Cape Disappointment State Park Isn’t Disappointing at All

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View of cape disappointment state park

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” These famous lines written by Shakespeare are perfect for one Washington State Park.

It’s called Cape Disappointment State Park, but it’s no disappointment at all. With stunning natural beauty, plenty of outdoor recreational activities, and a history rooted in the Westward Expansion, this state park offers something for everyone. 

Let’s take a look at why you should add Cape Disappointment State Park to your Washington itinerary!

Where Is Cape Disappointment State Park?

Located at the mouth of the Columbia River in Washington state, Cape Disappointment is along the very tip of the southwestern part of the state. The border between Oregon and Washington runs through the river that separates the two states. 

Highway 101 and Highway 100 both make getting to the state park easy. Oceanside, Wash., is about a 12-minute drive north, and Astoria, Ore., is less than 30 minutes southeast along Highway 101.

About Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment State Park got its name from English Captain John Meares, who failed to locate the Columbia River’s entrance in 1788. 

But it’s certainly no let-down. Visitors can learn more about Lewis and Clark at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and find overgrown ruins of military bunkers and coast defense batteries. They can also hear the stories of lighthouses that once showed sailors the way. 

The area is rich in history but also multifaceted, so guests of all ages and interests will enjoy visiting Cape Disappointment State Park.

Things to Do at Cape Disappointment State Park

This Washington park is 2,023 acres on the Long Beach Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River meet. Want to hike nature trails or learn about the westward expansion of the United States?

Do you see yourself diving into the history of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest or enjoying a day on the water? Cape Disappointment State Park has hours of fun and education for everyone. 

View of cape disappointment state park

Visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

Perched high on the cliffs of Cape Disappointment State Park, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center tells the 1805 story of the U.S. Corps of Volunteers for Northwest Discovery reaching the Pacific Ocean.

 Visitors can join Lewis and Clark on their journey through a series of mural-sized timeline panels. Guests can also watch a short film presentation, visit the gift shop, and enjoy spectacular views through a glassed-in observation deck. 

There is a small admission fee of $5 for adults, $2.50 for children aged 7 to 17, and all children aged 6 and under are free.

Keep in Mind: Mount Washington Cog Railway provides an experience that few other places can match. Read about Our Experience on the Mount Washington Cog Railway!

Go Clam-Digging at Benson Beach

Swimming along the Long Beach Peninsula isn’t permitted. But clam-digging is. Benson Beach is a popular spot to enjoy the coastal environment and search for these marine creatures.

The beach is on the southern end of the park and meets at the tip where the North Jetty is.

Visitors to the beaches at Cape Disappointment also enjoy flying kits, building sandcastles, and walking along the shoreline. There is one boat ramp and 135 feet of dock on Baker Bay, which is on the other side of the state park, for boaters who want to get out on the water of the Columbia River.

View of cape disappointment state park

Go Fishing on the North Jetty

Because of the dangerous nature of the river bar where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, two jetties were built.

The South Jetty is in Oregon. In 1912, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began constructing the North Jetty at the entrance to the Columbia River. It’s 2.5 miles long, weighs 3 million tons, and came to completion in 1917. 

These two jetties provided safer navigation of the Columbia River bar. Anglers set up on the North Jetty to catch salmon and crab.

Enjoy a Weekend Camping Trip

If you’re looking to bring your RV to Cape Disappointment State Park, there are 137 standard campsites, including 50 full hookup sites and 18 partial hookup sites. Although the campground can accommodate some big rigs, it’s best for RVs less than 45 feet. 

There are also five primitive campsites available to hikers and bikers only. Campers can access one dump station, eight restrooms, and 14 showers for year-round camping.

Visit the North Head Lighthouse

In 1856, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was constructed because of the treacherous river bar where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.

This area was known for its many shipwrecks and got the name “the graveyard of the Pacific.” This lighthouse remains the oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest.

In 1889, there were plans for a second lighthouse because of poor visibility of the first one. North Head Lighthouse finally came to completion in 1898. Visitors can tour the North

Head Lighthouse, which offers stunning views of the ocean and river. 

The lighthouse is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., from Thursday to Sunday, and from May to September. Tour admission is $2.50 per adult and free for ages 7 to 17. Children under the age of 7 aren’t permitted.

Guests can also rent the Head Lighthouse Keepers’ Residence and Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s Residences for an overnight stay. These two-story Victorian-period houses have living rooms, kitchens, and three bedrooms each.

View of cape disappointment state park

Hike One of the Seven Trails

There are seven different trails that meander through Cape Disappointment State Park. The longest is the Discovery Trail at 9 miles. All of the other trails are less than two miles in length. 

The Cape Disappointment Trail will lead hikers to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and Battery Harvey Allen. The North Head Trail will lead hikers to the North Head Lighthouse and Battery 247.

Keep in Mind: Before your next hike, you have to learn about Switchbacks!

Is Cape Disappointment State Park Dog-Friendly?

Dogs are welcome at Cape Disappointment State Park. However, pets must be on leashes at all times.

When walking on trails or hanging out at your campsite, you must keep your pets leashed and in your control. Please always clean up after them.

How Much Does It Cost to Visit Cape Disappointment State Park?

Guests must have the Discover Pass when entering the park. The annual pass is $30, and the one-day pass is $10. You can purchase it online, by phone, or in person. 

There are also additional fees to tour the North Head Lighthouse or visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Camping rates range from $12 for a primitive site to $20 to $50 for a campsite with hookups.

Is Cape Disappointment State Park Worth Visiting?

Cape Disappointment State Park offers beautiful scenery, rich history, and activities for all ages. It’s a great place to spend a day or a weekend exploring nature and enjoying the outdoors.

Whether you stay at a local hotel or sleep under the stars, make sure your visit also includes some education at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and the North Head Lighthouse.

When will you visit Cape Disappointment State Park?

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