The Oregon Coast Trail
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Unique in in the nation, the Oregon Coast Trail is a roughly 400-mile border-to-border route that marries the coast's 200-plus miles of sandy beach with trails over coastal headlands and occasional road shoulder stretches, where trail either cannot or has not yet been built.
(Photo: Hiker on trail between Blacklock Point
and Floras Lake, south of Bandon.)
In September 2008 I made a through-hike of the northern portion of the trail, backpacking from the Columbia River to Yachats. In July 2009 I completed the trail, backpacking from Yachats to the California border. My book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast includes a cursory guide to the Oregon Coast Trail, concentrating on the transitions between beach, trail and road. Below is a more detailed and updated guide to the OCT—including details about lodging, camping and boat ferries—than you will find in Day Hiking: Oregon Coast. Refer to that book for specifics of some trail portions of the OCT.
The OCT is far from a wilderness experience, but that's part of its charm; it takes in the coast's small towns, where you can stock up on groceries or eat in cafes, as well as the state park campgrounds and waysides arrayed along the shore, and motels are frequent enough to allow "inn-to-inn" hiking in most places. But walking it for more than a day is still an adventure. Creeks and bay mouths must be crossed by wading or by catching a boat ride (to avoid a long detour by road). Campgrounds or other suitable camping spots are widely spaced in places. The trail route is not well marked everywhere. And there are long stretches on the south coast with few services.
If you use this guide to hike the OCT and you find any changes or discrepancies with your experience, please e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) so I can keep this guide up to date and useful for others.
Would you like help setting up your trip on the OCT? Oregon Peak Adventures offers guided trips, itinerary planning and reservations, etc., for people hiking the Oregon Coast Trail. (This is not an endorsement--I have no personal knowledge of their service--but I am glad to know someone is doing it.) Contact them at 877-965-5100 or www.oregonpeakadventures.com.
In May 2009 Oregon State Parks posted an online Oregon Coast Trail Maps site. It is an improvement over state parks' old printed trail guide (which will not be reprinted). I've looked at it closely; it's good, though still not as detailed as necessary in places. Some trail transitions aren't detailed enough, there are no detailed geographical features (helpful for route-finding), and it doesn't capture every opportunity to walk on the beach rather than the trail. It also directs hikers to hike around bay mouths and use road crossings, which ruins an OCT hike as far as I'm concerned, rather than finding rides across the water, which is doable most places. But the online guide is a starting point and should be fairly easy to update and expand upon in the future.
Thanks to various hikers who have written me with updates about trail condition and route changes since my through-hikes; I welcome such feedback and will continue to incorporate such updates into this log.
First, some basics:
PERMITS: No permits are required to walk any portion of the Oregon Coast Trail.
WEATHER: The Oregon coast gets an average of at least 60 inches of rain a year, or as much as 80 to 100 inches on the north coast, but only 10 percent of it falls June through September. With the least rain, and with river and creek levels at their lowest, August and September are probably the best months to hike this trail. Be aware that very hot weather in the Willamette Valley tends to draw fog and strong winds to the beach, usually for just a day or two. Summer's prevailing winds are from the north, so a north-south hike is much more pleasant than the reverse. Almost essential, in fact.
FEET: Wear whatever you normally use for backpacking. I tend to backpack with ultralight gear and in running shoes. Sand gets into running shoes more easily than boots, but the reduced weight was worth it for me. Much of your walking will be on very hard sand (especially on the north coast), nearly as hard as pavement (as well as on pavement, part of the time). It's fun to go barefoot now and then, but go easy—too much and you risk getting blisters on the bottom of your feet. Nearly everyone who backpacks long distances ends up with foot problems of one sort or another (blisters, at least). Especially if you plan to put in lots of miles each day, get shoes one full size larger than the street shoes you normally wear; it's the best defense against blisters as your feet start to swell. And do not fail to bring a blister first aid kit with blister bandages, moleskin, adhesive tape, etc.
