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Long Beach, Washington, United States

Cape Disappointment

Hike to an old lighthouse as well as a really nice Lewis & Clark Interpretive center. With beautiful views of the cape.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 4.2 miles / 6.8 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly
Overview: Climb to the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast, explore bunkers of an old military fort, wander through coastal forests, and take in spectacular vistas, including breathtaking ocean views. The park has old-growth forest, lakes, freshwater and saltwater marshes, streams, ocean tidelands, and lots of watchable wildlife.

Visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and swim at Waikiki Beach, the only swim-safe beach on the Peninsula.

Tips: From Seattle:
Take I-5 south to Olympia, SR 8 west to Montesano. From there, take U.S. Hwy. 101 south to Long Beach Peninsula.

From Portland:
Take I-5 north to Longview, then SR 4 west to U.S. Hwy. 101. Then drive south to Long Beach Peninsula. Follow signs to Ilwaco and the park.

Points of Interest


Parking Area & Store

From this parking lot you can choose to hike the coastal forest trail to the north (starts at POI #14), or you can hike up the road ahead to do a loop that will bring you back to this area.

If you are only interested in seeing the lighthouse or the Lewis & Clark center then drive up the road to one of the upper parking areas.

There is a nice little supply store here as well.

Keep Right at the Fork


Keep Left

At this junction keep left. To the right is a parking lot for disabled people that want to see the Lewis & Clark Center

Upper Parking Lot

From this Parking lot is a short trail to the Lewis & Clark Center. If you follow the trail in this guide it will first take you to the lighthouse.

Trail Fork

Head East for the lighthouse, head west for the Lewis & Clark Center.

Coast Guard Station

Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment, situated at the mouth of the Columbia River, is the largest Coast Guard search and rescue station on the Northwest Coast, with 50 crewmembers assigned. Cape Disappointment is also the site of the oldest search and rescue station within the Thirteenth Coast Guard District.

The station's primary missions include (1) providing search and rescue to commercial and recreational mariners within 50 nautical miles of the Columbia River entrance and (2) providing a maritime law enforcement presence near the approaches to the Columbia River including execution of Homeland Security missions.

Commonly known as Station Cape "D", station crewmembers respond to 300-400 calls for assistance every year. The station's heaviest workload occurs during the months of early June through mid-September, when an abundance of recreational boaters transit the Columbia River entrance in search of salmon and bottom fish.

This area is regarded as one of the most treacherous river bars in the world. Because of the large number of shipwrecks near the river entrance it is often called "The Graveyard of the Pacific." During winter storms, wind-driven ocean swells often reach a height of 20-30 feet at the entrance of the bar. With the combination of strong outgoing tides and large incoming swells, large surf conditions can exist in and around the bar entrance.

Dead Man's Cove


Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

In 1848 a lighthouse was recommended to be located at Cape Disappointment in what was then the Oregon Territory. $53,000 was appropriated in 1852. After the lighthouse was designed, a first-order Fresnel lens was ordered. When the lens arrived it was found to be too large for the tower. Rebuilding the tower took an additional two years. The first lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest was finally lit in 1856. In addition to the light, the station was equipped with a 1600-pound bell powered by a striking mechanism. The keeper's residence was about a quarter mile away.

The lighthouse had several shortcomings. The fog bell was sometimes inaudible due to the roar of ocean waves. It was discontinued in 1881 and moved to West Point Light in Seattle, and eventually to Warrior Rock Light near Portland. Also, the light was not visible to ships approaching from the north. This problem was corrected by building a lighthouse at North Head, two miles from Cape Disappointment. The first-order lens was moved to North Head and a fourth-order lens installed at Cape Disappointment.

The lighthouse was electrified in 1937. In 1956, the Coast Guard intended to close the station, but retained the light when the Columbia River bar pilots protested. The light was automated in 1973. The red and white flashing light was deactivated in 2008. An observation deck has been built for the Coast Guard to monitor traffic and bar conditions. The grounds are open to the public through Cape Disappointment State Park.

World War II Bunker


Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center tells the story of the Corps of Discovery’s journey, focusing particularly on their Pacific Coast stay.

It's open year-round from 10 am to 5 pm daily. Admission into the center is $3 per adult and $1 per child ages 7 to 17. Children ages 6 and under enter for free.

Continue on the Trail Here




Waikiki Beach

Nestled in a cove fronting the river, Waikiki Beach offers a view of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and excellent storm-watching during the winter.


Coastal Forest Trail Entrance

You can choose to continue on, or do this trail as its own separate hike. It's a nice hike through some old growth trees and views of Baker Bay.

Loop Entrance

You can turn left or right the trail will come back here.


Watch boats pass by in Baker Bay

Trail Junction

Turn North East here to the Viewpoint, or West to continue around the loop.

Viewpoint and Beach Access

Nice views from here, and you can walk on the beach.
Pictures in this guide taken by: JMilesMiller, Pfadfinder

Cape Disappointment Trail Map

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About the Author

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I've always liked the outdoors, but have been into hiking trails heavily since 2009. Everytrail really...

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