WHY IT’S GREAT: This tour de ecosystem, tucked inside Lewis and Clark National Historical Park near Astoria, retraces paths worn by the Corps of Discovery during the group’s encampment at Fort Clatsop in the winter of 1805–1806. Fast-paced scenery changes include dark groves of mossy Sitka spruce, bogs loaded with skunk cabbage, rolling dunes, waterfowl-rippled lakes, and sandy beaches. Atop 370-foot Clatsop Ridge—a two-mile trek from the visitor center—a large wooden viewing platform glances out at the Pacific, making an excellent turnaround point. To reach the waves, continue through an undulating cluster of hills that are home to elk, bobcats, cougar, and bear. Cross Highway 101 via a tunneled passageway toward a historic pioneer church and pastures of grazing cattle. All along the trail, look for signs of the Great Coastal Gale of 2007, a three-day squall that cleaved thousands of shore pines like kindling. The journey ends at Sunset Beach State Recreation Area. Beyond the breakers, keep watch for spouts of gray whales, which begin their northern migration this month.
DON’T FORGET: To nibble off shorter sections of the trail, park in the Pioneer Church lot on Patriot Way (directly off Highway 101, nine miles south of Astoria) or at Sunset Beach State Recreation Area.
POST-HIKE WATERING HOLE: Fort George Brewery and Public House
This craft brewery gave Astoria a beery shot in the arm in 2007. Order complex quaffs like the boozy Cavatica Stout or coffee-infused Working Girl Porter, along with French garlic sausage and organic fries. 1483 Duane St, Astoria; 503-325-7468; fortgeorgebrewery.com
TRAILHEAD DIRECTIONS: From Portland, follow Highway 30 west to Astoria. Pass through town, and follow the signs to Fort Clatsop and the Astoria Airport. $3 park admission required, available inside the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center