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Kwis Kwis Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Wetland boardwalk, Kwis Kwis Trail, Lewis & Clark National Historical Park (bobcat)
Pond in a clay pit, Clay Pit Trail (bobcat)
The Skipanon River, Fort to Sea Trail (bobcat)
Big Sitka spruce on the Fort to Sea Trail (bobcat)
The Kwis Kwis Loop outlined in red. Courtesy: National Park Service
  • Start point: Fort Clatsop TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Skipanon River Footbridge
  • Hike type: Two loops
  • Distance: 7.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1265 feet
  • High point: 370 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, in short sections
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

In 2014, trail crews worked on a 1.5 mile extension to complete a parallel route to Fort Clatsop’s Fort to Sea Trail. The entire Kwis Kwis Trail, now 3.65 miles long, takes an undulating course as it winds around the secondary forest in the northern section of the Fort Clatsop unit of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and it offers an alternative route for part of the way if you are doing the Fort to Sea Hike as an in and out excursion. It can also form a trip in itself if combined with the Fort to Sea Trail for a shady loop that includes a few old-growth trees, extensive wetlands, and a viewpoint. The trails are well-signed, and large maps are posted at most junctions. As for the name, ‘Kwis kwis’ is the Native American rendition of the initial repetitive ‘chip-chip’ of a chipmunk’s alarm call.

Go into the Visitor Center to pay your entrance fee, which is good for seven days. Then walk back across the parking area to a hiker/picnic table sign. Keep right to walk through a picnic area, and reach a four-way junction. Take the middle trail, the Clay Pit Trail. This narrow, undulating, rooty trail takes you through a dark Sitka spruce/western hemlock wood of ponds and ditches that were dug out to supply low-grade clay for making bricks in the first half of the 20th century. Dense thickets of salmonberry and drooping slopes of sword fern and deer fern add to the lush ambience. Take a steep stepped trail up, and wind through younger forest to reach the junction with the Fort to Sea Trail. Go right here, and cross Fort Clatsop Road to follow a gravel tread through thickets of salal and a wounded woodland of conifers snapped off during the Great Coastal Gale of December 2007. Foxglove and elderberry thrive in the sunny spots. Cross a footbridge, and then make a right at the Fort to Sea-Kwis Kwis Trail East Junction.

Switchback down to cross a footbridge over a creek, and then cross a second small gully. Continue above a creek under a canopy of spruce and hemlock. The trail rises and switchbacks over a crest to cross a natural gas pipeline corridor. Descend to switchback above the head of a ravine to pass several sprawling, mossy big-leaf maples. Follow an old logging road along a ridge crest to recross the pipeline corridor. Gradually descend past the Kwis Kwis-Kwis Kwis Connector Trail Junction, and head up a creek gully. Cross a footbridge, and wind up a slope before switchbacking three times to cross a closed section of Perkins Road (The Fort to Sea Trail reaches Perkins Road only 70 yards to your left, so you could loop back to Fort Clatsop from here.).

You’re now on the new extension to the Kwis Kwis Trail. Traverse down to switchback four times under a hemlock canopy. Reach a skunk-cabbage bottom, and then hike up another creek. Cross a couple of footbridges, and undulate above an alder-shaded sedge wetland, a tributary of the Skipanon River. Walk an extensive boardwalk past an open pond with its resident population of mallards. Then continue above this tributary to turn up a gully and join a wide road bed. Drop to cross Skipanon Road, and pass massive cedar stumps in a dense young wood to reach the Fort to Sea-Kwis Kwis Trail West Junction.

A brief diversion of about 350 yards takes you west to the open pasturelands along the Skipanon River and a footbridge. Highway 101 is not far away, so return to the junction, and keep right on the Fort to Sea Trail. Ascend a slope, keeping close to a fenced pasture, to reach a vault toilet at the end of Skipanon Road (Mountain bikers are permitted to use the road.). Walk to the right, and cross a salmonberry/skunk-cabbage wetland on a boardwalk. Undulate along above the creek, the same tributary that you followed on the Kwis Kwis Trail. Cross a skunk-cabbage bog, and hike above the large pond and wetland you visited on the outward journey; you should be able to see the Kwis Kwis boardwalk on the north side of the pond. Douglas-firs join the spruce/hemlock mix here. Cross a creek, and switchback up to make a slope traverse on a gravel tread. Four more switchbacks take you up through salal thickets to the Clatsop Ridge Overlook. A viewpoint and picnic table extend a vista towards the Clatsop Plains, the Fort Rilea Miltary Reservation, and the Pacific Ocean, 2 ¾ miles away.

From a kiosk detailing the wildlife of the area, keep left to follow a gravel road down to its junction with Perkins Road (The Kwis Kwis Trail is 70 yards to your left from here.). Stay right at the junction and walk down the salmonberry-lined road, passing through a stand of red alder and then a hemlock forest. Stay left at the Fort to Sea-Slough to Sea Trail Junction, and continue a short distance in an area affected by the 2007 Great Coastal Gale to reach the Fort to Sea-Kwis Kwis Connector Trail Junction. Keep on Perkins Road, pass a bench pullout, and enter a more sheltered forest with some large Sitka spruce. The Fort to Sea Trail turns off the road opposite the South Slough Trail and just before the South Clatsop Slough Trailhead.

Follow the trail through more forest damaged by the 2007 storm, and turn right at the Fort to Sea-Kwis Kwis Trail East Junction to cross Fort Clatsop Road. Make a right at the junction with the Clay Pit Trail to return to the Fort Clatsop Trailhead.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $10.00 entrance fee for adults 16 and over at Fort Clatsop, or America the Beautiful Pass
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, visitor center, interpretive signs
  • Dogs on leash
  • Fort Clatsop open 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., late June – Labor Day; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Labor Day – late June; closed Christmas Day

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • 100 Hikes: Oregon Coast by William L. Sullivan

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.

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