Discovery Trail (WA)


23 Reviews

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Discovery Trail (WA) Facts

States: Washington
Counties: Pacific
Length: 8.3 miles
Trail end points: 26th St NW, just west of Sea Crest Ave (Long Beach) and Main St SW & 2nd Ave SW/SR 100 (Ilwaco)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 6818339

Discovery Trail (WA) Description

The Discovery Trail is one of the most scenic in the Pacific Northwest with outstanding views of the ocean, grassy dunes and forest groves. As it's named for Lewis and Clark’s explorative trek here more than 200 years ago, you'll find several bronze sculptures along the path that commemorate the expedition. But the trail offers a collection of other impressive public art as well that adds to the trail's natural beauty. You may also be lucky enough to see deer, bald eagles, shorebirds and other wildlife on your journey.

From the trail's northern terminus in Long Beach, you'll travel south along the coast, at one point paralleling the city's extensive wooden boardwalk from Bolstad Street to Sid Snyder Drive. Continue along through the quaint town of Seaview; when the trail approaches N. Head Road, it forks. Head northeast at the fork and the trail becomes forested, soon turning almost due east and ending at the historical fishing village of Ilwaco.

Head south at the fork to enter Cape Disappointment and enjoy the state park’s beaches, hiking trails and two lighthouses (both more than 100 years old). The ocean overlook at Beard's Hollow is especially worth a look. You can also learn about the history of the area at the park's Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Parking and Trail Access

From Pacific Highway/State Route 103 in Long Beach, turn west onto 10th Street S./Sid Snyder Drive and continue 0.2 miles to the beach parking lot. You can also find a large beach parking lot at the end of Bolstad Street. In Cape Disappointment State Park, you can park at the lot at Beard's Hollow.

Discovery Trail (WA) Reviews

beautiful trail

This was a very nice trail to ride with my 7 year old! It was a clean, family friendly and beautiful scene of the beach!

A Lovely 8.5 Mile Ride to the Lighthouse and a Stellar Lookout

I love this trail. It is well-paved and meanders through headlands from town to town on the way to the North Head lighthouse. Along the way, you can see eagles, seabirds, and incredible kites. The view from the lighthouse is beautiful and worth the ride up the hill. Also, the view from the lookout is well worth the ride.

Discovery Trail

I was amazed at how much I enjoyed this trail and the areas around the trail from riding through the headlands to the incredible kites to the small towns just off the path to the lighthouse. I loved it and look forward to the next time.

Nice Trail

Second time riding this trail. Don’t know how we did it 2 years ago without e-bikes! Started at north end and rode south. Lots of hills and curves - use caution as you can’t see far ahead. Wanted to go to Ilwaco, but was not able to determine where the cut-off is to go there. Assumed trail was paved all the way there, but only found a narrow gravel trail from a parking lot - map at that location did NOT have a “you are here” tag, so we didn’t know where we were.


Best Trail Ever

What a wonderful ride. Started up a steep hill from Ilwaco but beautiful forest and paved path! Crossing 101 was a steep downhill on a dirt path, but easy to navigate. Next Parking area pathetic returned to paved, fairly flat and headed to the ocean. Beautiful easy ride from here. Lots of restrooms. Path in great condition! Coming back we went to Discovery park and saw the lighthouse. From her ewe to the main road down to the campground and then back to the town of Ilwaco.

Enjoyed this ride as a family. Such a fun variety of terrain...grassy sand dunes to forest. Multiple beach access points. The climb to the light house is quite steep, but very worthwhile.

Enjoyed this ride as a family. Such a fun variety of terrain...grassy sand dunes to forest. Multiple beach access points. The climb to the light house is quite steep, but very worthwhile.

Great for fitness walking

Due to the generous width of this multi-use trail it’s suitable for fitness walking with its smooth consistent asphalt surface.
Be alert to bicycles approaching from behind - as in most locales bicyclists typically don’t provide an audible warning before passing. Thanks to those of you who do.
While signs at major trail access points state that motorized vehicles are prohibited I regularly encounter motorized bicycles on the trail, an unpleasant trend.

Great trail!

Did this as a couple (mid 60s) in mid-March. The weather was cool (upper 40s) but with lots of sunshine. Pretty chilly in the forested section but comfortable in the sun. Trail is well marked, well maintained and relatively easy. The section from Beard's Hollow up to the lighthouse could be challenging - however, we have electric assist bikes so it proved to be no problem even going up the hill. Don't let it intimidate you - just shift to a low gear and go slow. It's worth the climb! Great views of the lighthouse and the ocean below. Highly recommend this trip.

Such a beautiful trail

Loved it!

Clean and smooth ride

Great ride along the coast. I very much enjoy this trail and recommend it.

