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Complete Guide to Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment State Park, previously known as Fort Canby State Park, is a gorgeous 2,023-acre park alongside the Pacific Ocean in Washington State. It's popular throughout the year for its surfing, hiking, and camping.

You can explore the seaside, saltwater marshes, freshwater lakes, old-growth forests, ocean tidelands, and more.

Nearby you'll be able to explore historic forts, lighthouses, and multiple state parks. This includes Leadbetter Point State Park about 30 minutes from Cape Disappointment. and Clark National Historical Park are also down the road. Make sure to appreciate the incredible history of the area as well, with the nearby Clark Expedition trails.

Washington's Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment is a historic Washington state park known for its lighthouses and gorgeous coastline.

Fast Facts about Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment State Park Fast Facts

Cape Disappointment At Night
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

What to Do at Cape Disappointment State Park

Some of the best things to do in the park include:

  • Hiking

  • Surfing at Waikiki Beach

  • Tidepooling

  • Swimming

  • Boating

  • Horseback riding in Long Beach

  • Crabbing

  • Bird watching

  • Exploring the North Head Lighthouse and Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

  • Spending time on the beach

  • Visiting Dead Man's Cove

  • Visiting Fort Canby

  • Clam digging at Benson Beach on the North Jetty

  • Exploring the nearby towns Astoria, Seaside, and more.

Dead Man's Cove
Dead Man's Cove

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is a 53' tall lighthouse located in the state park near the Columbia River. It's one of the most popular tourist attractions in the park, and for a good reason!

The lighthouse marked the beginning of the Columbia River and came into operation in October 1856 in an effort to stop ships from running aground on the Pacific shore.

After an array of problems, including the wrong-sized lens, it was discovered that the lighthouse wasn't visible from the North. So, a second lighthouse North Head Lighthouse was commissioned and installed. The latter is still used for navigation today, but it has been electrified.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse on a sunny day

Can You Go into the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse?

Yes, you can visit the lighthouse and climb the tower from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May through September.

Cape Disappointment Sunset
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse at sunset

Weather at Cape Disappointment State Park

The best time to visit Cape Disappointment State Park is in the summer and fall.

  • In the summer, the temperature averages around highs in the mid-60s and lows in the mid-50s.

  • In the winter, the temperate averages around highs in the 40s and lows in the mid-30s.

Cape Disappointment Shoreline
The impressive Cape Disappointment shoreline

Did you know? Cape Disappoint takes its name from Captain John Meares who, in 1778, couldn't find the mouth of the Columbia River
A view of Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
A view of Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

3 Best Cape Disappointment State Park Trails

There are a number of truly wonderful trails near and in the state park. If the three below don't suit you, also check out the Discovery Trail, a long, fairly easy path along the coastline.

1. North Head Trail

A popular, relatively easy trail with views of historic properties, a lighthouse, and Pacific Northwest forests.


Elevation Gain

Time Required


6.8 miles

1,170 feet

3 hours


This area of the state park is quite popular. But, on non-peak days you can expect to find some solitude. You may also encounter some great birding opportunities, some overgrown sections, mud, and frogs!

Trailhead Coordinates: 46.31043923447291, -124.06507361822887

Cape Disappointment View
A view along the Cape Disappointment shoreline

2. Cape Disappointment Trail

A short, 2-mile trail that is dog friendly with beautiful views of Cape Disappointment!


Elevation Gain

Time Required


2 miles

400 feet

1 hour


Make sure to get to the trailhead early as this is one of the most popular hikes in the park. It also allows you the option to stop off and visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, an old military installation, the spectacular Pacific Northwest forest, and more!

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse Close Up
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse at the end of the trail

Trailhead Coordinates: 46.298638516699306, -124.05768578792348

3. Bells View Overlook Trail

A very short and very easy hike with a great payoff!


Elevation Gain

Time Required


0.5 miles

30 ft

10 minutes


The trail takes you up to Bells View Overlook, where you can expect spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean on a clear or cloudy day. Watch the waves come in on the nearby beaches, and keep an eye peeled for whales!

Trailhead Coordinates: 46.30138862841876, -124.07238346440958

Cape Disappointment
Cape Disappointment at sunset

Cape Disappointment Trail Map

Explore a few of the best trails in the park below!