WATER: No need for a water filter on the north coast; there are plenty of parks and waysides where you can fill up. Carry two 1-liter bottles and you'll be fine. On the south coast, however, there are very long stretches with no publicly accessible tap water. Consider carrying a filter or purification tablets. (I actually made do mostly by carrying two extra 1-liter bottles, filling them when necessary).
CAMPING: Camping on the beach is permitted most parts of the Oregon coast. Exceptions: It's not allowed adjacent to state parks, nor to many towns. Obviously you need to be cognizant of how high the tide is likely to rise. Forest camping is possible in a number of spots, including the top of Tillamook Head, which has a lovely backpacker camp with snug log shelters and even a vault toilet, and the end of Bayocean Spit at Tillamook Bay.
(Photo: Hiker-biker camp at Bullards Beach State Park, north of Bandon)
Alternately, camping in state park campgrounds is very comfortable. All coastal park campgrounds are open year-round and have designated hiker-biker camps, used primarily by cyclists for just $4 (2010) you get a campsite in an area shared with like-minded folks, along with restrooms and showers. They are spaced widely enough, however, to require fairly long days of hiking from one to the next, and some are more attractive than others. State parks also have primitive yurts available, but they book early and need to be reserved in far in advance in summer (they take the place of the tent only; you'll still need sleeping bag, food, stove, etc.), so you need to weigh the greater comfort (and lower pack weight) against the greater cost and loss of spontaneity. Details on all state parks are available at www.oregonstateparks.org. There are also some Forest Service campgrounds along the coast (such as at Cape Perpetua); some are open year-round and some only May-September.
Yurts? They are available to rent at state parks, but they are hard to get and thus must be reserved in advance. You still have to carry everything but a tent. I find them an impractical option for through-hikers but a possibility for people hiking the OCT as a series of day hikes.
LODGING: An inn-to-inn hike is doable on the more populated northern coast (but trickier to pull off on the south coast due to long distances between lodgings in places). A trip built around availability of lodging results in a more constrained itinerary than that of a backpacker (resulting in some long days), requires more planning, and costs a lot more, but you enjoy the pleasure of a lighter pack as well as a bed and dry room at night. In the fall, when there are fewer tourists, it may be possible to walk inn-to-inn without advance reservations on the more developed north coast.
TIDES: Some points (smaller headlands) may be rounded only at mid- to low tide. Some creeks and smaller rivers can be waded only at low tide. And many beaches are much easier to walk at low tide than at high tide, when only the softer, steeper portion is dry. A good online source for tide tables is Hatfield Marine Science Center.
RIVER/BAY MOUTH CROSSINGS: In a number of spots, especially on the north coast, you need to get a boat ride across a river mouth to avoid making a long road detour around a bay to reach a bridge. Obviously, a ride is preferable, because it allows you to stay on the beach (and anyway, it's more fun). In most cases I was able to hail rides from recreational boaters, without any prearrangement. I've also listed names of marinas and outfitters known to offer ferry service to hikers for a fee.
One pair of OCT through-hikers from 2008 (who did a lot of road walking) thinks the ideal solution would be to carry and use an Alpacka Packraft for river crossings. It's an interesting idea. But they're heavy for lightweight backpackers (about 5 pounds, plus paddles; that's a quarter of my total packweight), and you'd have to time your crossing to an incoming tide. Some crossings are very narrow, but some (Coos Bay) are too long for this to be practical.
HEADLAND CROSSINGS: Most of the major headlands have forest trails over them. They all seem to follow roughly the same pattern: up steeply for the first mile, then rolling up and down for, say, two or three miles , then back down steeply.
GROCERIES/RESUPPLY: Towns are spaced closely enough to allow you to buy groceries (and even restaurant meals if you like) fairly often; no need to send food boxes ahead, as on the Pacific Crest Trail.
TOILETS: With a little planning, you should be able to take care of bathroom needs by using restrooms in state and city parks and waysides (along with the occasional pit stop to pee on the beach), except in some wilder stretches of the south coast. Carry a trowel to bury wastes well away from water.
