There are a plethora of small trails at Cape Disappointment, but this one may be the least well-known. Tucked off of Spur Road 100, the opposite direction from the camping area, the Coastal Forest Loop offers a chance to experience the signature environment of this area in either a half mile or mile and a half loop. Be sure to snag the brochure offered at the park office with interpretive information corresponding to posts along the way.
From the nondescript parking area, head for the berm near the road, where you’ll see a trail sign. This is the beginning of both loop options. The grassy beginning of the trail gives way to a narrow, graveled but rooty path that quickly climbs to a fork. You can turn either way, but the first numbered post is found on the right-hand trail, so if you’re navigating with the brochure, head right.
After less than a quarter-mile, arrive at a fork. If you want Coastal Forest Experience Lite, turn left -- this is the shorter option, which puts you back at the parking area in short order. Otherwise, continue on, now looking for the interpretive signs, which use real-life examples in this forest to illustrate forest succession, nurse logs, and how plant species rely on each other to create the environments they can thrive in.
As you make your way around the loop, keep your eyes on the ground for newts! These little guys are the same color as the ground, and have a tendency to hang out underfoot. Be careful not to step on them, and if you do see one, don’t pick it up! They’re a part of the environment you’re learning about, and they’ll thrive if left to their own devices.
Skyward, keep your ears perked for bald eagles chittering in the trees. In spring especially, they’ll be keeping watch over their chicks.
When you finish the loop, extend your hike by heading around the corner on the paved path embedded with shells near the water. This leads to two pieces in the Confluence Project by sculptor Maya Lin. Intended to memorialize the journey of Lewis and Clark and honor the history of the Chinook who were here when the Corps of Discovery arrived, Lin has installed pieces all along the Columbia River, with the majority of the works in Cape Disappointment.