Cape Disappointment State Park
Lighthouses stand sentinel atop windswept cliffs, sea smells waft up through the air and waves collide with a crash where the Pacific Ocean meets the Columbia River below.
Named for Captain John Meares’ first thwarted voyage to find the Columbia, Cape Disappointment is steeped in Northwest history. This is the place to explore U.S. military and maritime legacies and to experience the story of Lewis & Clark and the effect of their Corps of Discovery Expedition on Native American tribes.
Step into the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center for interactive exhibits. Find overgrown ruins of military bunkers and coast defense batteries, and hear tales of two lighthouses and the first attempts to reach the Columbia River by ocean.
Hike through old-growth forest or around freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes and ocean tidelands. Gape at the breathtaking views. Launch your boat from Baker Bay. Benson Beach is a popular clam-digging destination, and fishers love to set up on the North Jetty to catch salmon and crab. The beaches at Cape Disappointment also lure kite-fliers, sand-castle builders and those who love to walk and explore.
Don’t be surprised if you leave Cape Disappointment intrigued by its complex and multi-faceted history and enchanted by its legends and its vistas. This park will fill your senses and occupy your mind, and you will long to return.
Cape Disappointment is a 2,023-acre camping park on the Long Beach Peninsula, fronted by the Pacific Ocean and looking into the mouth of the Columbia River. The park offers yurts, cabins and unique historic vacation homes to meet travelers’ diverse lodging needs.
Discover Pass: A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web page.
Automated pay stations: This park is equipped with automated pay stations for visitors to purchase a one-day or annual Discover Pass.
Located in Pacific County on the Pacific Ocean, Cape Disappointment offers one boat ramp and 135 feet of dock are provided on Baker Bay in the Columbia River. Launching a boat at a state park requires one of the following:
- An annual launch permit (Natural Investment Permit; or
- An annual Discover Pass and a daily launch permit; or
- A one-day Discover Pass and a daily launch permit. Annual permits may be purchased at State Parks Headquarters in Olympia, at region offices, online and at parks when staff is available. Additional information can be found in the Boating Program.
Cape Disappointment has 137 standard campsites, 50 full-hookup sites, 18 partial-hookup sites with water and electricity, five primitive hiker/biker campsites first come first served, one dump station, eight restrooms (two ADA) and 14 showers (four ADA). Maximum site length is 45 feet (limited availability). Camping is available year round.
- Campsite check-in time is 2:30 p.m.
- Campsite check-out time is 1 p.m.
Cape Disappointment has 3 cabins, 14 yurts and 2 vacation houses available for rent. For more information or to reserve your stay, visit the links below.
Services & supplies
The park store offers gifts, ice, wood, fishing gear and other camping essentials. Within the park store you will find a café offering summer foods, including artisan pizza, salads, sandwiches and local seafood. Delivery to your campsite is available.
- Park store
- Courtesy phone
Cape Disappointment sits within the traditional territory of the Chinook tribe, known to be sophisticated traders and highly engaged in the maritime fur trade.
Though the cape was first mapped by Spanish explorer Bruno de Hezeta in 1775, its naming is credited to English Captain John Meares, who approached the cape in 1788, but could not locate the river's entrance. Meares, therefore, named the headland Cape Disappointment. In 1792, American Captain Robert Gray successfully crossed the river's bar and named the river "Columbia" after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva. In 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at Cape Disappointment after their 18-month, 3,700- mile journey from St. Louis, Missouri.
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was constructed in 1856 to warn mariners of the treacherous river bar where the Columbia meets the Pacific, known for its many shipwrecks as "the graveyard of the Pacific." This is the oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest. Plans for a second lighthouse, North Head Lighthouse, were drafted in 1889 because of poor visibility of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse to southbound ships. In 1898, the North Head Lighthouse was completed. In 1862, Cape Disappointment was armed with smoothbore cannons to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from Civil War threats. The installation was expanded to become Fort Canby in 1875, named for Army General Edward Canby. The fort continued to be improved until the end of World War II. Gun batteries and other structures still sit on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
In 1912, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers arrived at Cape Disappointment for construction of the North Jetty at the entrance to the Columbia River. With the South Jetty in Oregon, the jetties provided for safer navigation of the Columbia River bar. The 2.5-mile long, three million ton, stone structure was completed in 1917.
Cape Disappointment also housed a Civilian Conservation Corps camp from 1935 to 1938. The men enrolled in the program restored the fort and improved roads and trails. In 1938, the first parcel of land, known locally as "Bell's View," was purchased for $1 by Washington State Parks for what would become Cape Disappointment State Park.
- Hiking trail
Use our interactive ADA recreation map to search for other state parks with ADA amenities and facilities.
Picnic & day-use facilities
The day-use area has 20 unsheltered picnic tables, available first come, first served.
- The Cape "D" Store carries a variety of items to meet your camping needs, including: firewood, ice, a variety of groceries, clothing, games and toys, fishing gear, RV supplies and propane. In addition they also serve up fresh hot sandwiches and ice cream. They are open weekends in March, April and October and daily from May to September. To view their menu, click here.
- 8 miles of hiking trails
Water activities & features
- 135 feet of dock
- Boat ramp
Other activities & features
- Beach exploration
- Bird watching
- Concert series
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (LCIC), perched on a 200-foot-high cliff, tells the story of Lewis and Clark and their journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center The park also features interpretive trails and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Other interpretive opportunities, such as the Fort Columbia Interpretive Center, are also in the vicinity.
Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nov. 1 - March 31, open Wednesdays through Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Admission prices for the LCIC are:
- Ages 18 and older: $5
- Ages 7 to 17: $2.50
- Ages 6 and younger are free
North Head Lighthouse - Closed for tours 2021 due to Covid-19
The North Head Lighthouse is open to visitors 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily from May to Sept. 30. Tour admission is $2.50 per adult and free for ages 7 to 17. Children under the age of seven are not permitted. Appropriate footwear is required, no flip flops or shoes without heel straps. Federal and state passes are not accepted for admission. Call the center at (360) 642-3029 for more information.
- The parking lots at the North Head, Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and Beards Hollow will not accommodate RV parking.
- Swimming in the ocean on the Long Beach Peninsula is not advised.
- Significant nearby natural areas include Willapa Bay, Leadbetter Point and Beard's Hollow.
- A recreational license is required for fishing and shellfish harvesting at Washington state parks. For regulations, fishing season information, or to purchase a recreational license, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- Printable park brochure (PDF).