DISTANCES: I averaged 17 miles of hiking a day (ranged from 12 to 23); you can hike shorter distances, but often that's what was required to get from one state park to the next (or, if you're hiking inn to inn, one motel to the next).
(Photos: New OCT marker posts at left, shot at Lone Ranch in Boardman park on southern coast, and old-style OCT post, below right, shot just a few miles north at China Beach.)
For more detailed descriptions of the trail sections, see Day Hiking: Oregon Coast (hike numbers correspond to the hike numbering in that book). The following trail section divisions don't necessarily reflect how I divided up the days on my trip—they just seemed to make sense here. You'll need to assess how far you want to walk in a day and where you plan to sleep (whether hiking inn to inn or backpacking).
FORT STEVENS STATE PARK TO SEASIDE
Start at Area C in Fort Stevens State Park, near the end of the road to the south jetty of the Columbia River, and follow the wide beach south. I hiked just 12 miles and spent the night at a house at the north end of Gearhart; to get to Gearhart proper it's about a 15-mile hike. Cars are allowed to drive on most of this beach, but don't be dismayed; this is the only significant stretch of beach in Oregon where driving is still allowed. (Photo: James Yurchenco and Amy Lauterbach at the start of the OCT in 2009.)
In Gearhart, leave the beach at the big beach access road (E Street) where you see a cluster of roofs over the dunes (the 0.7-mile Ridge Path through town is charming and is an official part of the OCT, but it's harder to find and requires you to leave the beach sooner). In a few blocks you'll reach S. Cottage Avenue; turn right, then left on F, angle right onto G and continue east to U.S. 101, a total of about 1 mile from the beach. Follow U.S. 101 south about 0.5 mile, to where the highway crosses the Neawanna in Seaside; here, veer right onto North Holladay Drive. Walk another mile to 12th Avenue and head west, crossing the Necanicum River, to where the road ends at the beach (toilets/water). Walk south on the beach toward Tillamook Head (toilets/water again at the Turnaround, where Broadway runs into the shoreline Prom footpath).
WHERE TO SLEEP: Sleeping on the beach here isn't really an option; it's not allowed at Seaside, and north of Gearhart you risk getting run over. In Gearhart, consider sweet little Gearhart Ocean Inn; in Seaside there are lots of motel options, plus Seaside International Hostel and, for campers, Venice RV Park, which is not the most scenic, quiet campground, but it's legal and it's right along your route (along the Neawanna). Details at www.seasidechamber.com.
SEASIDE TO CANNON BEACH
Nearing Tillamook Head, the beach runs out, giving way to boulders at a site known locally as The Cove. Clamber over the rocks to reach Sunset Boulevard. (Note the restroom and water stop here at Seltzer Park). Follow the road south as it rises to end at the Tillamook Head trailhead. Follow the main trail (Hike 7) up and over the head 4.4 miles to the primitive campsite with log shelters, a covered picnic shelter and vault toilets (but no water). Continue 0.2 mile to the junction, where you can either bear right to follow the forest trail (1.4 miles) or left to follow the old roadbed along Indian Creek (1.3 miles). Both lead down to Indian Point, the end of the road in Ecola State Park.
(Photo: Looking south toward Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, from beach north of Ecola Creek; photo by Randall Henderson.)
Cross the parking area (toilets and water here) and pick up the trail to Ecola Point (Hike 8), which rolls well above the beach for 1.5 miles. At the Ecola Beach parking area (toilets and water), continue south on the OCT toward Crescent Beach (Hike 9), following the trail 1.1 mile to where it ends at the park road. Follow the park road (about 1 mile) to where it meets the main road leading into Cannon Beach. Follow it across Ecola Creek, and drop back onto the beach at the north end of town (Whale Park is a good spot).
WHERE TO SLEEP: The campsite atop Tillamook Head is great if you're backpacking and the timing's right for you (it was too soon for me). In Cannon Beach there's lots of lodging of all kinds (www.cannonbeach.org); if you're camping, Sea Ranch RV Park has tent sites and is right off the OCT route. (Do not try camping on the beach here; the police will roust you.)
