Under the Stars near Portland

The Coast: Fort Canby State Park
  |  Gorp.com

Directions: Off U.S. 101 south of Long Beach, Washington.
Travel time: Approximately 2 hours.
Information: (360) 642-3078.
Reservations: Yes; (800) 452-5687.
Fee: $12 to $17.
Open: Year-round.


Located at the mouth of the Columbia River on the Washington side, Fort Canby was once a military installation guarding the entrance to the river. Today the park preserves a rugged headland that is the most dramatic piece of Washington coastline south of the Olympic Peninsula. Gone are the miles of flat sand beach that characterize the coast between Ocean Shores and Long Beach, replaced by rocky shores, cliffs rising up from the water, forests that come right down to the water, and little coves tucked beneath rugged headlands

The park has two lighthouses and a museum dedicated to Lewis and Clark, plus enough miles of trail to put together up to eight miles of hiking. Most of the trails are atop Cape Disappointment, North Head, and the bluffs that connect these two headlands. Along these routes are lots of great views, and on stormy days, the roar of the surf is a constant accompaniment to a hike here. A quieter trail, shaded by huge old spruce trees, can be found on the Columbia River side of the park. For beachcombing and catching the sunset, there's picturesque Waikiki Beach (named for some shipwrecked Hawaiian sailors), on a small cove with cliffs to one side. Even more impressive is Dead Man's Cove, a narrow cliff-lined cove with a tiny beach.

This park also makes a good base for cyclists interested in pedaling the long flat roads of the Long Beach Peninsula. Leadbetter Point State Park makes a good destination for a 30- to 50-mile loop ride. The primo campsites here are tucked amid some humongous boulders at the foot of North Head. It isn't easy getting one of these choice sites, but you can try reserving in advance or arrive early in the day (preferably midweek). These sites are always easier to get in the rainy months. This park also rents out a few yurts, which are good choices in the rainy season.


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