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The 9 Best Hikes Along the Northern Oregon Coast, Mapped

  |  Local Happenings

If you’re looking for scenic ocean views, lush forests, wildflowers and rocky hikes, there is perhaps no better place to be than the Oregon Coast. Experience the beauty of this region with a hike traveling along the coast — or through a forest or park leading to a viewpoint on the coast.

These Oregon Coast hikes vary in length, difficulty and terrain, but all offer breathtaking vistas and an opportunity to breathe in the fresh ocean air and stretch your legs. Plus, all hikes are along the northern portion of the coast, not far from the quaint towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside.

It’s time to slip on your hiking boots and your rain jacket (it’s Oregon, after all!), pack up the car with water and snacks, and make your way to the trailhead of these scenic coastal trails.

 

Tillamook Head Traverse Hike

Distance: 6.3 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

History buffs, listen up! Because this scenic, mostly forested trail is where hiking and history converge. The trail across Tillamook Head has been used for more than two centuries, first by the native inhabitants of the region, later by Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1806, and today by hikers. You can travel the trail either by starting at the Indian Beach Trailhead in Ecola State Park or Tillamook Head Trailhead in the southern portion of Seaside. Either way you travel, you’ll pass by WWII-era bunkers, see a few occasional ocean views, and catch a glimpse of Tillamook Rock Light.

 

Neahkahnie Mountain Loop Hike

Distance: 8 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Travel through the old growth forest surrounding Necarney Creek, reach the cliffs at Devil’s Cauldron, and pass through peaceful meadows, all on this 8-mile hike through Oswald West State Park. This moderate hike forms a lollipop loop and requires hikers to walk on a road (including 1.25 miles along the busy Highway 101), but the breathtaking scenery makes this hike worth it. Looking for a shorter option? You could cut down the hike to 5.4 miles by starting at North Neahkahnie Mountain Trailhead! Learn more about Oswald West State Park and what to do there (like visiting Short Sand Beach!) here.

 

Cascade Head

Distance: 6.8 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Cascade Head Hike, Oregon

Photo Courtesy of Steve Hart, Trailkeepers of Oregon

This trail along the Oregon Coast is one of the most scenic hikes in the area — especially during the spring when wildflowers are in bloom. After climbing several switchbacks toward the middle of the hike, you’ll encounter views down a cliff to the Pacific, followed by an upper viewpoint. This headland meadow hosts a rare ecosystem, including two rare plants, the Cascade Head Catchfly and the Hairy Stemmed Checkermallow. It’s estimated that 99 percent of the extremely rare Cascade Head Catchfly flower resides on this hill!

 

Cape Falcon

Distance: 4.8 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

This out-and-back hike takes you through a forest packed with towering spruce trees and features a number of incredible views, of both the ocean and surrounding scenery, including Neahkahnie Mountain and the town of Manzanita. There are a few sections to be aware of, including a creek crossing, and some slippery, muddy portions of the trail, but overall, this easy 4.8-mile hike is worth it. Learn more about the history of Oswald State Park here and keep an eye out for the memorial marker for Matt Kramer at the trail divide between Short Sands Beach and Cape Falcon. Kramer was a journalist for the Associated Press who wrote articles that helped shift public opinion about preserving beaches.

 

Cape Lookout

Distance: 5 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Cape Lookout Hike, Oregon

Photo Courtesy of Steve Hart, Trailkeepers of Oregon

As you might have guessed from the name, Cape Lookout is one of the best viewpoints for whale watching during the winter and spring. Because the spring migration promises warmer temperatures, consider embarking on this 5-mile hike between mid-March and mid-April, when nearly 20,000 gray whales pass along the coast on their way to Alaska. This 2-mile-long peninsula offers breathtaking views to the south and north and plenty of forested terrain to shield you from the sun. You’ll travel through the wet, muddy forest filled with western hemlocks, polypody ferns, sitka spruce trees, and other lush vegetation.

 

Clatsop Loop Hike

Distance: 3 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

This 3-mile loop in Ecola State Park offers views of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, lush forest land and plenty of ocean views. Start at the Indian Beach parking area, travel north to the trailhead and cross Indian Creek to begin the loop. Continue straight up old Indian Creek Road Trail, which eventually reaches a junction, where you’ll turn right towards a backpacker campsite. To return, simply follow Tillamook Head Trail back toward Indian Beach. All the while, you’ll take in wonderful views of the ocean and lighthouse!

 

God’s Thumb

Distance: 4.6 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

God’s Thumb Hike, Oregon

Photo Courtesy of John Sparks, Trailkeepers of Oregon

Known as God’s Thumb (or simply The Thumb), this basalt formation in Siuslaw National Forest is a spectacular sight to behold. If you’ve hiked this trail in the past, keep in mind the most popular access route has since been closed, as it passes through private land. Simply enter the trail through the Roads End Trailhead and follow the detailed directions described in detail by Trailkeepers of Oregon. Once you reach the unique thumb-shaped formation along the ocean, you’ll take in exceptional views of secluded coves, offshore stacks, Cascade Head, and of course, the roaring ocean below.

 

Hug Point

Distance: 0.5 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

For a quick beach hike — especially if you wish to do more sightseeing than “hiking” — consider Hug Point. Arcadia Beach State Recreation Site extends for more than a mile between two headlands — Humbug Point to the north and Hug Point to the south. Both can only be passed at low tide, and Hug Point is especially difficult to pass — especially during high tide. Before you go, be sure to check the updated tide and sand conditions, and remember: if in doubt, don’t go out! But during low tide and if conditions are safe, walk north past the point to discover some sea caves, tidepools, a tiny waterfall, and remnants of an old roadway along the cliff.

 

Cape Kiwanda

Distance: 2.2 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Cape Kiwanda Hike, Oregon

Photo Courtesy of John Sparks, Trailkeepers of Oregon

Situated just north of Pacific City, Cape Kiwanda is one of the most beautiful sights to behold. Just behind the Cape lies the Great Dune, an enormous hill of mudstone and sandstone layers covered in sand and trees. Experience the wonders of this area with a hike along the beach starting at the Pacific Avenue Trailhead, which provides access to an area of the beach where no vehicles are permitted. Start traveling up the dunes to experience breathtaking views, then drop down to the beach and travel north along the water’s edge. You’ll see Haystack Rock (not the one we all know about in Cannon Beach!) to your left as you travel along this scenic and pleasant coastal hike.

 

Happy Trails!

What Oregon Coast trails do you love exploring? Let us know your favorite(s) in the comments below.

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About the Author

Melissa Peterson, Director of Agent Services and Technology

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