After exploring Cape Perpetua’s tide pools, it would be a shame not to extend investigations into the scenic area’s terrestrial side. While most visitors content themselves with shorter trails, the Gwynn Creek Loop hosts relatively few souls (or soles), leaving you to wander through magnificent stands of coastal old-growth Sitka spruce and Western hemlock on your own. “It’s everything you’d want in a forest,” says Cape Perpetua Visitor Center manager Paul Meznarich. “Big trees, not too brushy and a multilayered canopy that lets light filter through.” Don’t be surprised if you happen upon elk and deer on the walk. Also spectacular are the ocean and rocky-shore views that you’ll glimpse on the last leg of the loop, which meanders back to the visitor center above U.S. 101.
ROUTE: Pop into the visitor center to pick up a brochure on the Cape Perpetua hiking trails (also available online at www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw). The easy-to-follow route is groomed and well-signed. About a mile past the Discovery Loop Trail, start looking for the sign to Gwynn Creek and hang a right at the intersection. The trail flattens out until it begins the slow descent to the coast high above Gwynn Creek (which you’ll hear, but rarely see). Once you hit the Oregon Coast Trail, take a right for glimpses of the rocky shores and the intertidal zone through forested clearings.
DIRECTIONS: The Cape Perpetua Visitor Center is just south of Yachats on U.S. 101 at about Milepost 167. The trail starts from the parking lot. Note that a federal recreation pass, such as the NW Forest Pass, is required. (A daily pass is available for $5.) For more information, call the visitor center at 541-547-3289.