Beautiful views, great food, and time spent worry-free. These are things we all look for in a great trip. But one thing stays in our memory longer than these details — stories. The little moments shared with someone you love, the beautiful landscapes, and even the thoughts realized after some alone time in nature all form a story by the journey’s end.
Fort Stevens State Park is a historic place overflowing with such stories. The only question left is: what story will you tell about this gem resting along the majestic Oregon coast?
To make the most of your time in this lovely locale, read this Fort Stevens State Park RV camping guide.
Fort Stevens State Park Facts
This once-active military site has been a part of US history for over 150 years. Let the park’s rich history light up your imagination with these Fort Stevens State Park facts!
Fort Stevens was active for 84 years. It was in use starting as far back as the Civil War all the way to World War II.
The fort’s name comes from Isaac Stevens, the governor of what was formerly Washington State in 1865.
With over 4,300 acres of land area to explore, Fort Stevens is packed full of sights and things to do. That includes forested trails to hike, beaches to comb, and wildlife to spot.
In 1906, a ship called Peter Iredale wrecked on the shores of Clatsop Spit. The wreck injured no one, including two stowaway passengers. Today, the wreck is still visible and is one of the most accessible shipwrecks viewable by the public.
Thanks to its location along the coast, Fort Stevens State Park is one of the best spots in the US for whale watching. Over 20,000 of these spectacular creatures make their way south in viewing range of the shore every year.
Since shutting down in 1947, the fort has been converted into the sprawling 4,300-acre state park we enjoy today.
Best Fort Stevens State Park Campgrounds and RV Parks
Hoping to go RV camping in Fort Stevens State Park? There are plenty of options in and around the park to choose from. Let this guide to the best Fort Stevens State Park campgrounds help you find your next home base.
Fort Stevens State Park Campground
Amenities: For the ultimate camping location, the RV sites in Fort Stevens State Park are the way to go. You’ll be within walking distance of the beach, the Columbia River, and all the biking and hiking trails you could desire. Full hookups are available at most sites.
Capacity: 476 sites
More information: Fort Stevens State Park Campground
Astoria Seaside KOA
Amenities: If you’re looking for RV sites near Fort Stevens State Park that can fit a bigger rig, Seaside KOA is for you. Their pull-thru sites accommodate up to 90-foot-long RVs for a smooth check-in. The kids will find plenty of camping activities to enjoy, like a swimming pool, miniature golf, and basketball courts.
Capacity: 311 sites
More information: Astoria Seaside KOA
Kampers West Kampground
Amenities: Kampers West promises one of the most peaceful RV campgrounds near Fort Stevens State Park. The grounds are nestled into a quiet woodland with trees located near the mouth of the Colorado River. Thanks to its dedicated fish cleaning and cooking station, it’s the perfect spot for fishers to enjoy the day’s catch over an open fire.
Capacity: 213 sites
More information: Kampers West Kampground
Sunset Lake Park
Amenities: This simple, quaint RV campground near Fort Stevens State Park is a perfect place to end an evening or even pass a day. The sites are laid out around a lake where you can fish for trout and bass. The park is a short drive away from a lesser-traveled strand of shoreline ocean for some restful solitude. Keep in mind that only 25 sites offer full hookups.
Capacity: 80 sites
More information: Sunset Lake Park
RV Park at the Bridge
Amenities: This small park overlooks the sea just beyond a winding coastal road. You’ll have to cross ‘the bridge’ to get to Fort Stevens State Park in about 20 minutes of driving. But this unassuming park deserves mention for its nice view clear to the horizon and friendly service. So if you don't mind staying at RV parks near Fort Stevens State Park rather than in the park, this is a prime option.
Capacity: 45 sites
More information: RV Park at the Bridge
Best Time To Visit Fort Stevens State Park
Rain or shine, the Oregon coast is a beauty to behold. However, there are some more pleasant times of the year to take in the natural wonders. The temperamental weather of the Oregon coast means you’ll need to think carefully about when to plan your visit. With this seasonal guide below, you’ll find your own best time to visit Fort Stevens State Park.
Heavy rainfall that’s never quite cold enough to freeze makes it difficult to recommend winter RV camping at Fort Stevens State Park. From November through January, the park sees 18 days of rain on average. The lows of around 40 degrees Fahrenheit mean there won’t be snow to speak of either. But if whale watching is your main goal, winter is your best bet. Fun fact — as many as 25,000 gray whales make their way to warmer waters as they pass by this Oregon park.
