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Hiking the Long Beach Peninsula
Published: 09/02/2011
 
Hiking trail though Sitka Spruce trees in the Northwest rainforest.
Hiking trail though Sitka Spruce trees in the Northwest rainforest.

Washington's Long Beach Peninsula provides hiking opportunities through widely diverse terrain and of a variety of degrees of difficulty to satisfy both experienced hikers and casual sightseers.

Hike below the towering canopy of Sitka Spruce trees in the Northwest rainforest, through the shimmering waves of a sea of beach grass, past boggy marshes to dramatic ocean beaches and viewpoints. Washington's Long Beach Peninsula provides hiking opportunities through widely diverse terrain and of a variety of degrees of difficulty to satisfy both experienced hikers and casual sightseers.

Cape Disappointment's 6.5 miles of hiking trails take the hiker through old-growth forest, alongside lakes, through freshwater and saltwater marshes and by streams and ocean tidelands. The 1.8-mile North Head Trail is the longest, through a marsh and into the towering Sitka spruce forest, offering spectacular ocean views
along the way. The reward for hiking these trails is a wonderful view of the Columbia River estuary and the Pacific Ocean beyond, as well as the Cape Disappointment lighthouse, North Head Lighthouse, an old military bunker and the interpretive center museum.

The Discovery Trail between Cape Disappointment and Ilwaco is one of the least strenuous hikes on the Long Beach Peninsula, offering a leisurely stroll along an asphalt path at the edge of the Pacific. Access to the 6.2-mile trail can be gained at the west end of Main Street in Ilwaco or any of the Long Beach access roads, and includes three wooden bridge crossings as it winds gently through the coastal forest. The trail drops to sea level, traverses beachgrass-covered dunes along the ocean's shore and intersects the boardwalk in Long Beach.

Leadbetter Point State Park on the tip of the Long Beach Peninsula has four trails through shifting sands. The Yellow Trail stretches up the shore of Willapa Bay and turns west 1.8 miles to the Pacific Ocean. Blue Trail runs from bay to ocean for 1.3 miles. Green Trail is an inland trail and the shortest at a half-mile long, connecting with Yellow Trail. Loop Trail at 2.1 miles, runs between the south and north parking lots. Leadbetter Point is habitat for the snowy plover and some nesting areas are closed from March through September to protect the nests. Large numbers of birds of many species love winter along the Willapa, however, some trails flood and hikers may find them impassable in some places. There is no dry route to the beach during the annual winter flood season. - By Stella Bennett and Gary Hayes

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