CANNON BEACH TO MANZANITA
Walk the beach 5.5 miles to Arch Cape, rounding Silver Point, Humbug Point and Hug Point; Silver Point must be rounded at low tide, and Hug Point can be rounded a bit past low tide on the old stagecoach road carved into the rock. (If necessary, climb up the nearby highway and follow it around these points.) About 1 mile past the beach access trail at Hug Point (toilets), leave the beach about 100 yards north of the cliffs and Arch Cape Creek on a little trail that turns into Leach Street. (If you're short on food, Arch Cape Deli isn't too far to the north along U.S. 101.) Follow Leach east almost to US 101, turn right on Cannon Street, and follow it as it leads south and east, under the highway and onto E. Mill Street. At Third Street turn right; in one block, the OCT resumes as a forest trail (Hike 13), starting with a suspension footbridge over Arch Cape Creek. In 0.1 mile, turn right at the trail post and follow the trail 1.75 miles up and over Arch Cape to U.S. 101.
(Photo: Arch Cape footbridge.)
The trail resumes across the road about 50 yards to the south. Now you're looking at a long hike (6.5 miles) over Cape Falcon before returning to U.S. 101 at the base of Neahkahnie Mountain. A few landmarks along the way: 2.75 miles after the forest trail resumes, you'll reach an unmarked spur trail leading out to the bald tip of Cape Falcon (scenic spot for a break). In another 2.75 miles you'll reach a lovely picnic spot in Oswald West State Park overlooking Short Sand Beach with toilets and water (approaching this spot, bear right at trail junctions). Unfortunately, Oswald West State Park (formerly a hike-in campground favored by surfers) has been closed to overnight camping. Rangers DO kick out anyone found camping here. The trail resumes at the southeast corner of the picnic area; follow it over Short Sand and Necarney creeks another 1.25 miles to U.S. 101.
Decision time! I was too beat to hike up and over Neahkahnie Mountain (Hike 15: 6.5 trail miles, 1200 feet elevation gain, awesome views) and opted to walk along the highway instead (1.5 road miles, minimal elevation gain, narrow highway shoulder, still great views). Either way, from the access road leading to the southern Neahkahnie trailhead, walk 1.3 miles along US 101 to the little grocery store at Manzanita. Leave the highway here, walk down a block, go south a block, then continue west down Manzanita's main street, right down to the beach.
WHERE TO SLEEP: The hiker-biker camp at Nehalem Bay S.P. has elevated tent platforms—sort of weird, but probably nice in wet periods; look for footsteps into the dune about 1.5 miles south of Manzanita's main street. There are lovely accommodations in Manzanita and lots of places to eat (and a great coffee shop and bookstore, etc.); www.nehalembaychamber.com.
MANZANITA TO GARIBALDI
Follow the beach to the end of Nehalem Spit (4 miles from town, less from the state park); there's also a sandy horse trail that leads down the center of the spit. From the beach, pick up a rough little trail leading east along the north jetty to a little beach; from here, wave your arms to hail a boat from Jetty Fishery, just across the bay mouth (or call them on your cell: 503/368-5746); they charge $10 per person (2010). You might find someone else who'll run you across for free. Pick your way back west along the south jetty and return to the beach. It's about 5.5 of beach, past the town of Rockaway Beach, to the north jetty at the mouth of Tillamook Bay. Leave the beach at the jetty and walk out the Barview County Park road (toilets/water best in the campground, not at jetty parking area) to the railroad tracks or, just past them, the highway. It's a 1.5-mile walk to the Port of Garibaldi; the highway shoulder is very narrow, so I took my chances following the railroad tracks (without incident). Approaching the main marina, look for a little paved path leading off the highway/tracks toward the boats.
WHERE TO SLEEP: Lots of motels (some pretty inexpensive) in Rockaway Beach and some in Garibaldi (visit both www.rockawaybeach.net and www.tillamookchamber.org). Best tent camping at Barview County Park, or cross the bay mouth (see next section) to bivouac at the end of Bayocean Spit (primitive campsite with vault toilet, no water). If you need groceries, Larry's Market in Rockaway Beach is on the east side of U.S. 101 at 2nd and Anchor; leave the beach not quite halfway to the Tillamook north jetty to start looking for it.
