Hiking And Biking Trails Showcase The Long Beach Peninsula’s Many Landscapes

Trail system highlighted by paved 8.5-mile coastal gem

LONG BEACH PENINSULA, WA – Well known for razor clamming, charter fishing, bird watching and 28 miles of wide-open beach, the Long Beach Peninsula also boasts an impressive system of trails. An estimated 26 miles of trails traverse the peninsula through grassy dunes and old growth forests, over rocky headlands, around wetlands and through scrub pine forest.

Centerpiece of the system is Discovery Trail. This one-of-a-kind, 8.5 mile long coastal interpretive trail stretches from Ilwaco, across the Cape Disappointment headlands to Beard’s Hollow, and meanders through the dunes to one-mile north of the Long Beach boardwalk. Nearly a decade in the making, the trail is a remarkable public legacy of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

The interpretive markers along the trail, including the skeleton of a gray whale, were inspired by this passage from Captain William Clark’s journals:

I proceeded on the Sandy Coast 4 miles, and marked my name on a Small pine, the Day of the month & year, &c. and returned to the foot of the hill, from which place I intended to Strike across to The Bay, I saw a Sturgeon which had been thrown on Shore and left by the tide 10 feet in length, and Several joints of the back bone of a whale which must have foundered on this part of the Coast.

– Moulton edition, The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, p. 70

A bronze condor anchors the south end of Discovery Trail near the Ilwaco marina. A 20-foot tall bronze sculpture of a windswept pine, Clark’s Tree marks the northern terminus, approximating the farthest reach of William Clark’s walk up the Long Beach Peninsula on Nov. 19, 1805.

The interpretive trail is ideal for pedestrians and bicyclists seeking the sheer enjoyment of traveling through little developed coastline, hearing the rustling grassy dunes, feeling mist-laden Pacific breezes on one’s face, watching the crashing Pacific surf, exploring tidal wetlands, and smelling the musty understory of an old growth forest.

Other notable trails are located in Cape Disappointment and Leadbetter state parks. One climbs through old growth Sitka spruce and Douglas fir from Beard’s Hollow to North Head lighthouse. Another extends south from North Head to Benson Beach. Trails in Leadbetter Point fringe Willapa Bay and extend into the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge to round the northern-most tip of the peninsula to a sand dollar-strewn Pacific Ocean beach.

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