Fort to Sea Trail
Photo courtesy of Shaun Hunter
The Fort to Sea Trail is a relatively recently-constructed trail that leads from the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park’s Fort Clatsop monument about 6.5 miles to Sunset Beach. Though there are several interpretive trails surrounding Fort Clatsop, the Fort to Sea Trail is much lighter on the history and much more of a hike over diverse terrain.
The network of trails around this area are popular with trail runners, families, and bicyclists, who are allowed between Fort Clatsop and the Clatsop Ridge Overlook. You’ll encounter very few others along the way, especially once you get deeper into the hike.
Beginning at Fort Clatsop, the trail climbs gradually through shady, forested terrain until it reaches an overlook on Clatsop Ridge about 2 miles and 200 higher in elevation than the trailhead. From here the path becomes more rugged as it drops into thicker forest and steeper grades, winding around wetland lakes and undergrowth of primeval proportions.
The next landmark from this point is a tunnel where the Fort to Sea Trail crosses beneath Highway 101. About a third of a mile before you reach the tunnel you will pass the western end of the Kwis Kwis Trail, which can be combined with the Fort to Sea Trail to create a loop that rejoins the Fort to Sea Trail about .25 miles from the Fort Clatsop parking area trailhead.
After passing beneath the tunnel the trail trades shady forest for exposed grass farm fields and cattle farms. Much of the route leads between fencing, and you must cross several cattle gates in order to continue. Continue for about 2 miles, crossing over bridges and proceeding as the trail turns to soft sand. You’ll feel the cool coastal wind and see surf pines that line the path. At about 6 miles from the trailhead you’ll arrive at the Sunset Beach parking area (vault toilet, no water). From here you can continue about .3 miles further until you climb one last slope that is covered in dune grass before you reach the Pacific.
The Fort to Sea Trail is a good walk for all hiking levels, and the recently-opened Kwis Kwis Trail has several intersections with the Fort To Sea, allowing one to create a loop route at a distance they feel comfortable with. A round-trip hike on the Fort to Sea Trail would make for a solid day. Another option would be using the free parking area at Sunset Beach to shuttle cars and allow for a one-way hike.
The trailhead is located at the southwestern end of the first parking lot, signed as RV parking, inside the Fort Clatsop Monument. A $3 parking fee, payable inside the fort’s visitor center, applies.
The trail is ADA-compliant from a second parking area located .2 miles further south on Fort Clatsop Road to Clatsop Ridge Overlook.
Free parking is available at Sunset Beach. All parking area gates are open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.