Blazing a trail to the Ocean (text swiped from the National Parks Service....)
Once the Corps of Discovery built Fort Clatsop, they turned their attention to exploring the land nearby. While hunting and gathering food, making salt and trading with Clatsop, Chinook and Tillamook Indians were all part of the Corps’ mission, members also turned to the important work of documenting the natural world around them.
Some of their travels took them southwest to the area’s bounteous beaches, including what are now Sunset Beach and Seaside. While the Corps forged its way through deep woods, muddy bogs and windswept beaches, a 6.5-mile trail now runs much of the same forest, fields and dunes that the Corps traveled. The Fort To Sea Trail wends its way 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 Corps.
You, too, can explore the forests, travel along the coastal rivers and lakes, and traverse the coastal dunes.
The Fort To Sea Trail starts from the Visitor Center at Fort Clatsop. The first two miles take you up a gentle climb to the top of Clatsop Ridge, where on a clear day you can see through the trees to the Pacific Ocean. From there, you descend through deep woods and reach wooded pasture dotted with small lakes. The wooded pasture leads to the crossing tunnel under U.S. Highway 101 and near Camp Rilea. This stretch of the trail marks the beginning of sandy soil and gentle dunes and leads into beach woods before arriving at the Sunset Beach/Fort to Sea Trail parking lot. From there, travel the 1-mile path to the beach.
While the Fort to Sea Trail is navigable in any weather, please note that rain can make the trail slick in some places and muddy in others. Also, while the abundant wildlife that you might see, such as deer, elk or eagles, or bear, bobcat or beaver, might be shy, the domesticated animals, such as cows, you can encounter in the pastures on the south side of U.S. 101 might not be. Finally, a one-way trip requires pickup at one end of the trail. Shuttles are sometimes available, but a cab or wait car should be arranged.
If you want to trace the corps trails in a shorter amount of time, or simply take in the scenery and get some exercise, you can shorten up the Fort to the Sea Trail trip by making Clatsop Ridge your destination from the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center. This hike is about 4 miles round trip, with a gentle climb up, and nice downhill stretch back.
A more relaxed hike perfect for children or a some quick exercise features a short, ½ mile loop immediately adjacent to the Visitor Center that also starts from the same trailhead.
Yet another short hike is the 1-mile trail that leads from the Sunset Beach/Fort to the Sea Parking lot down to Sunset Beach and up again.
IF YOU GO: To start the trail at Fort Clatsop, From Astoria, head south on U.S. Highway 101 and follow the signs to Fort Clatsop. From Seaside, head north on U.S. 101 and follow the signs. The Fort to Sea Trail starts at the park’s Visitor Center. To start the trail at Sunset Beach, travel to just past Milepost 13 on U.S. 101 and turn onto Sunset Beach Lane. Drive to the Sunset Beach/Fort To Sea Trailhead parking lot. For more Information, call Lewis and Clark National Park, (503) 861-2471. There is no fee to use the trail, but there is a $3 fee per person for the Visitor Center and Fort Clatsop. During the summer season, a shuttle is available between Fort Clatsop and Sunset Beach. Restrooms are available at both ends of the trail.