North Head Lighthouse | Cape Disappointment State Park | Ilwaco, WA

Cape Disappointment State Park might sound like a sad name, but it does not describe the feelings you’ll have when visiting. We spent 4 days camping at Cape Disappointment State Park, and let me tell you…it was fantastic!  The beach (accessed via a personal trail in your camp site) is clean, beautiful and has an amazing view of the North Head Lighthouse.

The North Head Lighthouse was added to assist the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse in May of 1898. The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse had been in service since 1856; however, there were so many shipwrecks that another lighthouse was needed to assist ships as they navigated the Columbia River. Today, the North Head Lighthouse still stands overlooking the confluence of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean, but is not tended to by a lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse now runs on an automated beacon (

The house below was once the residence of the lighthouse keeper. It is now used as a gift shop.

The walk to the lighthouse is very easy.  It is a nice gravel walk that’s wide and easy to manage. Important Note: Anyone can walk to the lighthouse (and everyone should as there are amazing views), however you must be 7 years or older to CLIMB to the top of the lighthouse. We didn’t know this until we arrived and I had 2 very sad kiddos.  Adults must pay a fee of $2.50 to climb the tower and children are free.

The views were SO terrible to look at! (Please sense the sarcasm…it was GORGEOUS!)

The picture below is overlooking Dead Man’s Hollow and Benson Beach. This is the beach that sits directly behind campground A at Cape Disappointment State Park. The trails to the beach are literally in your camp site. It is SO cool. I highly recommend camping here.  Just look at that sand…and water…and view…


A little closer view of the beach. Can you spot the RV? This was one cul-de-sac over from where we stayed.  The pile of logs is where we sat each day when visiting the water. Rough life, I tell ya.

This is the moment where my little 6-year-old and 5-year-old learned they were not allowed to climb up the tower. Poor things. But isn’t the lighthouse just beautiful! It wasn’t terribly busy, so those that are better photographers than I should have plenty of time to set up the perfect shot. Do NOT forget your camera on this quick visit!

I sat down and let them have a little “woe is me” moment. I mean, it was a pretty big bummer. Guess that means we’ll just have to go again! Below is the “steepest” slope on the trail. As you can see, this trail is quite easy and very easy to manage for those of all ages. Even a wheelchair with some sturdy wheels could probably manage the trail.



The older 2 boys went up the lighthouse with the rest of the family. It is pretty tight quarters and quite a few stairs, but my 6′ 8″ hubby was able to make the climb with no issues, as were his 80+ year old grandparents.

Here is the automated beacon. It runs off a 25-watt light bulb. Can you believe it?!


The North Head Lighthouse is well worth the visit. It is officially located in Ilwaco, WA and is open (usually – check times) from 10am to 5pm. On a clear day, you can see for miles at the viewpoints. Even if the lighthouse isn’t doing tours that day, this is still a great walk and beautiful structure to visit.

North Head Lighthouse Road, Ilwaco, WA 98624
(360) 642-3029

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