At Leadbetter Point State Park, on the upper Long Beach Peninsula, nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers, and adventure seekers come to experience a serene and secluded trail. Leadbetter Loop Trail has been on my list for quite some time and after finally making the journey down the coast for this hike, I left feeling fulfilled and happy.
Leadbetter Point State Park’s 1,732-acre expanse provides a captivating blend of Pacific Ocean beachfront and Willapa Bay serenity. Along the Leadbetter Loop Trail, you’ll encounter a diverse array of birds, from eagles and peregrine falcons to brown pelicans, terns, and ducks.
If you visit during the right season (March through September), you might even spot the adorable snowy plover chicks, resembling energetic cotton balls, a true testament to the park’s commitment to preserving endangered species.
This Leadbetter Loop Trail guide is your passport to exploring this hidden coastal gem. In this guide, I’ll share the wonders of Leadbetter Point State Park and the Leadbetter Loop Trail, offering a glimpse of what to expect on your adventure.
Just a heads up! This post contains affiliate links which means I could earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
Discovering Leadbetter Point State Park's Best Trail: Leadbetter Loop Trail
This guide will lead you through the Leadbetter Loop Trail, revealing the rich birdlife and natural beauty that this lesser-known park offers. As you explore, be sure to watch your step and stay within marked walking areas to protect the fragile snowy plover habitat.
Join us on a journey to the Leadbetter Loop Trail, a family-friendly adventure along the Washington Coastal Trail, where nature’s beauty and tranquility await.
Region: Olympic Peninsula and Pacific Coast
Distance: 5.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 ft
Time: 1.5 hours +
When to Go: Year- Round(technically)
Dogs Allowed?: No
Pass/Permit?: Discover Pass
Date Completed: September 17th, 2023
Accessing Leadbetter Loop Trailhead
In this section, I’ll guide you through accessing the trailhead, provide details on trailhead facilities, advise you on the best seasons to visit, and inform you about any required passes or permits. Your journey to Leadbetter Point State Park’s Leadbetter Loop Trail starts right here.
Where is Leadbetter Loop?
Leadbetter Point is located on the ancestral lands of the Chinook, Chehalis, Willapa, Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla tribes. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
Getting to the Trail
The trailhead for the Leadbetter Loop Trail is conveniently situated at Leadbetter Point State Park, found on the upper Long Beach Peninsula in Washington State. This pristine coastal landscape boasts a unique position between the Pacific Ocean and the tranquil Willapa Bay, making it semi-accessible for nature enthusiasts and hikers seeking a captivating adventure.
The trailhead for the Leadbetter loop trail has a pit toilet and garbage cans!
Season to Visit
Leadbetter State Park and the Willapa Bay Wildlife Refuge are impacted by seasonal flooding and most trails are impassable during the winter months.
During the Snowy Plover Nesting Season, most of the beach is closed to visitors so as to not disturb the habitat or these rare birds.
The best time to visit Leadbetter State Park is between the months of May and August. Outside of those months it is likely that you will encounter closures due to water logged trails or snowy plover nesting.
For more information, you can visit the parks website here.
To access this trail, hikers will need to have a Discover Pass.
What to Pack for Leadbetter Loop
The clothes you wear for your journey to Leadbetter State Park, should be comfortable and in layers. With the variety of terrain and changing amounts of shade, you’ll want to be able to put on and take off layers!
For late summer, which is the best time to visit Leadbetter State Park, wear a tank top and light hiking button down for the cool ocean breeze. My go-to tank top is the momentum tank top by Athleta, and I also love the REI Co-op Sahara Button Down Shirt.
For a little more warmth, my favorite pullover is the Columbia Helvetia.
The trail does not have any overly rocky terrain, so if you want to leave your rugged hiking boots in the car, you can throw on a pair of trail runners and be fine!
If you prefer hiking boots, I cannot recommend Oboz Bridgers enough! They are my favorite hiking boots and I have been wearing them since 2017. If you’re looking for a solid pair of trail runners, the Alta Lone Peak trail runners have a fantastic tread and are comfortable even on long treks.
I hope this helps you pack the best gear for your Leadbetter Loop Trail adventure! Let’s look into what to expect on your adventure.
Hiking the Leadbetter Loop Trail
Leadbetter Loop Trail is a captivating journey through a pristine and fragile coastal paradise. This specific route offers a taste of the park’s extremely rich biodiversity and stunning natural landscapes. There are seven miles of trails through the park, but this route is the trail identified as a “100 Classic Hike of Washington”.
Starting from the parking lot, your adventure unfolds as you traverse the Bay Loop Trail, Bearberry Trail, Weather Beach Trail, and Dune Forest Loop Trail, returning to where you began. Let’s break down this hike step by step.
Bay Loop Trail
Your journey commences at the parking lot, where you’ll find the trailhead for the Bay Loop Trail. This easy, family-friendly trail offers a gentle introduction to the park. Meandering through picturesque landscapes of long grasses and sandy knolls. You’ll experience the serenity of Willapa Bay, with opportunities for birdwatching.
The trail will branch off from the loop to the left towards the yellow trail sign. If you would like to continue the Bay Loop Trail, it will head back to the parking lot!
As you leave the Bay Loop Trail(green trail mark), the Bearberry Trail beckons you further into the heart of the park.
