Park.
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We walked through the old buildings and turned uphill on Military Road. The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was visible in the distance.
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We found a map on a signpost which showed fewer trails than what our guidebook and Google showed.
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We decided to trust the park map and headed up the grassy Military Road Trail.
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The trail passed some overgrown structures.
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When we arrived at 780′ summit we decided to head back down on the Scarborough Trail, forgoing the .5 mile Summit Trail.
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The Scarborough Trail began as a decent dirt trail but soon became overgrown with a few downed trees to climb over.
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After .4 miles we came to another grassy roadbed.
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This was the route shown on the park map. The trail did seem to continue downhill which corresponded to the map in the guidebook but without knowing the condition of that trail we played it safe and followed the roadbed back to the Military Road Trail. On the way down we took a short detour following a use path toward the sound of falling water. The path led to a small waterfall behind a fence with a “Do Not Enter” sign. We took a photo from the fence and then returned to our car.
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When it was all said and done we’d hiked a total of 17.3 miles from 5 different trailheads. It had been a really enjoyable group of hikes full of wildlife and history. Happy Trails!

Flickr: SW Washington Coast

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