Written by | Derek Carlson

Our 10 Favorite Things to Do at Fort Stevens State Park

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This summer we borrowed a travel trailer, packed up the family, and spent a week camping at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, Oregon. This trip just may have been the highlight of our jam-packed summer which was spent exploring some of the furthest corners of Oregon (we spent A LOT of time in the car this year).

From beaches to shipwrecks to military installations to mushroom foraging to fishing Fort Stevens State Park had a little bit of everything for everybody.

We probably could have spent 2 weeks in the area without getting bored…although getting some VERY favorable Oregon coast weather during our trip certainly helped!

Our Favorite Things to Do at Fort Stevens State Park

Here are our 10 favorite things to do at Fort Stevens State Park.

Camping at Fort Stevens

The Fort Stevens campground is the biggest state park campground in Oregon which always gave us a bit of pause as we aren’t huge fans of crowds. It had still been on our list to visit though so this summer we finally pulled the trigger and booked it for a week.

*When I say summer I actually mean January as most campgrounds now have to be booked 6 months in advance*

Travel trailer camping at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, Oregon

When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised as the campground never felt overly crowded. Our site was located at the backside of the J loop which backed up to the forest and gave us a decent amount of privacy.

The campground was great for the family as it has a playground, junior ranger program, and awesome shower facilities (our site had water and power but no sewer connections so we had to be a little judicious with our water usage to avoid dumping the trailer during the middle of the trip), and was within biking distance of the beach.

We loved that we could go full days without having to drive anywhere as the campground is centrally located to so many of the park’s amenities.

Even if you don’t have a trailer you can still camp at the park as they have tent sites as well as yurts and cabins. Plan early though if you’re looking for a yurt or cabin as these go FAST!

Biking the Trails

Kid biking at fort stevens state park

Fort Stevens State Park has miles and miles of trails that crisscross the park. Some of these are paved bike trails while others are more rustic and the perfect way to get off the beaten path.

From the campground, we were able to bike to the beach to visit the shipwreck, to the military installations, and just cruise through the park looking for berries and mushrooms.

Almost all the loops have shortcuts that connect between the longer trails so you can make your trips as long or short as you’d like. This was great for our kids who were 4 and 6 at the time as their energy meter seems to go from 100 to 0 at a moment’s notice.

If you don’t want to bring your own bike the park rents out bikes

Visiting the Peter Iredale Shipwreck

Peter Iredale shipwreck near Astoria, Oregon

The Peter Iredale shipwreck is, without a doubt, the top attraction at the park, if not the entire northern Oregon coast. And for good reason!

I’m not quite sure what I expected going in but I was blown away by how cool it was. To start the ship was HUGE! Even in its rusted-out, bare-bones state you can clearly get a sense of just how large this ship was.

We really enjoyed visiting the wreck on a foggy, rainy morning as the beach was completely deserted and it really gave you a sense of what the conditions would have been when the ship wrecked on this beach over 100 years ago.

Sunset on a clear day is also a super fun time to visit although if you do this plan to share the beach with a couple hundred other people!

Tip: Visit the shipwreck when the tide is going out or at low tide so you can walk along and inside the wreckage.

After visiting the wreck I’d highly recommend checking out the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. They have a ton of amazing information about the history of maritime travel in the area and all the shipwrecks that litter the coastline and Columbia River bar.

Relax on the Beach

Beach at Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens has miles and miles of sandy beaches that are perfect for relaxing and playing (so long as the weather cooperates). The beaches near the shipwreck are by far the most popular but taking a short drive north will put you on beaches where you probably won’t see another person for the entire day!

Another cool thing about the beaches here is you can drive your car directly on them! We didn’t do this as we were borrowing my parent’s truck and didn’t want to do something dumb and get it stuck or unnecessarily salty. But we still saw plenty of folks driving up and down the beach with no problems.

To find our own seclusion we drove north into the park and accessed the beach from the LOT A and LOT B parking areas. Both of these areas require a quick walk up and over the dunes but once you’re on the beach you’ll probably have it all to yourself.

Tip: One thing about the Oregon coast beaches to keep in mind is they are frequently windy so bringing a sun shade/wind break is helpful to keep the sand out of your face if you plan on laying in the sun while the kids play on the beach.