Spring might conjure up images of warming weather, blooming wildflowers, and fun in the sun. But Oregon’s coast keeps its brisk chill until around mid-May. Besides the near-freezing temperatures at night, you can expect around 10 to 17 days of rain on average. The good news is that late February through May is the other high season for migrating whales. So RV camping near Fort Stevens State Park in this season is a nice alternative to the wet winter months.
Summer is definitely your best choice for pleasant weather during a Fort Stevens State Park RV camping trip. Expect warm days around 70 degrees Fahrenheit without all the rain of the off-season. Summer is the perfect time to hit the beach, go fishing, swim, or try some water sports at the park. But this wonderful weather also draws the crowds. Expect much higher crowd density than any other season and potentially higher rates at RV parks near Fort Stevens State Park.
If you’re looking for off-season RV camping at Fort Stevens State Park without too much rain, aim for a fall visit. On average, September gives you the best odds of a dry stay with just seven days of rain in a typical year. The weather in September is a perfectly crisp 50 to 70 degrees, just right for outdoor activities you’ll want to enjoy. The pleasant temperature and lack of rain make for a good time to check out the military museum before making your way to the batteries spread throughout the park.
Things To Do In Fort Stevens State Park
There are so many things to do in Fort Stevens State Par that it can be hard to know just where to start! Read on for some great ideas to ease your trip planning.
Explore Battery Russell. This large concrete structure once was an active cannon battery. The compound has been intact since WWII and is fully open to exploration. Imagine the cannon being operated by its full crew of 35, scrambling to defend a surprise attack as you read the stories and facts leading you around the space.
See the Peter Iredale shipwreck. Some call it nothing more than a hunk of scrap stuck in the sand. But the discerning eye will recognize that the remnants of this century-old wreck are a rare sight. The ship’s rusted hull is a nice centerpiece for a photo-op and a stark reminder of the power of the sea around you.
Go whale watching. The Oregon coast is a fantastic spot for whale watching. Orcas, grey whales, and humpbacks all make their way along the park’s edge on their way to warmer waters. The winter season is around mid-December to mid-January. The spring season starts around late March.
Hike the Oregon Coast Trail — well, part of it anyway. Pack the hiking shoes! You won’t want to miss this. This behemoth trail along the majestic Oregon coast is 384 miles long, and 344 of those miles are officially designated as “scenic hiking.” It runs through beaches, along tree-lined forests, and even through quaint, seaside towns for an ever-changing gift of a trail.
The Best Hiking Trails in Fort Stevens State Park
Fort Stevens State Park is known for its diverse landscapes that include forests, beaches, dunes, and historical sites. There are several hiking trails within the park that offer a range of experiences. Here are some of the best hiking trails in Fort Stevens State Park.
South Jetty Trail: This easy, flat trail leads you through coastal dune habitat and provides access to the South Jetty of the Columbia River. You can enjoy views of the river, ships passing by, and even spot wildlife like birds and seals.
Coffenbury Lake Trail: This 1.5-mile loop trail takes you around Coffenbury Lake, offering serene views of the lake surrounded by trees. It's a relatively easy trail suitable for families and individuals looking for a peaceful walk.
Fort to Sea Trail: This longer trail (approximately 6.5 miles one way) connects Fort Stevens State Park to the Oregon coast at Sunset Beach. It takes you through forests, dunes, and ends at the ocean. It's a moderate hike that showcases the park's diverse ecosystems.
Octopus Tree Trail: This short interpretive trail (about 0.5 miles round trip) leads you to the famous Octopus Tree, a massive Sitka spruce with unique horizontal limbs. Along the trail, you'll learn about the history and ecology of the area.
Battery Russell Trail: While this is more of a historical site, exploring Battery Russell can involve a fair amount of walking. You can explore the old military battery's bunkers, tunnels, and gun emplacements. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the area.
Bike Paths: While not exclusively hiking trails, the park also offers several paved bike paths that can be enjoyed by hikers as well. These paths wind through forests and along the coastline, providing beautiful views and a chance to explore the park on two wheels or on foot.
Remember to check the park's official website or visitor center for trail maps, current conditions, and any seasonal closures. Also make sure to be prepared with proper footwear, water, and snacks, especially for the longer trails.
Wildlife in Fort Stevens State Park Campground
There are many different species of wildlife that may be present in the park during your visit. Here are some of the wildlife that you could encounter:
Best Photography Spots in the Park
Fort Stevens State Park offers a diverse range of landscapes, from historic sites to coastal scenery, providing numerous opportunities for photography. Here are some of the best photography spots in Fort Stevens State Park:
South Jetty: The jetty offers views of the Columbia River, meeting the Pacific Ocean, creating a dramatic backdrop for your photos. The jetties themselves and the ships passing through can make for interesting compositions.
