At the perfect point: Day hiking at Leadbetter Point State Park

Leadbetter point from air CCFKR beebe
When you have a good point...you visit it! Leadbetter Point State Park makes for a peaceful and intriguing day trip. Photo by Sam Beebe.

May 26, 2017

At the furthest reaches of the Long Beach Peninsula lies a breathtaking collision of worlds.

Welcome to Leadbetter Point State Park

Wind, sand and water meet headlong with the forest on this knife-like slice of land sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the shallow waters of Willapa Bay. It is a landscape in constant flux, forged by wind and tide. Yet there is also a steadfastness to these grounds—where the creatures of the air, earth and water have met for millennia, brought by instinct and the bounty and sanctuary this unique landscape provides.
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Looking for a quiet day exploring the surf and seaside forest? Leadbetter is a lesser-known park ripe with gentle joys of birdwatching and easy hiking along the shore.  With warmer temperatures on the horizon, now is the perfect time to dust off your binoculars and head to the peninsula to play at the point! 

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Leadbetter Point is not a large park, but it borders the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, which expands the explorable area, not to mention the wow factor of this day-use park.  Located about 30 minutes (by car) north of Long Beach, the park is far from the crowds that you’ll often find on the lower peninsula. Come explore!

Wildlife watching

Leadbetter snowy plover CCFKR USFWS
Spotted a plover? Be sure to stay inside the marked walking areas—these guys are endangered! Snowy plovers, which nest in the sand at Leadbetter, are adorable, animated and well worth a visit by themselves. Bring your binoculars and watch your step! Photo by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region.

Leadbetter Point and the adjoining refuge are some of the best places to spot wildlife in the state. You may run into the perennial deer and raccoon or even the wayward sea lion. But the main attraction is birdwatching. The park is in the path of the Pacific Flyway, and denizens of the sky congregate here in the thousands, drawn by ample food sources, perfect nesting habitats and a mostly predator-free environment. In addition to raptors, such as peregrine falcon and bald eagle, you may see brown pelicans, ducks of all kinds and with any luck, the tiny and utterly charming snowy plover. Plovers are an endangered species and nest in the sand, so watch where you walk! 

Hiking and beach exploration

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    Oh give me sand, lots of sand... Take a walk and fly your kite on the beach at Leadbetter Point! Photo by chelsealwood.

Beach trail or forest hike? With trails this flat, sandy and easy to hike, you won’t have to choose—you can do both! Leadbetter has about 7 miles of trails. Some are even ADA accessible but none are overly strenuous. Take a turn through the moss-hung Sherwood Forest to Stackpole Slough (read: swamp) that is a breeding ground for many of the bird’s favorite food—insects. 

TRAVEL TIP: At this time of year you will want to use an ample amount of insect repellent as the mosquitoes here are infamously large and numerous. We also recommend you wear clothing that covers your skin!

Bugs are fewer out on the wind-swept grassy dunes. But be sure to stay within the marked areas as you explore so as not to disturb nests. Expansive ocean views and constant wind make this a great area for
kite flying as well! Closer to the earth, you’ll find interesting and sometimes rare flora, such as vivid lupine, wild strawberry and dainty sand verbena. 

​Boating

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Are you experienced...at paddlesports? A paddle around Willapa Bay offers a fresh and refreshing way to enjoy Leadbetter Point. Photo by Dmitry Alexeenko.

For the more experienced paddlesport enthusiast, the waters on the Willapa Bay side of Leadbetter Point offer an exciting view of the coastal pine forests and active wildlife. Bear in mind this area holds many hazards for the paddler; from erratic weather conditions to running aground on a muddy tidal flat. Always know before you go by checking tide charts and…

 “File a float plan, always check the weather before you go and know the weather can change fast, so wearing your life jacket is really important,” says Lt. Jim Bergstrom from Pacific County Sheriff’s Office marine patrol unit. “Don’t forget a sounding device (whistle, cell phone in a waterproof bag) as well.”

Leadbetter Point is on the Willapa Bay Water Trail. Find resources, tips for good places to put in and strategies for a fun, safe float trip here. For additional information, visit our State Parks Boating Program paddlesports page.

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Park hours:
Year-round: 6:30 a.m. to dusk

Discover Pass:
The Discover Pass must be displayed on your vehicle when visiting Leadbetter Point State Park, except on State Parks free days.

Location:
At the northern end of the Long Beach Peninsula, 9 miles north of Ocean Park. (Directions)

Map:
Want a handy trail map? Download one from the State Parks website.

Leadbetter Point State Park

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