This moderately challenging trail takes you through maritime forests and mudflats, immersing you in the rich biodiversity of the region. Keep an eye out for black-tailed deer, elk, and raccoons that are often spotted along the way.
This section of the trail is often what gets flooded in the shoulder and winter season. There can be a foot or more of standing water on the trail even through May.
An optional and unforgettable part of this adventure is walking along the sandy shores to connect with the Weather Beach Trail. The beach offers an opportunity to take in the panoramic coastal views and to experience the ever-changing landscape of Leadbetter Point.
To connect to the Weather Beach Trail, turn left off of the Bearberry Trail. This will be a mile long beach walk. There are some roped off sections to protect the fragile beach environment.
If you turn right, you can hike all the way to the furthest north tip, Leadbetter Point. However, this is only accessible after October 1st and until March due to Snowy Plover nesting. But then you run into seasonal flooding along the trail.
This beach section is indicated by purple trail markers.
Weather Beach Trail
Upon reaching Weather Beach, marked with blue trail markers, the trail leads you along the sand dunes until reaching another breathtaking coast forest. This 0.8 mile section of trail is a beautiful blend of coast to forest. The low hanging trees on this section of this section are a testament to just how secluded this area is.
Dune Forest Loop
After completing the Weather Beach Trail, connect to the Dune Forest Loop Trail. This segment introduces you to the unique coastal dune ecosystem of the park, offering a chance to explore thick forests and coastal ledges.
This trail section has you hiking up rolling hills of sand! The trees thin out, letting in a gentle light. It is a truly beautiful section of trail.
As you conclude your hike, you’ll find yourself back at the parking lot, where your hike began.
This hike through Leadbetter Point State Park’s Leadbetter Loop Trail is a remarkable trek, providing a glimpse into the park’s diverse environments and natural wonders.
Commonly Asked Questions About Leadbetter Point
Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Leadbetter Point State Park and Leadbetter Point Loop Trail:
When are Snowy Plovers Nesting?
Snowy Plovers typically nest at Leadbetter Point State Park from march through September by laying their eggs in the sandy beaches of the park. To protect the habitat of these endangered birds, its essential to stay on marked trails and away from nesting areas.
Each Snowy Plover only lays 2-3 eggs, making this time vital for their flocks survival. Please be respectful!
What can you do at Leadbetter State Park?
Leadbetter State Park has a little something for everyone, which is why this State Park is so amazing.
Some of the outdoor activities that you can enjoy include hiking the trails, beach-combing, birdwatching, and picnicking along the beach. If you’re up for a water adventure, consider kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding on Willapa Bay (weather and tides permitting).
Don’t forget your Discover Pass!
How do tides impact the Leadbetter Loop Trail?
Tides play a crucial role in your experience on the Leadbetter Loop trail, especially if you plan to explore the beach sections. While there are trails further into the forest that are undisturbed by high-tide during the summer, winter months are still prone to flooding.
Low tide provides more extensive beach access on the sound and the bay. Check out the tide chart for the area before making your trek to see if it will impact your plans!
Are dogs allowed at Leadbetter State Park?
Yes, dogs are allowed at Leadbetter Point State Park, but they must be on a leash at all times. They are allowed on the southern trails and beaches. However, they are not allowed in the northern part of Leadbetter Point, which includes the refuge and snowy plover habitat.
What animals can you see at Leadbetter State Park?
Leadbetter Point is a well-known spot for birdwatching. Some of the birds you can expect to see in the park include, eagles, peregrine falcons, brown pelicans, terns, ducks, western tanagers, warblers, and maybe even a snowy plover. Larger animals include black-tailed deer, raccoons, oysters, and maybe even a seal.
It is important to remember to maintain a proper distance between yourself and all animals that you encounter.
Should Leadbetter Loop be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
I am hiking all “100 Classic Hikes of Washington”. But the question is, Should Leadbetter Point Loop be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
I was truly impressed by both Leadbetter Point State Park and the Leadbetter Point Loop Trail. Each connecting trail of the loop offered a unique ecosystem to explore along the coast and Willapa bay. It makes for a great family trail and beach day.
While this is one of my favorite trails, I am hesitant to label it a “100 Classic Hike of Washington” because of the truly fragile nature of the ecosystem and birds that live there. Since large portions of the park are only accessible for a handful of months due to Snowy Plover Nesting and of those months, the trails could be flooded, it doesn’t make for a very accessible trail.
I think everyone should experience this trail. But due to the protected nature of the trail, and limited availability, it should not be on the list.
Let me know in the comments if you think Leadbetter Loop Trail should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington!
If you’d like to complete your own 100 Classic Hikes journey, you can purchase the book here.
What to do After Your Hike
If you’re looking for something to do after the Leadbetter Point State Park adventure, look no further than Willapa National Wildlife Reserve.
Just a short drive from the State Park, Willapa National Wildlife Reserve has a Boardwalk Art Trail called the Salmon Art Trail that incorporates art and conservation.
You could spend an hour here or 15 minutes, but it is well worth the stop on the way back.
Also along Highway 101 just before the Willapa Bay Bridge, is a collection of Old Growth Cedars. Stop for a short hike along the Teal Slough Trail to witness these magnificent giants.
Pack it Up
If you love diverse ecosystems and wildlife, I am sure you will love this State Park and trail. As always, please recreate responsibly by following the seven principles of leave no trace.