Featuring a gorgeous beach, over 200 RV friendly camping sites, and plenty of recreational activities, Cape Disappointment State Park is anything but a disappointment! Located along the Washington coastline, the cape got its name from English Captain John Meares, who was disappointed that he could not find the head of the river first mapped by Spanish explorer Bruno de Heceta in 1775. Before becoming a state park, the area had many different uses. It was home to the arrival of Lewis and Clark at the end of their 18-month expedition in 1805, used as a fort during the American Civil War, and later had two lighthouses added to help maritime sailors navigate to the docks in the late 1800s. After World War II in the 1950s, the land was donated for use as a state park.
The park has since expanded to 2,023 acres and attracts RV lovers looking for some fun by the seaside. Summertime at Cape Disappointment State Park offers fishing, beach activities, crabbing, boating, and exploring the gorgeous cliffs that the park is renowned for. The fun doesn't stop in winter, and once the weather gets cold, you can go skiing, snowmobiling, and maybe even partake in a snowball fight. There are also plenty of trails to explore, a visitor center to check out, and many museums in the area.
You will have no shortage of RV camping options at Cape Disappointment State Park thanks to the four different RV-friendly camping areas that offer a variety of site types, including those with electric, water, and sewer hookups. Whenever you decide to visit Cape Disappointment in your RV, you’ll be guaranteed a great time.
RV Rentals in Cape Disappointment State Park
Transportation in Cape Disappointment State Park
Cape Disappointment State Park is located in the southwestern area of the state on the Long Beach Peninsula. Cape Disappointment State Park is a 30-minute drive from Astoria, Oregon, and almost a four-hour drive from Seattle, Washington. The park is located off I-100 and minutes away from I-101. You can stop by the towns of Long Beach, Oceanview, Seaview, and of course, Ilwaco to pick up groceries or just to go shopping at the boutique and antique shops in the area.
The entrance to the park is paved and provides good signs with directions to the main office. Small trailers up to 30 feet can fit in any of the four campgrounds, but the larger ones are limited to campgrounds A, B, and C. The roads are well maintained, and depending on the site you reserve, the wind will be a huge factor. In summer, there are plenty of bugs, so be sure to bring your bug repellent.
It’s recommended that you either walk or use your bike to get around the park. Be mindful of pedestrians and other drivers as you travel to find your site. If you arrive later than anticipated, remember to call the park office and let them know so that there will be a ranger to check you in. In summer, you should be careful of fog as Cape Disappointment has an average of 106 days of heavy fog each year. The park may close at any time due to inclement weather, or if there is a strong snowstorm scheduled to hit the area. If you travel in winter, make sure your vehicle has four-wheel drive and keep an eye on the lookout for avalanche warnings.
Campgrounds and parking in Cape Disappointment State Park
Campsites in Cape Disappointment State Park
Campground A is the most desired place to stay for RV lovers, thanks to the 50 full-hookup sites. Located right next to the beach, each site is angled to help you back into the spot. The campground is suitable for RVs up to 45 feet in length. All of the sites at Campground A come with some partially shaded areas to give you some relief from the summertime heat. The privacy levels here are also fantastic, and you will often forget that you are a few feet away from another camper. Each site comes equipped with a fire ring and a picnic table, and in the rest of the campground, there are paid showers, restrooms, water spigots, and a dump station available for you to enjoy.
Since this is the campground that has mostly RV sites, it is very popular. For this reason, you should look into reserving a site well before your trip if you want full hookups. Like the other campgrounds, you may stay a maximum of 14 nights at a time can book a site up to nine months in advance.
Campground B has a lot to offer in terms of site types. This campground has yurts, standard camping with no hookups, and premium sites with electric and water hookups. As with campground A, the sites are arranged in a circular pattern, and the majority of them offer some back-in option. Campground B is also next to the beach, giving you access to some great activities, such as fishing, beach walking, and boating.
The sites within Campground B provide visitors with partial shade, and they are padded while also being covered with sand. Site-specific amenities include a picnic table, fire ring, and a lantern post, while throughout the campground, there are paid showers, restrooms, and a dump station located close by.
Since Campground B features sites with hookups, this tends to be a popular place to stay, so reservations are encouraged. You are allowed to stay a maximum of 14 days and may book reservations up to nine months in advance.
The most northern campground at Cape Disappointment State Park, Campground C, features 59 sites that are suitable for both RVs and tents. The sites at Campground C are mostly shady, large, and paved. You will have no problem navigating around the campground, and the sites, in general, are on the larger side.
While there are no hookups, there is a picnic table and fire ring at each site, a dump station nearby, and a water spigot in between every circle of sites. Other amenities included at Campground C are restrooms and paid showers. Like the other campgrounds near the beach, the area can be quite sandy, so make sure that you are cleaning up after yourself before stepping back into your motorhome.
Pets are allowed at Campground C, and you should be able to get cell phone reception on most of the larger networks. Reservations can be made up to nine months in advance, and you are allowed to stay up to 14 days before you will have to move on.