Berry Picking and Mushroom Foraging

Salmonberries picked at Fort Stevens State Park

The Oregon coast, and specifically the untouched forests of Fort Stevens State Park, is a foragers paradise. Within the park, you can find a variety of edible mushrooms and berries that are a treat to find for adults and kids alike. The park even has a handy guide to the mushrooms you can find within the park as well as guidelines for foraging.

We visited in July which isn’t a peak time for mushrooms but we were still able to find a few oyster mushrooms as well as what we believe was an old matsutake.

Oyster Mushrooms near Astoria, Oregon

The real highlight for the kids though were the salmonberries, blackberries, and huckleberries.

Our bike rides and walks were frequently interrupted to stop and pick the berries that grow in abundance alongside the trails.

Exploring the Military Installations

Battery at Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park has a significant number of military installations that were constructed starting during the Civil War and remained active through WWII. These include bunkers, batteries, and gun turrets that look out over the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean.

There are even a few old installations that aren’t included on any of the official maps and are a treat to stumble upon when exploring some of the lesser-used trails within the park.

If you’re staying at the Fort Stevens campground then the Battery Russel area makes for a great walk or bike ride as it is a little less than a mile away. This area is free to explore as most of the area is completely open to the public. While the trees have grown tall enough to block off the views of the ocean you can still stand inside the old gun turrets and just imagine what life was like for the soldiers stationed there a century ago.

Further to the north is the official Fort Stevens Historical Area and this part of the park holds the visitor center, batteries, historical guns, and a ton of other artifacts to explore.

This area offers incredible views of the Columbia River and even has a disc golf course with a hole that tees off from the top of an old munitions storage bunker!

Clam Digging

The Northern Oregon coast, specifically the Clatsop beaches, are famous for being one of the best areas for harvesting the gigantic and delicious razor clam. Unfortunately, our trip to the area began on July 15th which just happens to be the closing day for harvesting razor clams…sad face.

However, this is a good thing as the closure allows the baby razors some time to grow so the area can continue to have a healthy clam population for years to come.

That didn’t stop us though from spending little time digging up some of the area’s other delicious clams.

This part of the adventure took us a bit outside the park to Gearhart, Oregon. Here we were able to spend an hour digging up 30 or so purple varnish clams. These invasive, yet still delicious, clams are easy to dig with just a shovel and a small bucket. This made for the perfect clam-digging experience for our 6-year-old.

Dinner that night was clams steamed in a chorizo and white wine broth and served with grocery store french fries.

Tip: If you plan on digging clams in the area you’ll need a shellfish permit from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. You’ll also want to check for any closures as the presence of biotoxins can shut down the harvesting of specific species or entire areas.

Fishing at Coffenbury Lake

Coffenbury Lake is a long narrow lake on the south side of the park that is regularly stocked with trout along with healthy populations of bass and panfish.

Our 6-year-old loves to fish so it was a ton of fun to be able to walk over to the lake from the campground and throw a line in the water for a bit.

The day-use area by the lake offers plenty of areas to cast from shore and, while we didn’t have a ton of luck, we saw plenty of other people hooking into fish.

Go Beachcombing at Low Tide

The beaches along the park at low tide offer fun opportunities to go beach-combing for sand dollars, shells, or any other treasures that may wash from the mighty Pacific Ocean.

We spent a few early mornings exploring some of the more remote stretches of beach near the Jetty and were happy to find plenty of items to bring back to our campsite. These included whole crab shells, sand dollars, snail shells, and anything else that caught the eyes of our kids.

The early morning tides are often the lowest and most productive for beach-combing. This also means the beaches are usually pretty empty

Explore the Columbia River Jetty

The Columbia River Jetty extends for 6.6 miles out into the Pacific Ocean. While the main jetty was under construction during our visit it was still fun to explore the area and marvel at this piece of engineering.

There are plenty of areas along the jetty to access the riverbank and estuaries and observe the local wildlife.

As mentioned earlier with the Peter Iredale shipwreck, if you’d like to learn more about the jetty then a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum is a must-do!

Other Things to Do Around Fort Stevens State Park

There is so much to do in this part of the Northern Oregon Coast. We have posts on some of our favorite things to do in Astoria as well as some of the best lighthouses to visit in the area.

We also highly recommend visiting Cape Disappointment State Park to the north and Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park to the south.

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