Continuing our series on 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Washington, Oregon and California, we’re off on an Oregon hike flush with history and salt air!
“How ‘bout Oregon?” Chris suggests on a Friday evening in June. “We haven’t done the Fort-to-Sea trail in awhile.”
About 13 miles RT, the Fort To Sea Trail winds through the woods south of Fort Clatsop to Sunset Beach on the Pacific Ocean, covering land that once was home to the Clatsop Indians who helped the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition. Fort Clatsop is a unit of the Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Parks.
“What’s the weather forecast?” I inquire, peering outside. A parade of fleecy dark clouds lumbers past the window like flannel gray pachyderms.
“Cloudy with a chance of meatballs” Chris grins. It’s our code for “no sun, but no rain, either. Let’s go!”
We live is southwest Washington, in a Lilliputian little mountain hamlet hugging the coast. The Oregon state line is roughly 90 minutes south. It’s a bit of a drive for a day hike, but not an overwhelming one.
So we fill up our Camelbaks, get our boots, Black Diamond Trailbacks and lunch ready and pack enough trail snacks to choke a camel. Starting from Fort Clatsop in northern Oregon in the broad vicinity of Astoria, Oregon, the Fort-to-Sea trail is a long one – about 13 miles round trip. You do not want to run out of water here.
Fort to Sea Trail near Warrenton, OR is one of our Oregon “old faithfuls”. It’s about 13 miles RT. Yes, it’s kind of a long trail if you do the whole thing, starting at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center out to Sunset Beach and back. But it’s a pretty, scenic hike through rolling countryside dotted with wooded pastures and small lakes and sweeping ridgeline views of the ocean.
Chris and I arrive at the trailhead at around 9:00 a.m. We take our time, winding through the first two miles of deep forest up and over Clatsop Ridge. On a clear day you can see through the trees to the Pacific Ocean from the top of the ridge, which isn’t that steep. Really.
Then we descend through more forest, cross a bridge spanning the Skipannon River, and wind our way under Highway 101 past the oldest Presbyterian Church in continuous existence west of the Rocky Mountains.
Forests fall away as we near the beach. The trail zig-zags through treeless open pastures for a mile or two. We call this portion of the trail The Frying Pan. Note: You do not want to be caught here at mid-day on a hot summer afternoon. We know this and time our hike accordingly.
Some trees and shade reappear closer to the beach. You can hear the ocean breakers and smell the salt air before you see the water.
We plop down on a large piece of driftwood, gulp from our Camelbaks and munch our sandwiches. Sea gulls squabble overhead. Gray chunks of clouds pile up on the horizon like jet-puffed marshmallows. A stiff breeze kicks up from the east.
We roam the beach after lunch, keeping an eye on the weather. Then it’s turn around and head back, usually arriving back at the trail head near dinner time.
It’s been a beautiful, rainless day of enjoying the great outdoors of northern Oregon. We’re pleasantly tired as we amble back to the truck and head north and home.
The Fort to Sea trail is a beautiful hike, well worth the time. Unless you’re the Roadrunner, plan on a full day. Not bad for a “cloudy with a chance of meatballs” forecast. Not bad at all.
- Rating: Moderate
- Distance: 13 miles, round trip
- Elevation Gain: 659 ft.
- Leashed dogs okay
To be continued
Join us next time atop a San Diego landmark!