Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fort to Sea Trail

Every American knows the story of Lewis and Clark.  These famous explorers traveled into the unexplored west in search of a fabled "Northwest Passage."  Although this route was never found, these men did successfully reach the Pacific Ocean.  Their party wintered near what is now the NW Oregon coast, in a place they named "Fort Clatsop."

Lewis and Clark didn't have these nifty boardwalks

Many years later, the National Park Service recreated Fort Clatsop in a place believed to be close to it's original location.  During the snowless winter of 2015, I made a visit to the fort.  While browsing around, I discovered a trail existed that stretched from Ft. Clatsop to the Pacific ocean.  This 6.5-mile "Fort to Sea" Trail attempted to replicate the path Lewis and Clark's men took when traveling to the coast. 

Fort Clatsop replica

I'd always intended to return and hike this trail.  But compared to the Gorge and Cascade Mountains, it looked a little bit boring.  Plus I didn't want to do a round-trip journey of 13 miles. 

Then my blogging buddies Hans and Lisa said they'd be visiting nearby, and was I interested in a hike?

Clatsop Ridge viewpoint

Hans and Lisa live full time in their 5th wheel and travel the country.  You can follow their adventures on Metamorphosis Road.  They'd spent an entire summer journeying up the Oregon Coast, finally landing near Astoria in late August.

Lush coastal forest

A perfect chance to explore the Fort to Sea trail!  Plans were made to meet my friends and leave a vehicle at each end.  This enabled us to do a shuttle so we'd only have to hike the trail in one direction.

Lots of ferns and mossy trees

On the appointed day, I left hot, smoky Portland for the Oregon Coast's cool, cloudy skies.  After weeks of above-90 temperatures, the chilly weather was such a relief.  I met my friends at the Sunset Beach parking lot.  Hans and Lisa piled into my Subaru and we headed towards Fort Clatsop.

Genuine Oregon slugs!

Once at Ft. Clatsop, we did a quick tour of the rebuilt replica of the fort itself, and walked down to the Lewis and Clark river's banks.  But my friends were eager to explore the Fort to Sea Trail, so upon locating it's beginning, off we went!

Halfway point

Lewis and Clark's party made several trips to the Pacific Ocean, in search of salt and to trade with the local tribes.  This trail is thought to cross forest, fields, and dunes similar to those traveled by Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery.

Forest transitioning to brown

However, the first section of trail traversed through this lovely coastal forest on a nice wooden boardwalk.  Hmmm....don't think the Corps of Discovery had that luxury!


My friends and I climbed about a mile and a half through dense woods before reaching Clatsop Point.  At 370 feet, this was the highest point of our trek.  Despite the cloudy skies, we did enjoy sweeping views of the nearby forest and hills.


From our lofty perch, the trail then descended down into a lovely coastal forest, full of lush ferns and huge mossy trees.  I even spotted a bit of wildlife - two huge slugs stuck to a fallen tree!

Our hikers pause to pick berries

Several other trails branched off from the main Fort to Sea path, and Hans, Lisa and I commented it would be fun to explore these on a future trip.  Our trail was wide, evenly graded, and well-signed.  There was even a restroom at the halfway point.  (An amenity I know wasn't around in Lewis and Clark's day!)

Lisa found a ripe one

Soon after, the forest began to transition into pastureland.  My friends and I crossed over a slough via a nice wooden bridge and found a large patch of ripe blackberries on the other side.  Those plump, deep purple berries looked too good to resist!

Hans has a mouth full of berries!

Let the picking begin!  Perfect for a quick snack.

Hwy 101 underpass

After the berry patch, we began hearing traffic noise.  Soon our path dipped under Highway 101 via a sturdy concrete tunnel.  (Of course, there was no traffic in Lewis and Clark's day, except maybe large herds of elk)

Winding through a grassy farmer's field

On the west side of the highway we found golden farmer's fields and a cute country church.

Cute country church

And more rivers and sloughs to cross.  Luckily the parks service had built some nice bridges (poor Lewis and Clark's men would've had to wade through all these water bodies).

Bridge over Skipanon River

In this area, the trail was wedged between farmer's fields, sometimes hemmed in by fences on both sides.  Not exactly a scenic place to hike....

