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  • Radford Bean

Riding the Other Discovery Trail

August 12, 2023—I had the opportunity to ride and explore the Discovery Trail, not the one on the Olympic Peninsula, but the trail on Long Beach Peninsula. The 8.5-mile trail runs from the north end of Long Beach, Washington, to the North Head Lighthouse. A dirt trail extends to Ilwaco.

The drive from my home took approximately 2.5 hours. Even though the drive was long, the trail was worth the drive.

I parked at the Sid Snyder Beach parking lot. There is a public restroom, which was a welcome sight after the long drive. If you arrive early, you should find plenty of parking. If the Sid Snyder parking lot is full, there is another parking lot with access to the trail on Bolstad Avenue. Fortunately when I got there around 9:30 a.m., there was plenty of parking available.

I set out heading south on the trail so I would arrive at the North Head Lighthouse early enough to take advantage of decent light to photograph the lighthouse and keepers’ residences. The trail isn’t very wide, about four feet and winding with some sharp curves and spots where beach sand covers parts of the trail. This means I had to travel reasonably slow to avoid running into cyclists or walkers coming from the opposite direction. It’s the winding nature of the trail that made it interesting and fun to ride. I spotted a garter snake on the trail, so that’s another obstacle to keep an eye out for.

Neither is the trail exactly flat. It tends to climb and descend as it traverses small dunes. The climbs weren’t strenuous, but they did give my legs more of a workout than they would have gotten on a flat trail. The trail goes through areas of beach grass and woods. Once I got close to the bluff where the lighthouse is located, I found myself totally in the woods. Once I reached the Beard’s Hollow Trailhead, it was a climb to the lighthouse parking lot. One section of the trail to the lighthouse has a 10% slope, which made pedaling slow. I didn’t want to exert myself because I am riding 23 miles the next day for the Providence Bridge Pedal, so I chose to take it easy on my knees.

There is a bike rack at the lighthouse. The lighthouse was definitely a popular destination for cyclists and worth the visit. When I got there, only two other bikes were at the rack. When I left, the bike rack was full.

The keeper residences are lovely. After taking photos of the lighthouse and keeper

residences, I headed back down the hill and north along the trail. Riding north was harder as the wind had picked up from the north. It’s best to ride the trail in the morning to hopefully avoid the winds that pick up in the afternoon. On the ride north, I nearly ran into a young girl who was meandering across the trail right in front of me. I yelled, “on your left,” but the girl seemed oblivious to warning.

An elevated boardwalk extends a little over a third of a mile from the Sid Snyder Beach parking lot to the parking lot off Bolstad Avenue. Cyclists are encouraged not to ride on the boardwalk and instead stick to paved trail that runs alongside. From the boardwalk, you can view carved gray whale sculptures. There are also picnic tables and benches on the boardwalk.

I rode north to the very end of the trail at 26th Street NW. The north wind made my ride slow. Once at the end, I turned around and headed back south. Now with the wind at my back, my progress was much faster and less strenuous. The trail passes under the boardwalk, and a sign there warns of a low clearance. Believe me, it is a low clearance. I had to dip my head down to avoid hitting the boardwalk.

So, here’s my take on the trail: it’s fun thanks to the winding and undulating nature of the trail and varied vegetation zones the trail runs through, and the lighthouse makes for a rewarding destination. However, you can’t ride fast on the trail. If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one at Beachin Bikes on Sid Snyder Drive. Both manual and ebikes are available for rent. I spotted many ebikes on the trail.

Not sure it’s worth the drive to Long Beach if all you’re planning on doing is riding the trail. However, there are plenty of other activities to do while visiting Long Beach. You can go horseback riding on the beach. There is a go-kart track right off Sid Snyder Drive and a couple of miniature golf courses. Make it part of a trip exploring the peninsula. You can ride the trail in a couple of hours, leaving you plenty of time to explore other sites on the peninsula, like historic Oysterville. There are also places to paddle, so you can make a long weekend on the peninsula cycling and paddling.

There’s history in the region tied to Lewis and Clark, and Long Beach is the longest beach in the U.S. A word of warning: during summer weekends, Long Beach can be quite busy, and the traffic slows through town.

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