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Cape Disappointment State Park - Coastal Forest Loop

Southwest Washington


Southwest Washington -- Long Beach Area
View map below


1.4 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 260 ft.
Highest Point: 140 ft.


4.00 out of 5


Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

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.


Cape Disappointment State Park - Coastal Forest Loop

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.2840, -124.0545 Open map in new window


Southwest Washington -- Long Beach Area

Washington State Parks

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula ed. 2 (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Cape Disappointment State Park PDF Map:

Getting There

Cape Disappointment is two miles south of Ilwaco. From Kelso, take Ocean Beach Highway to the tiny town of Naselle. Here, make a left onto SR 401, driving for 12 miles to a junction of Highway 101, where a left turn would take you over the Astoria Bridge. Drive straight through this intersection, continuing on Hwy 101 for 11 miles to the city of Ilwaco and the junction of SR 100.

From Portland: Take Highway 30 to Astoria, then get on Highway 101 north to cross the river and on to Ilwaco. Once you get to Ilwaco head west from the stoplight (only one in town) following the signs to Cape Disappointment State Park.

Follow 100 spur past the North Head Lighthouse turn off and down the hill on Fort Canby Road. At a four way intersection, turn left, then immediately left again into a large gravel parking lot where you can find the trailhead. Discover Pass required here.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

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Cape Disappointment State Park - Coastal Forest Loop

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