Here are your must-see spots at Oregon’s beautiful Lewis and Clark National Historic Park.
Along the windswept coast of the Pacific Northwest, where the ocean’s wild waves pound the weathered driftwood strewn across the beach, lies the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, a stunning stretch of shoreline whose soaring cliffs are continuously buffeted by the surging sea. Far in the distance, a lonely lighthouse stands atop a tree-lined bluff overlooking the crashing surf. Visit these must-see spots to soak in the untamed beauty of Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, a rare jewel near Oregon’s port city of Astoria.
Fort Clatsop National Memorial
Start your visit at the Fort Clatsop National Memorial, a replica of the camp where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s Corps of Discovery stayed during the winter of 1805-1806. After exploring the fort, whose reconstructed log cabins and wooden fences simulate the compound built over two centuries ago, take a hike along one of the many trails within the park. For an easy walk, try the 1-mile Netul River Trail and keep an eye out for eagles and otters as you meander along the path. Adventurous visitors flock to the Kwis Kwis trail, a 3.6-mile one way hike with lovely views of the forest and nearby ponds while committed hikers trek the Fort to Sea Trail, a roundtrip 12.2-mile hike lasting three to six hours.
Those who take the Fort to Sea trail are rewarded with stunning views at the top of Clatsop Ridge as well as easy access to Sunset Beach, a state recreation site where visitors can survey the stunning vastness of the Pacific Ocean and the majesty of fiery orange cliffs. As its name suggests, the beach transforms at twilight when rosy clouds smear the sky and the ocean’s waves take on a golden hue as the sun shines an ever-fading spotlight on the wrinkled sea.
At Netul Landing, visitors are treated to a stunning view of a shimmering river flowing alongside a grove of emerald trees. Travelers are getting a glimpse of history as well as nature — the Lewis and Clark expedition paddled up this river in 1805 and built Fort Clatsop along the riverbank. After purchasing a ticket on recreation.gov, visitors can follow the famous pair’s path via a three-hour summertime kayak river tour led by a park ranger. Keep in mind that kayakers must be aged 13 or older and all boat tour participants must arrive at the designated meeting place at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time for a mandatory safety orientation.
Cape Disappointment State Park
This state park received its dismal name not because of the views, which are spectacular, but because English navigator John Meares sailed by the cape in 1788 in hopes of finding the source of the Columbia River. Meares did in fact locate the true mouth of the river at this very cape but failed to realize it, erroneously believing he had only stumbled upon a bay. This was apparently such a disappointment that the name stuck — a rather gloomy title for this warm, sunny beach.
The state park offers a variety of ways for visitors to explore the Pacific’s craggy shoreline. Take a relaxing walk along the packed gray sand or fly a kite at Benson Beach, then head to Waikiki Beach to surf the waves. Hikers flock to the Beards Hollow Trailhead to start a 6.6-mile trek with key viewpoints along the way, including the North Head Lighthouse as well as the old fort and bunkers at McKenzie Head, which were built during World War II.
Ride your bicycle down the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail, an 8.2-mile route that winds its way through sand dunes, grass and trees near the city of Long Beach. Points of interest along the trail include sculptures of both a gray whale and William Clark. An old tree on the path signifies the stopping point of Clark’s journey north along the west coast. You will need a Discover Pass to park and take this trail, so either purchase the $10 version for one day or fork over $30 for the annual pass if you anticipate parking your car on state recreation lands often in the near future.
Visit these must-see spots to make the most of your time at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park.