written by Allison Miles | photo by Justin Baile
Perhaps Oregon’s most definitive bragging point is its 363 miles of coastline, teeming with moss-laden trees, craggy outcroppings, violent surf blasting the rugged cliffs and quiet tide pools. Hiking is one way to get up close and personal with the coast’s topography, wildlife and wildflowers. Here are eight great coastal hikes, from Brookings to Seaside.
Stretching along the coast for 12 miles north of Brookings, the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is rugged and steep, interspersed with sandy beaches, craggy bluffs, secluded coves and seaside prairies. It contains 27 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail, which travels through a 300-year-old sitka spruce forest and offers views of Arch Rock and Natural Bridges. Other hikes include the 1-mile out-and-back to Cape Ferrelo, which allows the 4-mile extension to House Rock viewpoint. Indian Sands to China Beach is 7 miles round-trip and begins with sand dunes that originated not from the ocean, but from sandstone rock. The hike passes 350-foot-deep Thomas Creek Canyon and travels through old growth forest before descending to China Beach.
Gold Beach is home to the world’s largest myrtle tree, as well as old growth fir, cedar and redwood, the Rogue River estuary and a variety of hiking trails. Some of the area highlights include the Francis Shrader Old Growth Trail—the 3-mile outand- back tour through ancient virgin forest containing more than twenty-two varieties of trees and shrubs—and the easy half-mile Myrtle Tree Trail, which visits a 400-year-old tree with a 42-foot circumference. The nearby Rogue River and Illinois River trails offer a combined 80 miles of hiking, while the area’s beaches and estuary provide abundant birdlife viewing.
Blacklock Point is located within the undeveloped Floras Lake State Park. To get there, take Highway 101 from Langlois and follow signs for Boice-Cope County Park. Continue to the end of the road and park at Floras Lake. Although there are sand dunes and views of one of Oregon’s oldest lighthouses, the main attraction is the 2-mile stretch of 80- to 100- foot sandstone cliffs rising above the beach. The geological wonder can be viewed from hiking along the beach (6 miles round-trip) or by looking down from above by following trails from Floras Lake.
Heceta Head, located north of Florence, boasts Oregon’s most photographed lighthouse. Rising 205 feet above the sea, Heceta Head Lighthouse has cast its beam 21 miles out to sea since 1894. To explore Heceta Head, the quickest approach is a 1-mile roundtrip, beginning from the parking lot at Hobbit Beach and ascending past the Keepers House to the lighthouse. Other options start from Highway 101 (2.6 miles round-trip) or from Carl Washburne Memorial State Park (5.9 miles round-trip). Of course, the longer and more difficult route offers well-earned vistas and a unique perspective of the lighthouse from above, surrounded by windswept trees and the churning sea.
photo by Danny Warren
Cascade Head is a panoramic wildflower meadow atop a 1,200-foot-high bluff, with expansive views of the Salmon River estuary, Pacific Ocean, rugged coastline and sometimes grazing elk. There are a few options for getting there, ranging from 4 to 6 miles. For the shorter and more popular route, take Highway 101 north of Lincoln City about a mile past the Highway 18 junction, then turn left onto Three Rocks Road and continue about 3 miles to the trailhead. A longer, quieter approach ascends through second-growth spruce on the Cascade Head Inland Trail. The trailhead is located at the beginning of Three Rocks Road.
Cape Lookout State Park is located just south of Tillamook and Netarts Bay and is known as one of Oregon’s best places for whale watching. The 5-mile out-and-back trail meanders through old-growth sitka spruce and hemlock to the end of the cape, which delivers a 270-degree panorama and a 400-foot sheer drop to crashing waves, lounging seals and sea lions, or grey whales navigating around the cape on their migration along the coast. On the return trip, extend the hike by taking the trail 1.5 miles down to quiet and secluded South Beach or head north about 2.3 miles to the picnic area, nature trail and campground.
photo by Justin Baile
Oswald West State Park, nestled between Cannon Beach and Manzanita, contains old growth trees dripping with moisture, a popular-yet-quiet beach tucked into a cove, trickling streams heading toward the sea and a trail that provides consistent views as it ascends 1,600 feet to the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain. There’s a shorter 4-mile roundtrip to the top from Highway 101, but it’s worth putting in the extra effort to hike from Short Sand Beach. About 10 miles total, the route climbs through thick understory to an overlook above Devil’s Cauldron before crossing the highway and gaining another 900 feet. The hard work is rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Manzanita, Nehalem Bay and the coast to the south.
Ecola State Park, part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, covers 9 miles of coast between Seaside and Cannon Beach. The Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) connects Ecola Point, Indian Beach, Tillamook Head viewpoint and more. The 2.5-mile-long Clatsop Loop Trail traces a path taken by Captain William Clark and his party of explorers (including Sacajawea) and provides spectacular views of the rocky coastline and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. From Ecola Point, hikers can descend 1.25 miles to Crescent Beach or follow the OCT north 1.5 miles to Indian Beach. Continue north for the 8-mile point-topoint hike along the coastline or turn around at any point for an out-and-back trip.