Crossing stiles

And for some reason, we had to pass through a couple wooden stiles that appeared to be located along property lines.  Not sure of their purpose.  Maybe to keep cattle out?

Narrow trail between fields

Lovely arched bridge over slough area

But luckily, the flat barren field areas were relatively short, and before I knew it we came upon a lovely arched bridge spanning another slough.  This was my favorite bridge of the entire trail.


The slough below had a large patch of lilypads floating in it's water.

Hans strikes a hikers pose

Passing by a couple of tiny lakes, I noticed the forest was beginning to thin, and the soil was looking a bit more sandy.

The trees begin to thin

Then we passed by the parking area for Sunset Beach, and Hans and Lisa's truck.  Not much farther now!

Almost there!

The final leg of our journey was a short trek through tall beachgrass.  We could hear the roar of the waves, and Lisa spotted a couple of kites floating in the sky.

The mighty Pacific

Ocean in sight!  I wonder if this was the same view that greeted Lewis and Clark upon their arrival?

Waving beach grass and dreamy blue hills

Although I hadn't expected much, I came away mightily impressed with the Fort to Sea Trail.  It passed through an amazing coastal forest, over beautiful sloughs and creeks, and ended at a scenic, windswept beach.  Although an easy trek for us modern adventurers, it made me appreciate the difficulties Lewis and Clark's party endured just to obtain basic supplies.

Great to reconnect with blogging buddies while trekking a historic trail.  Now on to Astoria for an after-hike brew at one of their wonderful pubs!  (Sorry Lewis and Clark, you were 210 years too early)


  1. Enjoyed seeing the fort to sea trail. Your hiking friends look like fun people.
    Great post, Linda!
    Lewis and Clark must've had it rough, especially those winter months. Their adventure has always intrigued me.

  2. Que maravilha, um trilho de grande beleza e ainda deu para comer frutos silvestres.
    Um abraço e continuação de uma boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  3. Nice to walk in the lowlands sometimes, though I always have some reservations about these trails that purportedly follow in the footsteps of historical figures when nobody knows where they really went.

  4. Something a bit different to your usual hikes :)

  5. ...I visited Fort Clatsop perhaps 25 years ago and spent a week in the hospital in Astoria. The food was very good! That last shot is magic.

  6. always love scoring some fresh berries along the trail...

  7. Hello, ti is neat to follow the trail named after the famous explorers Lewis and Clark. The trail looks nice and easy too, I like the forest and farmer's field. I have seen trail with the entrance fences set up where the cattle can not escape. The bridges and waterlilies are beautiful. The berries look delicious. I love the view of the grasses and ocean, just lovely. Beautiful photos and hike. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  8. Thanks for this great post Linda - this hike is a bucket list trail for me.

  9. It was great hiking with you on this scenic and easy trail.

  10. This trail really did have a lot of variety, we enjoyed sharing it with you! Great photos! Looking forward to future hikes with you...who knows where they might be!

  11. Linda, your first photo set the pace for a brilliant and gorgeous series! I love that you share your journeys...thank you!

  12. What a great trek! Start in the forest, traverse some fields, and end at the ocean. Fabulous photos!

  13. Liked the variety on this trail. Arriving at the ocean would be a huge bonus.

  14. That is a really nice walk. Those slugs are quite interesting. I've never seen anything like that before.

  15. What a great trail to hike, such variety.

  16. That looks an interesting trail. Ripe brambles probably means your into mid autumn there as well?

  17. Interesting bit of history there. Nice to see Hans and Lisa. Though that log cabin does look rather modern.

  18. So different from your usual, but beautifully captured as always. I just love the dreamy beach scenes.

  19. Now this would be my kind of a hike. - Such a nice trail and so many lovely photos. I enjoyed this hike with you and your friends very much.

  20. I love "historical" hikes such as these that follow in a the footsteps of past historical figures! It is always a marvel how they were able to traverse so much land without all the conveniences we have today such as bridges, etc. I'm sure L&C had Native American guides. Most of the roads and mountain passes in Colorado follow Native American trails that were used by foot for hundreds of years. Your area is so different with lush forests and salt lovely!

  21. Oh I really liked your hike - it would be so different from where I am - and the blackberries - what a great snack!


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