Trails for everyone, forever

Home Go Hiking Hiking Guide Cape Disappointment State Park - North Head Lighthouse and Bell's Overlook

Cape Disappointment State Park - North Head Lighthouse and Bell's Overlook

Southwest Washington > Long Beach Area
46.2881, -124.0755 Map & Directions
0.75 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
25 feet
Highest Point
200 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
North Head Lighthouse. Photo by KatieJM. Full-size image
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Good for kids
  • Coast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
Saved to My Backpack

Take a couple of ADA-accessible trails to some of the most scenic parts of Cape Disappointment State Park. Continue reading

4.00 out of 5

(7 votes) Log in to rate

Hiking Cape Disappointment State Park - North Head Lighthouse and Bell's Overlook

Cape Disappointment is home to a wide selection of trails, whether you're looking for elevation gain or a paved outing. The most-frequently photographed lighthouse is North Head, with precarious position on a steep bluff above the crashing waves. The short trail to the lighthouse provides a nice, wheelchair-accessible outing, and adding the 0.3-mile long Bell's Overlook trail nearby rounds out the experience nicely. 

Hiking to North Head lighthouse is a short jaunt on a wide gravelled path. Explore around the lighthouse grounds and when you head back to the parking area, look to your left for the Bell's Overlook Trail. 

This paved, quarter-mile trail leaves from the North Head parking area. Bell’s Overlook was the first part of Cape Disappointment State Park that was protected as a county park. The trail passes an old water tower (whose origins go unexplained but was probably for the city of Ilwaco), old gun batteries and lookouts, and concludes at a boardwalk overlook of the Pacific. 

Along the way, you'll enjoy a hike through lush coastal forest complete with informational signs regarding Cape Disappointment’s role in weather prediction, martial protection, and history.

WTA Pro Tip: Explore the park! The other trails add up to 12 miles of trails in all! For other options, consider the North Head Trail (which departs from the same parking area and descends to the beach below) the Coastal Forest Loop or the Discovery Trail.

Toilet Information

  • Toilet at trailhead
  • Accessible toilet

More information about toilets

Wheelchair Accessibility

The trail to the North Head Lighthouse has a decline of about 10% that may be challenging to climb back up to the car. The last section to access the lighthouse is much steeper (closer to 15%) and there is some exposure over the cliff edge though there is a fence in place.

The Bell's Point Trail has a more moderate grade uphill of about 5% and winds through coastal forest with minimal exposure.

WTA worked here in 2022 and 2021!

Hike Description Written by
Anna Roth, WTA Staff

Cape Disappointment State Park - North Head Lighthouse and Bell's Overlook

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.2881, -124.0755 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

North Head Lighthouse is closed for tours until further notice

See weather forecast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

Cape Disappointment is two miles south of Ilwaco. From Kelso, take Ocean Beach Highway to the tiny town of Naselle. Here, make a left onto SR 401, driving for 12 miles to a junction of Highway 101, where a left turn would take you over the Astoria Bridge. Drive straight through this intersection, continuing on Hwy 101 for 11 miles to the city of Ilwaco and the junction of SR 100.

From Portland/Vancouver: Follow Highway 30 to Astoria, then merge onto Highway 101 north, crossing the Astoria-Megler bridge. Turn left once over the bridge and head for Ilwaco. Once you get to Ilwaco head west from the stoplight (only one in town) following the signs to Cape Disappointment State Park.

Follow 100 spur around the North Head Lighthouse parking area, where there are bathrooms available.

More Hike Details


Southwest Washington > Long Beach Area

Washington State Parks

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades (Burton - Mountaineers Books)

Hiking Guide to Washington's Geology (Carson & Babcock - Keokee) p. 246-249

USGS Cape Disappointment

Cape Disappointment State Park PDF Map:

You can improve or add to this guidebook entry!

Cape Disappointment State Park - North Head Lighthouse and Bell's Overlook

57 Trip Reports

Hiked here recently?

Submit a trip report!
Trip Reports