GARIBALDI TO CAPE LOOKOUT
To get a ride across the mouth of Tillamook Bay to the end of Bayocean Spit, you need to catch a boat ride at the Garibaldi mooring basin. I was able to bum a ride from a crabber about to head out into the bay, but I know others who have arranged a ride with Jeff and Val at Garibaldi Marina (503/322-3312); timing may depend on tide and how busy they are, so I suggest calling a day ahead. Best place to be dropped off is at what boaters call Crab Harbor, a mile or two south of the the end of Bayocean Spit, where the trail runs right along the bayshore. Walk south (Hike 17) down the trail (an old road). Cut over to the beach (about 0.25 mile) either at the gate where the trail leaves the forest (3 miles from north end of spit) or at the trailhead (1 mile farther). Resume walking down the beach to the community of Cape Meares. There are no services of any kind here; it is a strictly residential community.
As tide permits (probably mid- to low tide in summer), continue down the beach 0.7 mile from the center of the town of Cape Meares (measured from the Pacific Avenue beach access) to the base of the cliff and look for a trail leading up off the beach; follow 0.2 mile to a junction, bear right, and continue another 0.8 mile to the top of the cape, turning left at the trail junction to reach the park road. UPDATE 8/9/20: What's known as the High Tide Route (Hike 18), which starts at the end of Fifth Avenue in Cape Meares, is reportedly difficult if not impossible to follow due to poor signage and landslides. Wait until the tide allows you to use the beach approach described above. At the road at the top of the cape, walk a quarter-mile to the end of the road (toilets/water); go a little farther to visit the first lookout on the OCT. Pick up OCT trail south to the Octopus Tree and, 0.75 mile beyond it, to the road. Follow the road 2 miles down to the community of Oceanside, where you can return to the beach at the state wayside (toilets/water). Walk down the beach about 2 miles to the community of Netarts. Either hail a ride to the tip of Netarts Spit, as I did, or arrange for a ride at Big Spruce RV Park, in the boat basin (503/842-7443). Follow the spit (the longest on the coast) 5 miles to Cape Lookout State Park, at the base of the cape.
WHERE TO SLEEP: Campers may either rough it at the end of Bayocean Spit or walk all the way to Cape Lookout State Park's wonderful hiker-biker camp (no camping or lodging in vicinity of Cape Meares). There is lodging in Garibaldi, Oceanside and Netarts (www.rockawaybeach.net and www.tillamookchamber.org).
CAPE LOOKOUT TO PACIFIC CITY
Pick up the OCT where it leaves the day-use area at the south end of Cape Lookout S.P and follow it 2.5 miles to the top of the cape (Hike 23). At the trailhead, start west on the trail out the cape, then take an immediate left to drop 2 miles down to the beach. Continue via beach another 3.75 miles to the outlet of wide, shallow Sand Lake. From my experience and that of others, you can expect the outlet of Sand Lake to be crossable ONLY at low tide. I got there an hour past low tide, in early September, and managed to find a spot about 100 years inland where it was just shallow enough to cross without swimming or losing my footing on the soft sand underwater, but crossing would have been impossible in another 20-30 minutes. (Photo: James Yurchenco crossing Sand Lake outlet in a rising tide and fading light, 2008.)
If you are late, leave the beach at the RV park just north of the outlet and follow Sand Lake Road south; turn right on Roma Avenue at the north end of the community of Tierra del Mar and follow the trail at the end of Roma to the beach. Continue down the beach 5 miles (from Sand Lake outlet), hike up and over sandy Cape Kiwanda, to the beach access (and Pelican Pub) at the north end of Pacific City; the center of town is another mile south by road.
WHERE TO SLEEP: Surfers often camp on the beach just south of Cape Lookout. The Inn at Cape Kiwanda and Cape Kiwanda RV Resort (for camping) are right across the road from the Pelican Pub, and there are more motels in the town center (www.pcnvchamber.org). Groceries here and in center of town.