3 Star due to Trail near Ilwaco

We started the discovery trail from Ilwaco - riding bikes (ordinary bikes not mountain bikes or racing bikes). The trail is very curvy with up and down hills that make for dangerous turns... too sharp. Also, the trail was tediously difficult uphill - we could not ride uphill - you have to walk it (by the way - please do not do this at night)! We went in the AM and were very glad it was not dusk... we had to walk uphill panting - and worried about cougars. You are alone in the wilderness area with no chance of good cell coverage... walking up a mountain side. When you do reach the road - there's an overlook that is very nice - however, things are not marked well and we were not sure (we heard the trail goes down to the beach through the woods again... but, we opted to take the road into town and catch the beach trail from there). Will say the beach trail is very nicely done and more manageable - the Ilwaco length is treachery. Be careful.


This easy, twisting, smooth, well-maintained asphalt trail meanders through wavy, grass covered sand dunes along the longest, flattest beach in the United States. To say this ride is beautiful is an understatement. The views are awesome, and the art, historical markers, and other information along the trail greatly enhance the enjoyment.
We traveled all the way from SoCal to experience this and to check off another state in our quest to bike all fifty, so we have especially fond memories of our September 2013 morning on the Discovery Trail. To make a day of it, consider visiting the nearby lighthouses and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center!

Discovery Trail

This is a nice scenic beach trail to ride. It is very well kept and maintained.

Awesome though the dunes but watch out going to Ilwaco

Beautiful morning ride. We started at 26th N. The farthest point north. The hotel there provides complimentary parking. Spectacular baby rollercoaster ride for 6.35 miles to Beard's Hollow. Got a little confusing there because the trail was gravel and steep after the bridge. We went back and found the trail to the lighthouse. Very Nice. Got directions from the park volunteer. We went back to the road, turned right up the hill and found the asphalt trail to Ilwaco. It was wet and slippery from fallen leaves. Control your decent carefully! My wife fell hard on the wooden bridge just before the end near Ilwaco. The bridge has "SLIPPERY WHEN WET" sign. IT IS!!! We walked the bridge on the way back. The next day we rode the dunes section again because it's absolutely gorgeous and not crowded on Monday.

To and from Ilwaco

This is a great forested section of trail that is beautiful and fun! As noted in other posts, it includes some ups and downs, and it is definitely worth checking out. during the summer, consider combining your walk/hike with a visit to the Saturday farmer's market at the Ilwaco waterfront, where the trailhead is located.

Do not go all the way to Ilwaco

When the Trail turns to Ilwaco it is not paved and very steep, up and down and up and down. The rest of free trail was beautiful and fun.

Do not go all the way to Ilwaco

When the Trail turns to Ilwaco it is not paved and very steep, up and down and up and down. The rest of free trail was beautiful and fun.

Biking with Young Kids

We had a great time on this trail. My husband and I camped at a nearby campground for the weekend with our 2.5 and 4 year old. My four year old had a bike trailer (the tandem kind) connected to mine, and she loved it. It was her first time using it, and she did a great job. This trail was really easy to do this. My husband pulled a bike trailer with my 2 year old inside. When my daughter did get tired, she hopped in and took a nap. We started at the end in Long Beach and rode to Beard's Hollow. At that point, we had to walk the bikes to the top of the hill (maybe 1/2 to 1/4 mile) because it was too steep for us. We explored the grounds of the Northern Light House, and stopped there to eat out picnic food. We did not venture into Ilwaca as that trail seemed quite steep. The ride back to the starting point was great. I would recommend this trail for families. Very beautiful ride!

Best beach area ride

Been several times. Weather can be unpredictable.

Wonderful ride. Beach grass, sand, trees, art, cliffs, bathrooms and ice cream at the north end.
What's not to like?

For full and accurate review, read Trail Bear.

Surf, grasses, coastal trees, and Bald Eagles

200 yards from our Thousad Trails campsite the trail takes us North through undulating sand with flowing grass hair. The path curls into the sand pines then faces toward the breaking surf. Many places to go down to the Pacific Ocean. Northward the path, always winding, takes you through Beards Hollow climbing up to the North Head Cliffs and light house. Seaview and Long Beach WA and environs are full if good eating and fun things to do like razor clamming.

Smell the Roses

Beautiful day for February. The sun was out, very little wind and the trail was not crowded. We started out at 10AM on mountain bikes from The Breakers motel located at the northern terminus of the trail. Smooth black top on gentle rolling sand dunes made for a pleasant, leisurely day. Most of the trail is behind the dunes so the ocean can always be heard but only seen in a few open spots as you head south towards the landmark point easily seen looming about six miles away. We made it to the graveled hillside that drops into the the town of Ilwaco. On the way back we decided to take the bikes onto the beach for several miles and then pop back onto the trail. There are plenty of paths leading to the beach from the paved trail. I cant think of a better way to spend a day with the ocean breeze on one side and the sea of dune grass on the other side. Plenty of places to stop and sit on convenient benches. This would be a great place to take the kids. The trail is so undemanding and easy, anyone do it round trip in about three hours. Four hours if you smell the roses along the way.

