Embark on a learning adventure where the Corps of Discovery spent 18 harrowing days while realizing Jefferson’s cross-continent quest to reach the Pacific Ocean. See landscapes little changed in 200 years and others altered by human development. Visit key Lewis and Clark sites that commemorate and teach this important U.S. history. Edutourism at its best!
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
DAY – 1
Crossover the Columbia River from Washington to Oregon in Longview/Kelso on the Lewis & Clark Bridge. Cross back over to Washington on the Astoria Megler Bridge and turn left (west) off the bridge toward key sites of the bi-state Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Park.
Middle Village – Station Camp, the site of an important Chinook trade village and the end of The Corps voyage west. The Corps spent 10 days here before crossing the river and building winter quarters. Captain Clark departed from here on foot with nine others to explore the headlands, coastline, and Pacific Ocean beach — present-day Long Beach.
DAY – 2
Spectacularly scenic, Cape Disappointment State Park, in Ilwaco, is home to several key sites as well as an interpretive center dedicated to the 18 days the Lewis and Clark party spent in Pacific County. While here walk through coastal rainforests and visit the North Head lighthouse, one of two historic lights helping mariners navigate the treacherous waters a the mouth of the Columbia River.
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center (check for hours of operation) provides an excellent view of the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’ from its perch on the Cape Disappointment headlands. Inside, find hands-on learning opportunities and highlights of Lewis & Clark’s voyage west. Near the center and elsewhere in the park see bunkers and other remnants of Fort Canby, a coastal fort built during the Civil War.
Take a short hike on the McKenzie Head trail in Cape Disappointment State Park up this rounded hill. This marks the furthest point of land west traveled by Captain Clark and his party. They camped here on Nov. 18, 1805, before their famed walk up the beach to a spot now marked by Clark’s Tree.
DAY – 3
Discovery Trail starts at the Port of Ilwaco running parallel to the 800-slip marina before heading to the base of the headlands where the climb begins. All but one steep section is paved. Bike the entire 8.5 miles out and back or take it in sections over multiple days.
A bronze sculpture of a California condor marks the start of the Discovery Trail. Etched on it, read a befitting entry from Clark’s journal: “a Buzzard of the Large Kind.” While at The Port, watch fishing boats unload their catch, browse shops and galleries and sit down for a meal of freshly caught seafood. From the Port of Ilwaco, trek up and over headlands to Beard’s Hollow and back.
Watch for birds from the boardwalk overlooking the wetlands then follow the trail toward the ocean and take a walk on the beach. From there, either walk or bike the trail up to Seaview or Long Beach and back or explore another section starting at the whale sculpture at the Sid Snyder Drive beach approach.
Head out to the dunes to see a sculpture of a gray whale marking the approximate spot where William Clark noted the carcass of a whale in his journal. Look for whale bones, the last remains of a gray whale skeleton rearticulated during the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commemoration. Follow the trail or the ½-mile-long Long Beach boardwalk north to a bronze sculpture of Clark’s Tree with a statue of Clark, a bronze sturgeon, and an engraved columnar basalt monolith worth exploring along the way. For a shorter walk, park at the public lot with paved access to the northern terminus of Discovery Trail to the south of The Breakers Resort, 210 26th St NW, Long Beach, WA 98631
DAY – 4
Take an early morning walk on a vast stretch of silver sand. Touted as the ‘World’s Longest Beach,’ Long Beach stretches for 28 miles from the tip of Leadbetter Point to Cape Disappointment and is the longest beach on the West Coast.
Lewis & Clark Plaza is located on the festive main street with a statue depicting Lewis and Clark as its centerpiece. Make time to play in the colorful downtown arcades, go-karts, shops, and great places to buy a bowl of chowder, bbq, and more.