PACIFIC CITY TO LINCOLN CITY
Your next challenge: Cross the Nestucca. There is no marina where you can conveniently arrange a ferry. I was unwilling to hike the approx. 2.75 miles to the end of Nestucca Spit and take my chances (and, if unsuccessful, hike back to town), though if you're patient and it's late summer or early fall, I imagine you'll find a crabber or salmon fisherman who'll give you a ride, especially if you time your arrival at the tip at or just after low tide. Jack Remington's The Oregon Coast Trail: Hiking Inn to Inn (2005, but I believe it's now out of print and hard to find) suggests groups arrange a ferry through Joe Hay (503/965-7555) or Capt. Ed Easley (503/801-2715); he quotes a price of $100 for a group ferry through Joe Hay. Alternately, walk or take a local bus 3 miles to U.S. 101, then another 3 miles south to Winema Road. Walk out Winema Road 0.5 mile down to the beach. Walk south about 3 miles to Proposal Rock/Neskowin and leave the beach here, at Hawk Creek (toilets/water at state wayside.
Now follow the highway shoulder ascending Cascade Head. It's about 10.5 highway miles from Neskowin to where you can return to the beach at the north end of Lincoln City. There used to be a 6-mile OCT section over Cascade Head that eliminated 4.5 miles of highway walking, but the northern section of that trail is now closed due to massive storm damage (blowdown) and a large slide. There are no plans to rebuild trail here due to the steep, unstable terrain. The new route (which will be signed by the USFS in fall 2012) trades 2.75 miles of highway shoulder walking for 4.75 miles of forest road and trail walking:
Follow the US 101 shoulder south 3.75 miles (passing the old OCT trailhead at 2 miles) to gravel Road 1861; follow Road 1861 west about 1.25 miles to where the OCT resumes southbound; hike it 3.5 miles down the headland to the trailhead on Three Rocks Road; follow Three Rocks Road west 1.3 miles to U.S. 101. (NOTE: A hiker in September 2012 reports that parts of this trail are in poor condition; he suggests following Road 1861 further west to the very scenic trail down Cascade Head, which is Trail 33 in my book, down to Three Rocks Road and hiking out Three Rocks Road to U.S. 101.) Continue south along US 101 about 4 miles to the north end of Lincoln City (the Neotsu area); leave the highway and follow neighborhood roads down to the beach at Chinook Winds Casino. (This route trade 2.75 miles of the highway shoulder for 4.75 miles of gravel forest road and hiking trail, breaking up what would otherwise be 10.5 unbroken miles on the highway).
Or call a cab in Lincoln City and jump from the beach at Neskowin to the beach at Lincoln City. (A few taxi numbers: A Happy Cab Co. of Lincoln City, 541-996-8294; Lincoln City Cab Co., 541-996-2003; Come and Get Me Cab, 541-994-6050.)
Continuing south, walk the beach 2 miles to the D River. Cross it and continue not quite 3 miles more to the mouth of Siletz Bay at the end of the beach. If you plan to camp at Devil's Lake State Park, leave the beach at the D River, cross U.S. 101 to N.E. 1st Ave., and pick up the boardwalk trail leading north into the state park.
WHERE TO SLEEP: There is condominium lodging in Neskowin (www.oregoncoast.com/greyfox) and plenty of oceanfront motels in Lincoln City (www.oregoncoast.org). Backpackers ought to be able to find a flat spot along the Cascade Head trail; it's national forest land, so dispersed camping is allowed. Devils Lake S.P. is very convenient to the beach, but it's noisy and the hiker-biker camp is not great (right next to the campground entrance); I opted for a more expensive but quieter campsite closer to the lake. There's a huge shopping mall where you leave the beach at Chinook Winds, for groceries and what-not.
