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Clatsop Spit Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Closed Hike. Some or all of this hike has been closed by a governing body and hikers may be liable for fines or even arrest. At least part of this route may be dangerous and hard to follow, or it may cross areas with sensitive plant life or wildlife habitat. Trailkeepers of Oregon does not endorse or recommend hiking this route. When restrictions are lifted, this notice will be removed.
Driftwood, Jetty Lagoon (bobcat)
Elk with trestle and South Jetty (bobcat)
Canada geese and Cape Disappointment (bobcat)
Pelicans flying over the mouth of the Columbia (bobcat)
Map of Clatsop Spit (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Clatsop Spit TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: South Jetty
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 10 feet
  • High point: 10 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No, except around parking areas


Hike Description

NOTICE: Most of the Clatsop Spit area will be closed for several years as crews work on shoring up the jetty. You can only walk as far as the wildlife viewing blind from Parking Lot D.

This hike along a beach is a very pleasant walk in good weather, not only for the vistas of river and ocean, but also the congregations of wildlife. Vast flocks of brown pelicans, Caspian terns, and double-crested cormorants congregate at the "bottleneck" that is the mouth of the Columbia to feed off of salmon smolts. In the flat sedge lands and thickets, look for elk and enjoy the views to Cape Disappointment and large freighters making their way to Portland.

When Lewis and Clark camped near here, the southern end of the mouth of the Columbia was at Point Adams, where the town of Hammond is now located - a few miles to the east. The area of this walk was in their time a mere shoal, completely submerged at the height of the tide. Since then, the construction of the South Jetty and the Columbia River dam system, as well as the dredging of a shipping channel, have conspired to thrust the coastline farther into the Pacific Ocean.

In geological terms, Clatsop Spit is in fact the entire sandy plain that extends north from Tillamook Head to the river mouth, the result of sediment deposits by the river itself since the last ice age. The dynamic ebb and flow of what was essentially a sand “desert” has been altered by trapping of sediments behind the dams, the building of the river mouth jetties, and the planting of dune grass, which has stabilized the landscape and allowed colonization by shore pine, Sitka spruce, willow, and wax-myrtle.

The spit lies wholly within Fort Stevens State Park. Begin the hike at Parking Lot D and walk to the wildlife viewing blind overlooking the tidal flats of Jetty Lagoon, also called Trestle Bay. The 6 ½ mile South Jetty stretches from Point Adams across the lagoon and is accompanied by the ruins of a wooden trestle, which carried the trains used in the jetty’s construction. Elk are often seen in the grasslands that verge on the lagoon and take shelter in the spit’s thickets. The world’s largest colony of Caspian terns breeds at the mouth of the Columbia; these and thousands of cormorants are major predators of salmon smolts as they enter the ocean. The birds have found a very comfortable, predator-free refuge on East Sand, a natural island augmented by spoilings from the dredging efforts in the shipping channel.

Walk counterclockwise from the flats on the lagoon along a wide beach. Cars are allowed here, but need to heed the tides. The spruce/shore pine thickets long this stretch are being eroded by the shifting dynamics of the river. There are views across the Columbia to Cape Disappointment and North Head and back to the city of Astoria and the Megler Bridge.

During the summer, many of the the 8,000 or so brown pelicans at the mouth of the Columbia will be stationed on sand bars near the South Jetty or winging their way over the waves. You may spot both seals and sea lions in the river. When you reach the jetty where it projects into the ocean, turn south to walk past Parking Lot C and a viewing platform. Then keep walking down the road. Complete the loop by turning left at the next road junction, marked “Columbia River” and head back to Lot D.

A non-loop option, slightly longer, would be to return from the jetty the way you came and back to Parking Lot D.

NOTE: Clatsop Spit is a Western Snowy Plover Management Area. Between March 15th and September 15th keep to the wet sand on the river side beach. Dogs must be on leash. See Western Snowy Plover and the Oregon Coast (Oregon Parks & Recreation).


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Snowy plover restrictions apply 3/15 to 9/15. Keep to the wet sand on the river side beach. Dogs must be on leash.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and the Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein and Andrew Jackman
  • The Oregon Coast Trail Guide by Jon Kenneke (eBook)
  • A Hiker's Guide to the Oregon Coast Trail by David E.M. Bucy & Mary C. McCauley
  • Oregon Beaches: A Traveler's Companion by John Shewey
  • Oregon's Best Coastal Beaches by Dick Trout
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.