Cape Disappointment State Park Lodging

You have several options for camping in Cape Disappointment State Park. Depending on the kind of visit you want to have, you may choose to stay in one of the standard campsites, stay in a hotel, or a cabin.

There are also some great camping options near Long Beach.

Cape Disappointment State Park Campsite

Cape Disappointment Blue Sky

The main Cape Disappointment campsite offers 137 campsites and 50 full RV hook-ups! It also features 18 sites where visitors can find full water and electricity.

Some of the park's sites are also hiking and sites where campers arrive on a first-come-first-serve basis.


  • 14 showers

  • 8 restrooms

  • 1 dump station

Cabins and Yurts

If you don't want to stay in a tent or hotel, the park also offers cabins and yurts to rent! There are 3 cabins and 14 yurts available within the park. There are also 2 vacation houses owned by the park you might be interested in.

The yurts are within walking distance from the beach and sleep three. There is a heater, picnic table, fire pit, and more! Despite the included heater, you should make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes as they can get cold at night! Each yurt can hold up to 5 people! They cost between $64 and $74 a night, depending on the time of year.

The cabins are 13x13' and can accommodate 6 people in each. They include a porch, electric outlets, heat, a fire pit, lights, a picnic table, and more! There are nearby restrooms and showers as well. Plus, three of the cabins are pet friendly (but you'll have to pay a fee).

Cape Disappointment At Night
Cape Disappointment at Night

There are many other campgrounds near Cape Disappointment that you might want to check out. Here are a few of Traverse the PNW's recommendations:

Cedar to Surf Campground

The Cedar to Surf Campground is one of the best camping sites near Cape Disappointment. It is an RV, tent, and cabin camping campground near Cape Disappointment. It offers beachside camping with full hook-ups on Long Beach Peninsula.

Need to Know

  • The campground is a great option with many amenities.

  • It has incredible views of the Peninsula.

  • There are RV, tent, and cabin sites available, costing up to $190 a night.

  • RV sites are around $40 a night


The campground offers the following amenities:

  • Beach trails

  • Area for clam cleaning

  • Common room

  • Bathrooms

  • Showers

  • Laundry

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse Reflection

Long Beach RV & Camping Resort

The RV & Camping Resort is some of the best camping near Cape Disappointment and is a great alternative to the main state park campground that's nearly as big (22 acres!). It includes 144 sites and is open year-round.

The campground is only 1,200 feet from the ocean, right on 28 open miles of beach that's pet-friendly. All the sites are RV-friendly and offer full hookups.

Need to Know

  • There are 144 sites

  • The campground is open all year.

  • All sites have full RV hookups.


There is a wide variety of amenities at this gorgeous campground, including:

  • Spa and hot tub

  • Wifi

  • Laundry

  • Playground

  • Hiking trails

  • Swimming pool

Fisherman's Cove RV Park

If you're looking for camping near Cape Disappointment, this campground is on Long Beach Peninsula and is only a few minutes from Ilwaco Harbor where you can shop and get something to eat.

Need to Know

  • You can drive in and park next to your site

  • There is cellphone service on site

  • Tent sites are available

  • Pets are welcome!

  • There are cabins for rent too.


  • Water

  • Sewage

  • Trash

  • Electric

People Also Ask

Where is Cape Disappointment State Park?

The park is on the Washington Coast in Ilwaco, Washington. It is on the Long Beach Peninsula at the mouth of the Columbia River.

What was the former name of Cape Disappointment State Park?

The park used to be known as Fort Canby. It is the 15th largest Washington State Park and stretches over nearly 2,000 acres.

What town is close to Cape Disappointment Washington State Park?

Ilwaco is the closest town to the park. Also nearby are Oceanside, Seaside, Loomis, McGowan, Naselle, Long Island, Nemah, and Bay Center.

Why is it called Cape Disappointment State Park?

The park takes its name from Captain John Meares who, in 1778, couldn't find the river's entrance and was "disappointed."

Can you swim at Cape Disappointment State Park?

Yes, you can swim at Cape Disappointment State Park. But, some parts of the coast are considered unsafe. Waikiki Beach is one of the only areas where swimming and surfing are fairly safe.

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