Sunset Beach: As the name suggests, this beach is a great spot for capturing stunning sunset shots. The wide expanse of sandy shore against the backdrop of the ocean and sky provides a beautiful canvas for your photos.
Historical Batteries: Battery Russell and other historical batteries within the park provide a unique opportunity for capturing images of the well-preserved World War II structures. The bunkers, gun emplacements, and tunnels offer a sense of history and intrigue.
Coffenbury Lake: The lake's tranquil waters, surrounded by lush vegetation, create a serene setting for photography. Reflection shots, especially during calm days, can yield striking results.
Dunes and Forests: The park's trails take you through coastal dunes and dense forests. These areas offer chances to capture contrasting landscapes. Look for interesting patterns in the sand, shadows cast by trees, and the interplay of light and shade.
Octopus Tree: The iconic Octopus Tree is a unique subject for your photos. Capturing its impressive form and the stories it holds can make for captivating images.
Wildlife Photography: Fort Stevens is home to various wildlife species, including birds and deer. Patience and the right timing can help you capture candid shots of these creatures in their natural habitat.
Historic Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale: Though the wreck is slowly being claimed by the ocean, it's still visible from the beach and provides a fascinating subject for moody and evocative photography, especially during overcast days.
Northwest Coast Scenery: The rugged coastline, with its rocky formations, crashing waves, and sea stacks, is characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. These scenes can provide dynamic and powerful images.
Remember to consider the time of day and lighting conditions when planning your photography sessions. Sunrise and sunset often provide the best lighting for capturing stunning shots. Additionally, be respectful of the park's natural and historical features, following ethical photography practices and leaving no trace.
Tips on Visiting Fort Stevens State Park
Your time should be filled with memorable moments and new experiences. The tips on visiting Fort Stevens State Park below were curated to keep you safe so you can fully enjoy this great destination.
Respect History. Fort Stevens has a rich historical background. Pick up a free park guide that provides insights into the historical sites within the park. The guide includes old photos and details that will enrich your exploration and help you appreciate the park's significance.
Weather Preparedness. The Oregon coast is known for its ever-changing weather. Before your trip, make sure to check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. Layered clothing, waterproof gear, and sturdy footwear are essential for being comfortable in varying conditions.
Seasonal Considerations. Due to the unpredictable weather patterns, choose the timing of your visit wisely. Be prepared for rain and wind, even during the summer months. Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) for more manageable crowds and potentially milder weather.
Tide Awareness. Some areas of the park, especially along the beach, can become inaccessible during high tides. Check tide forecasts before embarking on long hikes or beach walks to avoid being caught off guard.
Ocean Safety. While the Oregon coast is beautiful, the ocean can be treacherous. Be cautious if you decide to venture into the water. Riptides and strong currents are common, so it's essential to be aware of ocean conditions. Even experienced swimmers and surfers should exercise caution and stay within their limits.
Stay on Marked Trails. To preserve the park's delicate ecosystems and prevent accidents, stick to designated trails. Venturing off-trail can damage sensitive habitats and put you at risk of getting lost.
Pack Essentials. Carry essentials like water, snacks, a first aid kit, a map, and a fully charged cell phone. These items will come in handy in case of emergencies or unexpected situations.
Campground Reservations. If you're planning to camp at Fort Stevens State Park, make campground reservations well in advance, especially during peak seasons. This ensures you have a spot secured for your stay.
Wildlife Respect. Fort Stevens is home to a variety of wildlife. Admire animals from a distance and avoid feeding them. Remember, they are wild creatures, and our presence can impact their natural behaviors.
Leave No Trace. As with any natural area, practice Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all your trash and minimize your impact on the environment by following responsible hiking and camping practices.
RV Rental for Fort Stevens State Park Campground
That does it for our ultimate guide to this historic park teeming with things to do nearby. And if you’re curious about the lifestyle but don’t have the rig, Cruise America’s Fort Stevens State Park RV rentals have everything you’ll need to hit the road.
Their fleet comes loaded with all the amenities and comfortable living space you’ll need to make the journey as joyous as the destination. Whether you’re a road veteran or driving an RV for the first time, you’ll find just the vehicle to make some fond memories.
Reserve an RV rental for Fort Stevens State Park today!