Fort Stevens State Park is where the river, forest, and sea collide. This beautiful park, perched on the Pacific coast in the far northwest corner of Oregon has something to offer everyone, from hikers to history buffs and from surfers to birders.
Once a primary military defense at the mouth of the Columbia River, Fort Stevens was an important military installation from the Civil War up until World War II. Now, the fort and its surroundings have been turned into a park that offers visitors a welcoming place to rediscover history’s lessons while enjoying nature. With over 4,000 acres, Fort Stevens has several beaches and some sizable tracts of forests to explore. Luckily, getting to the best areas of the park is easy, even after parking your rig or trailer.
At Fort Stevens, miles of trails weave through forests of spruce, pine, and hemlock, as well as towering dunes and wetlands. It’s a unique and diverse park that also boasts a popular beach and historic relics. The park, quite popular during the summer, is open year-round. May through September offers warm temperatures and a break from the rainy season, while fall, winter, and spring offer sparser crowds and ample opportunities for bird and whale watching.
Fort Stevens is also just a short drive away from several other fantastic parks. Across the mouth of the Columbia River sits Cape Disappointment State Park, a beautiful, tremendously popular spot offering hiking and surfing. Clatsop State Forest, just a few miles inland, offers thousands of acres of deep woods to explore, while nearby Seaquest State Park in Washington offers great views of Mount St. Helens.
Adventure is just around the bend, so, what are you waiting for? It’s time lace up those hiking boots.
Fort Stevens State Park is located just a few miles off of US-101, which stretches along the Pacific coast from Seattle to San Diego. The roads leading to and within the park are paved and have few hills or sharp turns. Some of the roads within the park are narrow, so it’s good to be extra cautious if you're hauling a large rig or towing a boat.
Snow is a rare occurrence along the coast, but rain is common from fall through spring. During winter, heavy waves and strong winds can batter the coast - indeed, the area is famous for its dramatic storms. Check the forecast ahead of time if you plan on traveling through.
RVs and trailers will find the easiest time parking in campground sites. The sites here are rather accommodating, and provide ample spacing for even the largest of rigs. Most sites are back-in, though some are pull-through. Plenty of amenities and trails are within walking distance of the campground, but there's also ample parking along several beaches. Fort Stevens State Park also has bikes available for rent, so any visitor can take full advantage of the park's expansive bike paths.
The award-winning Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside KOA offers easy access to the nearby Columbia River and is just minutes from the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside KOA has sites with full hookups, Wi-Fi, and cable. Some sites feature furnished patios and grills, too. There are also restrooms and showers, indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, a playground, recreational facilities, miniature golf, a jumping pillow, a game room, bike rentals, and a dog park. A seasonal restaurant provides free pancake breakfasts and also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A Kamping Kitchen is also available for visitors to use. The campground features themed weekends and planned activities including family movies, board games, barbecues, tours, and crafts.
Fort Stevens' large campground offers over 300 campsites, many of which sport full hookups (electric, water, and sewage). All sites have electric and water, and the grounds provide flush toilets, hot showers, and a dump station for RVs. Firewood is available for purchase too. Though the campground is sizable and can get quite busy during the summer months, sites are still quite spacious and many offer good privacy.
If you do happen to be visiting during the summer months, you’ll want to bring some bug spray, as mosquitoes thrive in the moist, temperate rain forests that comprise the park and surround the campground (there's so much to do and see at Fort Stevens - don't let your trip get ruined by a few bugs!). The forested campground provides an ideal place to rest and get cozy. But don’t get too relaxed. As you venture further afield, you’ll discover so much more.
If you want a faster way to take in all the sites, bike rentals are available. The park is very bike-friendly, so you'll see plenty of visitors zipping from place to place on bikes. If you'd prefer to stay on foot, you'll find several trailheads are within easy walking distance from the campground. Also within walking distance from the campground are an amphitheater and a small playground.
All reservations for the park must be made from one day up to nine months in advance. For much of the year, even though the campground is large, reservations are necessary. This popular campground fills up quite fast.
Fort Stevens State Park operates on a reservation system, with reservations having to be made at least one day in advance and no more than nine months in advance. You call and check in with park officials to establish whether or not same-day reservations are available due to last-minute cancellations or other schedule changes, but you should not rely on same-day reservations being available. At times, Fort Stevens may have sites available on a walk-in basis and may open additional loops to accommodate campers.
There is not much camping available directly outside of Fort Stevens State Park Campground, as backcountry and/or wilderness camping are not allowed. If you would prefer not to stay within the actual park’s campground (or if the campground is full) your other options include a KOA resort, as well as RV parks, that are closer to the surrounding community and marina. The park is also only about 10 miles from Astoria, Oregon, so if you need more things to do in the evening, you're not far from local restaurants and nightlife.
If you're looking to stay somewhere a bit different, consider reserving one of Fort Stevens' 15 yurts. These circular wooden structures are spacious and have weatherproof canvas roofs, so you'll feel like you're camping in a big tent, except with some extra creature comforts. Fort Stevens' yurts are primitive, but they still come equipped with electricity, heat, and enough space to sleep five. As with normal campsites, they also sport a fire ring and picnic table.
