It was a stormy November day when my husband and I visited Fort Stevens State Historical Site. We were heading to our next campground several hours away that same day, so my focused goal for our short visit was to find a destination to view the mighty Columbia in all its frothing glory close to where it meets the Pacific.

We really did not spend enough time at Fort Stevens State Historical Site to do it justice. The park brochure describes a self-guided walking tour, divided into two one-hour segments. This is obviously a large amount of walking. I would love to have information on the portions of the tour that might be shorter jaunts, as well as seating options along the way, so you would know more about your options, but I did not gather this information on our visit.

The whole area is full of nice paved paths that wind all through the trees. My husband loved the idea of riding his bicycle on these (in better weather); it’s a great setup for that type of recreation. For those of us who prefer to be on foot though, below are a few destinations.

Wildlife viewing bunker

175 Steps Wheels:

We reached the wildlife viewing bunker in our first attempt to find a view of the Columbia River. From the bunker, the visible portion of the Columbia is actually facing into Trestle Bay. Due to this sheltered inlet, even on a stormy day it is a tame view of the water. Roiling river it is not at this juncture, but I imagine on a Spring day it is a great spot for viewing birds and other marsh-loving inhabitants.

My counting was muddled due to my attention turning elsewhere on the walk there and scurrying from rain on the return trip. The step count above uses my fallback calculation based on the Google Maps reported distance, although a 100 Steps visitor reports it at 250 steps. This helpful visitor also provided the boardwalk and bunker photos and mentioned signage in the bunker depicts the local birds. Sometimes elk visit too!

Walk Details for Wildlife viewing bunker
Terrain: Flat decking with a handrail turns into a small uneven sand trail
Seating: No
Fee: Day pass, recreation pass, or camping receipt
Restrooms: Yes, in the parking lot
Directions: From the day use area entrance, follow Jetty Road to the end (parking lot D). The path to the Wildlife Viewing Bunker is on the right side of the parking lot as you face the restrooms, near the middle of that side of the lot.

Columbia view

25 Steps Wheels:

Still seeking a view of the Columbia, we stopped at the far end of the wildlife viewing bunker parking lot, where after a short sandy jaunt I got a peek of the Columbia. Still a bit upriver from where it touches the Pacific, it ended up being the best Columbia view we found on our short outing.

The step count above is to view the river. From this viewpoint you can choose to continue walking to reach the river beach.

Walk Details for Columbia view
Terrain: Sand trail, short medium incline
Seating: No
Fee: Day pass, recreation pass, or camping receipt
Restrooms: Yes, in the parking lot
Directions: From the day use area entrance, follow Jetty Road to the end (parking lot D). If you face the bathroom in the parking lot and look to the left, you will see a path to little sand knoll, close to the parking lot corner.

Viewing platform

125 Steps Wheels:

The wind was raging by the time we reached the viewing platform, so I left the scouting to my husband.   I originally thought the nearby tumultuous water was the Columbia view I was seeking. I later discovered it was the Pacific (acting anything but peaceful on the day of our visit). The Columbia’s south jetty juts into the sea just northwest of the platform. To glimpse the river, look across the grassland due north.

The step count above includes a climb of 22 stairs. Many thanks to a 100 Steps visitor who provided this count and additional photos.

Walk Details for Viewing platform
Terrain: Gravel trail, then two flights of perhaps a dozen stairs each, with handrails
Seating: Bench at the top of the platform
Fee: Day pass, recreation pass, or camping receipt
Restrooms: Yes, in the parking lot
Directions: From the day use area entrance, follow the signs on Jetty Road to the Viewing Platform (parking lot C).