Located on the eastern side of the park away from the beach is Campground D. This is an excellent spot for those who are looking to camp closer to the Columbia River and want to spend their time at Lake O’Neil instead of at the beach.
More suited to RVs under 30 feet in length, you will have plenty of shade and privacy while also being located right near the lake's shoreline. There are around 50 sites to choose from that feature a grassy pad, picnic table, and fire ring. You will also have access to showers, water collection points, and a dump station. There are no RV hookups available in Campground D, so keep this in mind before you choose where to stay. If you are looking for a different camping experience, you will also find three cabins that are available for rent.
Pets are allowed at Campground D, and reservations can be made online up to nine months in advance. We recommend reserving a site if you are planning to visit during the warmer months.
Seasonal activities in Cape Disappointment State Park
North Head Lighthouse
Initially constructed in 1898, North Head Lighthouse was the second lighthouse built at the cape due to boats continually being shipwrecked in the dangerous conditions off the coast. The lighthouse is still in use today (although no longer operated by a lighthouse keeper), and you can visit this impressive structure yourself between May and September on a lighthouse tour. The tour is a great way to learn more about the history of the area, and the views from the top will be simply stunning. Please note that the carpark at the lighthouse does not accommodate RVs, and there is a small fee for the tour.
During your visit to Cape Disappointment State Park, there are plenty of great options available for those who are looking to have a picnic. For a beachside picnic, you can't beat throwing out a blanket at either Benson Beach or Waikiki Beach and watching the waves crash into the shore. There are also 20 picnic tables scattered throughout the park that are more suited to accommodate multiple guests. All of these picnic tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cape Disappointment State Park offers both sea and freshwater fishing. You may fish from the shoreline or take a boat out on the water. If you plan to go on the water, then you must have the proper boating license and permit. As long as you have a Washington state valid fishing license, you can take home salmon, steelhead, halibut, or Dungeness crab. Be sure to check the weather before you go on the water, as you might encounter fog or the seasonal rain that Washington state is known for. You can find bait and rods in the stores near the park if you don't have your own fishing gear.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center celebrates the significant milestone of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that ended in 1805 at the mouth of the Columbia River. The center offers tours, souvenirs, and a detailed history of their journey. There is a small fee associated with viewing the center, but those under seven are allowed to enter at no cost to you. So park your rig at the center, which sits atop a 200-foot cliff facing the Pacific Ocean with a beautiful view of the sea.
Each year the park opens its trails and backcountry in early-November and closes in late-April for winter recreation activities. You are required to buy a Sno-Park permit to use the designated area, which is different from the normal park pass. Sno-Park offers cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, tubing, and playing in the snow. The Sno-Park is perfect for all ages to enjoy the winter weather. It is recommended that you bundle up and take necessary precautions when traversing the snowy backcountry. Keep an eye on the weather and be sure to watch out for the occasional avalanche.
Along with containing a wide variety of bird species, Cape Disappointment State Park is home to many other animals that you may get to spot during your visit. In the wooded areas of the park, it is quite common to see black-tailed deer, and sometimes bears will even make their way down to the beach area looking for food. If you visit the park at the end of December or early in January, you may also get to see some magnificent gray whales from the cliffs during their migration. If you are interested in whale watching, make sure you do so at the North Head as this is the best vantage point.
Cape Disappointment State Park is readily equipped to handle any of your boating needs, thanks to a boat launch ramp located at Baker Bay. The ramp will allow you to access the main river mouth the Columbia River so that you can have some fun out on the water, or if you are experienced and prepared, you can also use it to go out to sea. There is also a 135-foot dock that you can use during your stay. If you plan on taking a boat out, you will need to have a daily launch permit that you can purchase at the park office.
Cape Disappointment is one of the few parks that offer metal detection as a recreational activity. Around 236 acres of the beach is reserved for metal detection. While you are not guaranteed to find anything, it’s a wonderful way to spend the day looking for treasure. You will have to bring your own device and are required to have the staff investigate your find to see if it has any historical value. As long as the park’s staff gives you the go-ahead, then you can keep any treasure that you find.
There are eight miles of hiking trails waiting to be discovered at Cape Disappointment State Park. Each trail has a clear sign and mileage so you can know how much you want to challenge yourself on any given day. The trails are paved and well maintained, and they are all pet-friendly as long as your pet remains on its leash. Keep in mind that some trails will be more challenging than others, so if you have any questions about what trails to explore, we recommend asking one of the friendly park staff.
Cape Disappointment State Park is a great place to observe the different types of birds that call the park home. You will see a large variety of sea and land birds going about their days, such as the winter wren, red crossbills, and fox swallow. The park provides a good habitat and resources to aid migratory and seasonal birds. You will definitely want to bring your binoculars in your camper to catch some of the yellowthroats and song swallows. One of the best ways to go birding is to walk along a few of the trails with a snack and your bird checklist. How fun!