LINCOLN CITY TO NEWPORT
The beach at Lincoln City ends at the mouth of Siletz Bay; I hailed a ride across the narrow bay mouth from a crabber, allowing me to return to the beach at the tip of Gleneden Spit. There is no marina at Siletz Bay, so if you don't hitch a ride on the spot, continue around the edge of the bay to where it meets U.S. 101 at the gazebo at Siletz Bay Park. Cross Schooner Creek and the Siletz River and return to the beach at Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site, where there are toilets and water (you could cut over to the beach at Salishan, following the resort's nature trail between the bay and golf course, but it's private property.) Follow the beach south (about 5.5 miles from the tip of Gleneden Spit, or about 2.5 from Gleneden Beach) to where it ends at Fishing Rock. There are scramble trails leading up onto the rock; follow one out to the parking area (portable potty) and walk east on Fishing Rock Road to the highway. Cross it and drop down into Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area (toilets/water); continue through the park to the south access road (this detour takes you off the highway at a particularly dangerous spot).
Walk the highway south through the town of Depoe Bay (toilets/water at Whale Watch Center on the Seawall) to Otter Rock Loop Road (a relief from the highway shoulder, with little traffic and great views) to the road that leads out to Devils Punchbowl. Stairs lead down the southern cliff to the beach. Walk the beach about 1.5 miles to Beverly Beach State Park access at Spencer Creek, under the highway bridge, then walk another 2 miles to a trail leading off the beach near Moolack Shores Motel, just north of Yaquina Head. Follow the highway 1.5 miles to the traffic light at Lighthouse Drive; Lucky Gap Trail to the beach begins at the bottom of the parking area here (portapotty). Follow the beach about 3 miles to the mouth of Yaquina Bay (passing beach access and water/toilets at Nye Beach).
WHERE TO SLEEP: There are plenty of motels all along this stretch and in Newport (www.newportchamber.org). Sylvia Beach Hotel at Nye Beach (Newport) also has dorm rooms where you can get a bunk for relatively cheap. The next state park campground south of Lincoln City is at Beverly Beach.
NEWPORT TO YACHATS
Approaching the north jetty at Yaquina Bay, look for concrete stairs leading up to the old lighthouse (toilets/water); walk up and out to the road and over the bay bridge. At the end, head down the stairs and walk north to 2nd Avenue; take it west along the south jetty to beach access, or do as I did and veer off onto the Old Jetty Trail to walk through the dunes a mile or so before taking one of several intersecting trails west to the beach. Head south on the beach to Beaver Creek (6 miles total from south jetty) and wade the creek. Continue south a scant 2 miles to Seal Rock State Wayside and, just north of the cliff, look for the little trail climbing up the ravine to the highway. I'm told you may actually be able to get around the base of the cliffs at Seal Rock at low tide and thus stay on the beach here.
(Photo: Yachats 804 Trail.)
Walk about 1 mile on the highway shoulder to Quail Street, and follow it west back to the beach. In about 3 miles, before you reach the end of the spit at Alsea Bay, look for footsteps leading off the beach at any of several beach access trails squeezed between houses here. Follow neighborhood roads south and east to Bayshore Drive, and follow it up (north) to reach U.S. 101 near the north end of the Alsea Bay Bridge. Cross the bridge to the interpretive center on the other side (toilets/water) and return to the beach at the south end of town. Then it's a nice long (about 6 miles) beach walk. Approaching Yachats, the beach ends at a headland topped with houses. Look for a trail running up the sandstone slope (Yachats 804 Trail, aka Hike 49) and follow it through Smelt Sands State Recreation Area and beyond—along the bluff, through the neighborhood, and along Ocean View Drive to U.S. 101 at the south end of town.
WHERE TO SLEEP: There are motels scattered along the coast south of Newport (www.newportchamber.org) as well as in Waldport (www.waldport-chamber.com) and Yachats (www.yachats.org), including several right on the Yachats 804 trail. There's state park camping South Beach S.P. (just south of Yaquina Bay at Newport) and Beachside (2-plus miles south of Waldport—not the best hiker-biker camp, but better than nothing).