Great trail

Nice, smooth ride. Meandering through the dunes with peeks at the ocean. Up and downs but easy with momentum. We only did about 6 miles (round trip) looking forward to going back and doing the whole thing.


Long Beach, WA June 5, 2012

If you are out on the coast where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, give this trail a ride. You’ll like it. What is not to like? It has views, public art at intervals, benches, restrooms, water, parking, smooth blacktop, a trail that twists and turns and rises and falls as it traverses the dunes to Beard’s Hollow – a wetland that was former ocean. (How did that happen?). If you want more, you can climb over the spine of Cape Disappointment and down to the little fishing town of Illawaco.


The Trail: One lane blacktop, un-striped. Good quality and smooth. No cracks seen. It goes over the dunes, rising and falling with them. Some of the inclines are over ten percent, but short. Lots of curves for interesting riding. Blind curves for even more interesting riding. Use your horn.

There are restrooms at Beard’s Hollow, 38th Place, 10th St. (built into the dune), and Bolstad St. (along with a large overflow parking lot.)

There are six trailheads on spur roads into the dunes along the beach section, plus a trailhead at Beard’s Hollow and parking over in Illawaco. Bolstad St. is the biggest one with lots of parking and full facilities. On a sunny summer’s day (and we have several each season in the NorthWet), there may be competition for space here.


With a storm moving on shore, I had one eye on the clouds riding the brisk wind up from the south and the rain showers offshore and one on the trail. There is nothing quite like having the skies open when you are at the far end of a trail. This is more fun on a recumbent trike. On a trike you have a lap that gathers water and have to bail it out.

The central theme of this trail is dune grass: Miles of dune grass; a sea of dune grass. As you rise and fall, it’s like sailing on a sea of grass. The ocean is behind the first dune, but the roar of the surf rides with you. This is not an ocean ride. You are on the deflation plain behind the first dune. You see miles of grass. The ocean is mainly seen at the trailheads where the roads punch through the dunes.

BOLSTAD TRAILHEAD, GE: 46.350643 -124.059975

Bolstad St. was the trailhead of choice. There are direction signs out on the main drag to point the way. This is the main trailhead on the dunes section. Starting here I could ride the majority of the dunes and get up to Beard Hollow on the south end. Scamper back and – weather permitting – do the north end of the dunes. For the walkers, there are options: Trail walking, beach walking or a nice timber boardwalk south to the next trailhead at 10th St. For drivers – try the beach. We saw cars driving along out there.

The first challenge at Bolstad is getting onto the trail. There is a short and steep ramp up. Give it a try, back down, round the parking lot, shift into granny low (12 GI) and go for it at speed. Up and over. (Remember, trikers cannot stand on the pedals. Up, down or sideways, its pedal or push.).

The first trailside exhibit is at the south end of the boardwalk: a grey whale skeleton. 10th St. S has something seldom seen – a restroom dug into the dunes. Earth sheltered and all that. Just below 10th is a fine set of wooden dolphins on display.

Once south of the dirt road and stream crossing at 30th St., you begin to enter the woods on the deflation plain. The rocky bulk of Cape Disappointment looms up ahead. The woods here are a part time swamp. Ahead is …

O’DONELL ISLAND and BEARD’S HOLLOW, GE: 46.305986 -124.069362…

Twist and turn through the pines and suddenly the trail enters a cleft with a rocky cliff to the left and the bulk of the cape to the right. Herein a story: The sea used to break on the rocks you are pedaling by. That cliff is one side of O’Donell Island. Behind it is Beard Hollow, now a full time pocket of swamp but Back The it was an inlet of the ocean.

What happened? About a century ago they built the jetty and the migration of sand was stopped. Dunes formed. The inlet was cut off from the sea. A swamp formed. It was named Beard’s Hollow after the late Capt. Beard, wrecked upon this coast. His body was found in the inlet before the dunes formed.
At the top of the swamp is a trailhead with parking and a vault toilet. This is state park land so they want a Discovery Pass ($10/day) showing or plan to fine you. Here is the end of the dune ride and a logical turn around point.

If you take the bridge overlooking the swamp, you climb up almost to the Beard’s Hollow overlook. Another paved section of the Discovery is waiting across the road there to take you over the hills to Illawaco. This is a steep and twisty bit. Your choice.

I turned around here. Time to try the sea of grass with the wind behind. It’s more fun that way. Speed went up from 8 mph to 12, 14, 15 mph. Back to Bolstad and pack up the trike ahead of the rain.

Ride on!

Keeping his fur dry.

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