Yurts do not have their own toilets, but you'll have easy access to the campground's restrooms and showers, which are within walking distance. And if you're bringing Fido, there's no need to fret - seven of the 15 yurts are pet-friendly (these yurts do require a small, non-refundable cleaning deposit). Like the individual campsites, yurts should be reserved, and reservations can be made up to six months in advance.
The cabins at Fort Stevens have certainly earned their "Deluxe" label. Tucked underneath the towering canopies of Sitka spruce and western hemlock, these cozy wooden abodes offer a picturesque place to rest and relax. Deluxe cabins (equipped with heat and electric) are outfitted with beds, tables and chairs, small kitchens, and restrooms with showers.
The cabins at Fort Stevens also have lovely covered porches. Curl up with a book during a rain shower (they're plenty frequent along the Oregon coast), or bring out a pair of binoculars and watch for birds. Whether they're a home base from which to set out on adventures or whether you plan on doing a whole lot of nothing, Fort Steven's cabins are a great place to stay.
In total, the state park sports 11 cabins, five of which are pet-friendly. Cabins can sleep up to six and can be reserved up to nine months in advance.
Winter weather along the Oregon coast can be dreary, so visitors during this time can expect plenty of cold rain and grey skies. This quieter season, however, is also when behemoths come to visit. Starting mid-December, it’s quite common to see mighty gray whales making their way along the coast. These massive creatures are on their way to the warmer waters of Baja, Mexico, and they are sure to delight visitors with their size and splendor.
A nine-mile loop surrounds Fort Stevens State Park and is frequented by hikers, cyclists, and even those out for a casual stroll. There are many stops to make along the way, with connector trails offering access to another ten miles of hiking. Hike through forests of spruce and hemlock, through wetlands, over dunes, and to the sandy shores. Trails range in difficulty, though most have been made accessible to visitors of all physical abilities.
When visiting the sandy coastline, make your way to Parking Lot C to find a lookout tower that offers astounding views. Climbing the many tower's steps is well worth it - the vantage point at the top provides a glimpse of the beauty and sheer power of the Pacific Ocean. Waves crash into the jetty and merge with the rushing water of the Columbia River. Be sure to bring your camera for this one.
There is a small museum at Fort Stevens State Park that features artifacts from across a century and a half. Engaging exhibits depict the fort’s history and the challenges faced during the 85 years that it was active. Fort Stevens was one of the only western fortifications to play a role in both the Civil War and WW II. Today, the museum boasts the relics and statues in remembrance of those that have served.
At a special crossroads between river, forest, and sea, Fort Stevens is home to a rich variety of wildlife. Several hundred species of birds can be found here, either year-round or as seasonal visitors. Murres, gulls, cormorants, sandpiper,s and even puffins can be found foraging in coastal waters, while dozens of species of warblers, woodpeckers, and thrushes can be seen zipping between the boughs of tall hemlocks and spruce. Some of the best times to see the park's more reclusive species, such as mule deer, coyotes, and raccoons, are in the quiet in late fall and winter months. Year-round, keep an eye out for one of the forest's largest denizens, the elk. Whenever you go, be sure to pack your binoculars!
Just a short walk from the campgrounds, the beaches of Fort Stevens are one of the park's biggest draws. Visitors can choose to visit one of five different beaches, each one of which has its own unique charm. Popular activities range from fishing to surfing, and everything in between. You’re certain to find your favorite water sport supported along these sandy shores, or even discover a new one. Peter Iredale Beach lets visitors get a view of the famed Iredale shipwreck - the gigantic metal ribbing from the Peter Iredale, which ran ashore in 1906, presents a great place to take photos.
Not many State Parks, especially on the west coast, hold such historic significance. Along the beaches, massive decommissioned guns and concrete bunkers dating back to WWII still remain. The park offers tours of these gun batteries. If you're planning on traveling through at the end of the summer, be sure to see one of the Civil War reenactments that take place at the fort.
Fort Stevens State Park has a few lakes where visitors can enjoy activities such as boating, swimming, and fishing. Coffenbury Lake, a scenic spot that is well-stocked with trout, is popular among anglers. Here, you’ll find a boat ramp and ADA-accessible fishing platforms. Don’t let Coffenbury be your only stop, though. There are other fishing ponds to enjoy nearby. As is always the case in Oregon, make sure you have a valid fishing license before casting your line!
Throughout Oregon State Parks, visitors can attend programs that are open to the whole family. Guided tours provide an in-depth view of the park, with topics ranging from rain forest ecology and native history to geology and wildlife. Fort Stevens has a sizable amphitheater located in the heart of its campground; on summer evenings, it is a wonderful place to listen to ghost stories! Campers can check out the park's schedule of events to see what talks or programs might be taking place during their visit.
Fort Stevens is an ideal place for beginners and families to go biking. A network of paved, mostly leveled-out bike pathways makes getting around on two wheels just as easy (or sometimes easier) than getting around on four. There are a few steep hills and plenty of places to stop. Plus, moderating winds from the coast keep the park from getting too hot, even in midsummer. When the weather is warm and the weekends are welcoming, be ready to see the bike trails fill up quickly. If you're not traveling with a bike, no need to worry - bike rentals are available for those who are in need of some wheels.