YACHATS TO FLORENCE
Cross the Yachats River bridge, turn right on Yachats Ocean Road and follow it for a mile to US 101. A path parallels the west side of the highway heading south, crosses a little footbridge, then crosses the highway at Windy Way and continues on the east side, a total of 0.4 miles, to the bottom of the Kittel-Amanda trail (Hike 50). Take it 2.2 miles (steep for the first 1.5 miles) to a junction; go right and right again to reach the stone shelter at the top of Cape Perpetua. Continue through the shelter on the path to where it meets St. Perpetua Trail (Hike 51) leading 1.5 miles down the south side to the Cape Perpetua interpretive center (toilets/water). Continue south on the OCT 1 mile, cross Gwynn Creek, and continue another 0.3 mile to the gravel road leading east to Cummins Creek Trail; follow it west 0.1 mile to U.S. Highway 101. (From here, State Parks is supposedly extending the OCT through the woods east of the highway to Bob Creek, about 1.5 miles farther. But, according to a hiker, this trail had not been built as of September 2012.) Follow the highway shoulder 2.1 miles, crossing Bob Creek, and look for a way to return to the beach (I did via stairs at a house called "Sea Rose"--no "No Trespassing" sign). Continue on beach about 1 mile, wade Tenmile Creek, and return to the highway at Stonefield Beach Wayside. Walk the highway shoulder for 2.8 miles to Rock Creek; cross the creek and follow a little trail down to the beach, continuing south for 1.1 miles to China Creek. If you are continuing south, cross it and go about 2 miles more; approaching Heceta Head, watch for an OCT trail post in the brush at the edge of the beach; it's the end of the Hobbit Trail (Hike 60), which leads out to the start of the lighthouse trail (Hike 62).
If, at China Creek, you're ready to call it a day, cross the creek and pick up the asphalt path that starts just over the foredune; it leads 0.5 mile to Washburne State Park. In the morning, take China Creek Trail (Hike 61) 1.6 miles to the highway, cross it, and pick up the lighthouse trail (Hike 62) 1.5 miles over Heceta Head to the lighthouse, then down 0.5 mile past the keepers' quarters to the beach at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint (toilets, no water). Return to the narrow highway shoulder and go through a VERY narrow highway tunnel (I hitched a ride through the tunnel to avoid being squished). Continue 0.6 miles to Sea Lion Caves and 1.8 more to the point just beyond milepost 181 and the sign for the Southview housing development where railroad-tie steps lead down the hill below the guardrail. Follow a mowed path that zigzags down to the beach 0.2 mile. Continue south, wading first Berry and then Sutton creek (easy in summer and fall), some 6 miles to the north jetty of the Siuslaw River. There is no hikers' ferry service here, nor any good place to be picked up and dropped off near the mouth (boaters don't like to stop along the rocky jetty. You probably need to stock up on groceries in town anyway, for the long walk down the dunes. So walk out North Jetty Road to Rhododendron Drive, turn south, and follow it into Florence, continuing south to U.S. 101 and the bridge across the Siuslaw River (a total of about 6 miles from the beach). (If you want to skip the walking, try calling a cab in Florence at 541-997-8520.)
WHERE TO SLEEP/EAT: There are a few B&Bs plus funky, friendly Ocean Haven between the beach and highway south of Yachats (www.yachats.org), plus lodgings in Florence (www.florencechamber.com); only one Florence spot, Driftwood Shores Resort, is on the ocean beach. Campers have several options in this stretch. In addition to Washburne S.P., there are numerous more primitive Forest Service campgrounds scattered between Yachats and Florence, including one at Cape Perpetua. Rock Creek Campground reportedly has a hiker-biker camp with a composting toilet across the creek from the main campground; cross the creek at the highway and follow the trail inland a short distance (the main campground has toilets and water but closes in the fall). Inquire with Siuslaw National Forest for details. There's also year-round camping just above the jetty at the county's Harbor Vista Park, and there are tent sites at the Port of Siuslaw RV Park Marina right at the end of Old Town Florence (www.portofsiuslaw.com). North of the bridge is a large grocery store; just north of the bridge you'll find a Dairy Queen and Nature's Corner (meals, natural foods).
Click to continue with route directions for the southern portion of the Oregon Coast Trail.