If you live near Astoria, Oregon, you probably already know about the fabulous riding at Fort Stevens State Park. If you don’t live nearby, here’s a tip: next time you go camping at Nehalem Bay State Park, take a day to trailer out to Fort Stevens for a ride. You’ll be glad you did.
The Kestrel Trail at Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens State Park offers wonderful beach riding. You can ride two miles north to the jetty at the Columbia River, or you can ride south on the beach for four miles. If the military isn’t holding firing practice at Camp Rilea, you can ride south all the way to Gearhart – about twelve miles one way.
As an added bonus, riding the beach takes you to the wreck of the Peter Iredale, a 4-masted steel sailing ship that ran aground on its way to the Columbia River in 1906. The ship was sold for scrap, so all that remains are the parts that were too deeply embedded in the sand to be removed. And there they remain, 110 years later. It’s a fascinating sight.
The Sleepy Hollow Trail at Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens State Park also offers miles of riding in the dunes, on five different trails that offer more variety than you’ll find anywhere else on the Oregon Coast. As you ride the trails close to the beach, you’ll see stunted trees that have been twisted into delightfully tortured shapes by the wind. As you ride farther inland, the trees grow huge, the undergrowth is dense, and everything is covered with a thick layer of moss. By linking the beach and dunes trails together, you can create rides of whatever distance you want, with plenty to see along the way.
The Freedom Trail at Fort Stevens
The trails at Fort Stevens are wonderful, so next time you’re planning a trip to Nehalem Bay State Park, do a day trip to Fort Stevens. You’ll be glad you did!
From Astoria, drive south on Hwy. 101 and cross the Youngs Bay bridge. Take the first right onto Harbor St. Go through Warrenton (straight at the stop) to Hammond and turn south on Ridge Road. Turn right at the day-use entrance to the park and continue to Parking Lot A. From Seaside, take Hwy. 101 north about 15 miles. Turn left on Ft. Stevens Hwy. and continue past the main park entrance to the day-use entrance for Parking Lot A and Battery Russell. Turn left and stay on this road until you reach Parking Lot A.
Parking and riding at Fort Stevens are free. The park and trails are open year-round. Horse camping is not permitted at Fort Stevens. The closest places to stay overnight with your horse are Nehalem Bay State Park and Long Beach, Washington.
The riding at Fort Stevens is covered in more detail in Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2017). Available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.
Reprinted with permission from Northwest Rider Magazine, January 2017.