The 382-mile Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) is your gateway to the state’s entire Pacific edge: rainforests, sea stacks, and beaches, as well as shoreline towns for grabbing ice cream on the way. This 15.7-mile section, only an hour from Portland, offers the perfect balance of convenience, scenery, and wild moments. Take three days to accommodate sparse camping and several spots passable only at low tide. Top off water at frequent frontcountry sites: the campsites are dry. From the north end of Ecola State Park (1), head south on the OCT, climbing 1,000 feet through spruce and alder rainforest to the bluffs of Tillamook Head. Hit Ecola’s backpacker’s camp (2) at mile 3.6, where you can pitch your tent or luxe it up in four-bunk shelters (both first-come, first-serve). In the morning, continue south 1.3 miles on a gravel road, then detour down to Indian Beach’s tide pools (3) (“See This,” next page). Continue south on the OCT above the beach for 1.2 miles to Ecola Point (4). From the upper parking area restroom (a good water source), the trail winds a mile through spruce and hemlock forest with occasional ocean views before petering out at Ecola Park Road (5); walk the roadside for .8 mile to enter the coastal community of Cannon Beach (6) (lunch options abound). Access the beach at the west end of 2nd Street and head south. After a mile, pass toothy, 235-foot Haystack Rock (7). At mile 11.4, Silver Point’s (8) rocky abutment is passable only during lower tides (“Key Skill,” next page). Continue along the beach, past Jockey Cap, a large sea stack. Cross Clayton Creek to Humbug Point (9), also passable only during low tide. Roughly a mile south, drop your gear at a campsite (10) in a cliffside nook. Day three, round Hug Point (11) near lowest tide. Continue south along the beach through Hug Point State Park to the beachfront community of Arch Cape (12). Proceed nearly to the impassable Arch Cape; exit onto Leech Lane (13) and walk .5 mile to US 101 (get a cab back to Seaside).
Get there From Portland, take US 26 W 73 miles to US 101 N. Go 3 miles to a left on Ave. U, then link Edgewood St. and Sunset Blvd. to reach residential parking. Walk to the OCT in Ecola State Park.
Gear up Next Adventure, 426 SE Grand Ave., Portland. (503) 233-0706; nextadventure.net
Shuttle Arrow Taxi, (503) 738-5040; $20
Contact/tide table (800) 551-6949; oregonstateparks.org
KEY SKILL: Reading a tide table
Master reading the numbers so your plans don’t get ruined by unexpected, impassable waves.
A.Date and day of the week
B. Time Pay close attention to legends. Is the time zone local? Does it account for daylight savings?
C. High tide and low tide are given in feet above or below the zero tide (a 19-year average of low low tides).
D. High high tide and E. Low low tide Most days have two high and two low tides (the 27th is unusual with only one low); often one is much more extreme. The lower the low, the more leeway you have planning your hike.
F. Ebb (outgoing) tide Sea level is falling. Plan to cross tricky spots during this time.
G. Flood (incoming) tide Sea level is rising.
Note: Tides change with weather conditions. Call Oregon State Parks (previous page) or the Cannon Beach Sheriff’s Department (503-436-2811) to ask the condition of the point
crossings and if there are any unusual tidal events happening.
SEE THIS: Sea Stars
You might have grown up calling them “star fish,” but these carnivorous invertebrates aren’t fish (they’re related to sand dollars and sea urchins). Several of the world’s 2,000 sea star species inhabit Oregon’s rocky tide pools, including the sunflower, which can have up to 24 arms, and the ochre, which can be red, brown, purple, or gray. They may seem lethargic, but when hunting for prey, including crabs and snails the sunflower sea star can move more than three feet per minute on its thousands of tubular feet. Though most species can regenerate lost limbs (it takes about a year for one to grow back), being picked up by humans can cause severe damage or even death. Look before you step.
The Oregon coast can change dramatically from season to season and storm to storm. Winter squalls often scour beaches of sand, exposing bedrock. In some places, sand levels can vary as much as eight vertical feet, making low tides lower and high tides higher—and occasionally revealing some of the thousands of shipwrecks under Oregon’s beaches. For OCT hikers, a sandy summer stroll can turn to a clamber across tricky, rocky tide pools in early spring. Conditions usually stabilize from May through September; if planning any section of the OCT in early spring or late fall, call ahead to ask about current conditions.