Why it’s Great: Oregon’s newest National Recreation Trail requires you to swap hiking shoes for a paddle. Dedicated last August, the Tillamook County Water Trail system encompasses more than 1,800 square miles of water between the Coast Range and sea, from Nehalem Bay south to Nestucca Bay. In all, some 250 square miles of water are navigable here, offering virtually every kind of paddling opportunity imaginable, from Class IV white-water stretches on creeks and rivers to lazy drifts across glassy bays, complete with new signage marking the put-in spots. Floats all but guarantee wildlife encounters; near the hills, look for river otters, American dippers, nesting bald eagles, and even reclusive Roosevelt elk. Drift closer to the ocean, and terns, gulls, brown pelicans, and harbor seals make appearances. Just getting your feet wet with paddle sports? South of Nehalem Bay, try the Lake Lytle County Boat Ramp, where access to placid sloughs and shallow Crescent Lake offers a tame environment (read: minimal tidal influence) to get your river legs.
Don’t forget: Download free guidebooks at tbnep.org. No boat? Sign on with kayaktillamook.com for tours of Cape Meares Lake, the Hoquarton Forest, or the Little Nestucca River, complete with hot apple cider.
Post-paddle watering hole: Tsunami Bar and Grill Grab a Mirror Pond and an oyster shooter, and admire the expansive views of Nehalem Bay. The peppery clam chowder, stuffed with clams, shrimp, and crab, is one of the coast’s best-kept secrets. 380 S Marine Dr, Wheeler; 503-368-3778
Trailhead directions: To reach the Lake Lytle ramp, drive 10 miles south from Nehalem and turn left on 12th Avenue in Rockaway Beach. No fees or permits required.