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Leadbetter Point Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

On Willapa Bay, Bay Loop Trail, Willapa NWR (bobcat)
Footbridge, Martha Jordan Birding Trail, Leadbetter Point State Park (bobcat)
Snowy plover nesting sign, Weather Beach Trail, Willapa NWR (bobcat)
Yellow sand verbena (Abronia latifolia), North Beach (bobcat)
Crabapple tunnel, Bearberry Trail, Willapa NWR (bobcat)
Big-headed sedge (Carex macrocephala), Dune Forest Loop (bobcat)
Stackpole Slough from Stackpole Road, Leadbetter Point State Park (bobcat)
The loop described traced in yellow and orange (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Martha Jordan TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: North Beach
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 7.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 130 feet
  • High Point: 50 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: May – October (most trails); Martha Jordan Birding Trail (all year)
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Sometimes on weekends

Contents

Hike Description

Right at the northern tip of the Long Beach Peninsula, Leadbetter Point State Park and the Leadbetter Point Unit of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge host a network of trails with several loop options. The Peninsula is a magnet for migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway, so the best times to come here for bird watching are spring and fall, also seasons when some of the trails are under water. However, the new Martha Jordan Birding Trail, constructed by the Washington Trails Association and opened in 2017, offers year-round access to the woods of Sherwood Forest and a recently restored wetland, the Hines Marsh. At other times of the year, you have more options for hiking, but you always need to keep out of the foredune areas, which are snowy plover nesting habitat, and dogs are forbidden on all trails year-round.

As stated above, during the wet season (October through April), sections of several trails here can be flooded, occasionally to as much as four feet deep! If you plan on hiking these trails during the wet season, be prepared to get your lower half wet!

Shorter options:

All year:

  • The Bay Loop Trail (1.2 mile loop) and the Martha Jordan Birding Trail (3.6 miles in and out) are generally above water all year.


May to October:

  • Martha Jordan-Dune Forest-Stackpole Road Loop: 3.7 miles
  • Dune Forest Loop: 2.8 miles
  • Dune Forest-Weather Beach-North Beach-Bearberry-Bay Loop: 4.1 miles


Take a gravel trail through a dense coastal thicket of elderberry, willow, salal, slough sedge, and evergreen huckleberry under a canopy of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and red alder. Reach a gravel road, where you need to make a right. This road is an access lane to the privately owned Leadbetter Farms estate, one of the vacation home complexes of wealthy businessman Craig Tillotson. Washington State Parks has jurisdiction to use this road as a right of way. To your left is a large iron gate, guarded on Stackpole Road by two large lions. While everything looks antique, the complex was constructed in the first decade of the 21st century.

Walk west along this straight road. Salal and huckleberry have been manicured so the feeling is like a stroll along an English country lane. Land to the south of the road belongs to Leadbetter Farms, so ignore a gravel road leading left. Look for bear scat on the road: Black bears are commonly sighted on the Long Beach Peninsula. You’ll come to a white pole bearing NSEW direction markers. This is the beginning of a series of mowed trails leading into the thickets of Sherwood Forest, owned by Leadbetter Farms; if you decide to follow these trails, keep yourself oriented at all times as it’s easy to get lost. Otherwise, keep going along the driveway. Soon, you’ll see the dark expanse of Hines marsh to your left. Water lilies dot the surface and dead snags arise from the depths. The marsh, once a popular resting spot for migratory waterbirds, was ditched and drained for agriculture in 1950s and 1960s. Additional marsh acreage outside the state park was purchased and restored by the Trumpeter Swan Society and the Columbia Land Trust, and trumpeter swans returned in 2003. Pass a flood gate on the dike/causeway you are now hiking, and reach the boundary of the Leadbetter Farms property at another wrought iron gate.

To your right, the Martha Jordan Birding Trail crosses a boardwalk and then an impressive railed bridge (Martha Jordan, of the Trumpeter Swan Society, was a driving force behind the Hines Marsh restoration). The trail tread becomes rooty and uneven as you wind through the salal thickets. Switchback up over the crest of an old dune, and hike through a shore pine forest with waxmyrtle, salal, and evergreen huckleberry in the understory. At the Dune Forest-Martha Jordan Birding Trail Junction, bear left.

Note patches of invasive gorse along the trail (These get regularly sprayed), and pass a rusting vehicle chassis. The trail rises on a sandy track into more open shore pine woods to reach the Dune Forest-Weather Beach Trail Junction. Go left here, and hike into a woodland with numerous low-lying sedge bottoms which are all under water in the winter. Pass through a dense thicket of salal and waxmyrtle to reach the open foredune area of beachgrass, sword fern, and stunted spruce and pine. Posts along either side of the path show the boundary of the snowy plover nesting area, which is closed to human travel. To the south, the incongruous Tillotson “Lighthouse”, actually a fancy dwelling constructed around a water tower, reaches up 100 feet above the construction height limit for the area, which is 35 feet.

When you reach North Beach, turn north for half a mile, keeping to the west of the snowy plover line. Brown pelicans flap above the waves, and sanderlings and sandpipers scuttle and feed at the wash line while gulls scavenge off of dead crabs. Find the row of white posts heading inland: This is wildlife refuge’s Bearberry Trail. The inland part of the foredune area has seen some logging to produce better habitat for the plovers. Enter a dense “hobbit” wood with mossy crabapple trees and willow/sedge bottoms. Kinnikinnick (bearberry) forms a carpet in some areas. Reach the sedge/rush littoral of Willapa Bay, and turn south. Silverweed crowds the trail verge, and a wall of spruce and alder rears to your right. Large interpretive signs about saltmarshes and wintering black brant geese mark the Bearberry-Bay Loop Trail Junction.

Keep heading south from here with the waters of Willapa Bay about 80 yards to your left. Soon you’re hiking on a narrow beach along mud flats. To the north you’ll see the northern hook of the peninsula at Grassy Island, while the green Willapa Hills form the skyline to the south. At the south end of the beach, come to the unsigned Dune Forest-Bay Loop Trail East Junction. You can turn inland here to a viewing platform and the nearby Leadbetter Point Trailhead, which has restrooms, or continue on along the bay.

Saltmarsh plants here include arrowgrass, sea plantain, small yellow-flowered jaumea, large yellow-flowered gumweed, pickle weed, and big-headed sedge. Also look for the orange hair–like tendrils of saltmarsh dodder wrapped around the pickle weed. A number of fallen spruce trees block the path here. Look right for a set of oyster shell steps that will take you out to Stackpole Road, or simply head in closer to the forest to find an easy way under and over these fallen conifers. You’ll pick up a definite path again along the edge of the saltmarsh. Cross a refuge maintenance track, and follow the trail as it turns into the forest and uses the track to arrive at the Dune Forest Trailhead on Stackpole Road.

If you’re doing the long loop, you have about 0.7 miles down Stackpole Road to the Martha Jordan Trailhead. Hike facing traffic, and enjoy the taller spruces in this mature woodland. You’ll soon pass over Stackpole Slough, which is the natural outlet for Hines Marsh. A couple of user trails lead out through the thickets to the bay before you reach your vehicle.


Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

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Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington by Susan Elderkin
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades by Joan Burton
  • Washington State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

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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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