The reward of this four-mile, out-and-back hike is the knockout view you’ll have when you reach the headland. Here, a coastal prairie swoops down to expose a panorama worth an hour’s meditation or more: The Salmon River winding through an estuary before emptying into the Pacific, the smooth peaks of the Coast Range and a sweet stretch of untrammeled beach. With hardly a structure in sight, this piece of the Oregon coast, once slated for development in the 1960s, makes it easy to imagine yourself as an explorer from a different age. Protected by the Nature Conservancy today, the 270-acre preserve is home to the federally endangered Oregon silverspot butterfly, which flits here in August and September.
ROUTE: From the north end of the Knight Park parking lot, the well-marked trail first traverses private property and follows the road for 0.4 miles before leading up a series of glute-firming stairs through a sparse but lovely coastal forest. The drama begins where the forest ends. Follow the trail across the coastal prairie to the lower lookout, a fine place to stop for lunch. Those with more pluck can continue to the upper lookout (another half-mile up the trail). Note that dogs are not allowed and that the presence of endangered species means staying on the trail is extremely important.
DIRECTIONS: From I-5 southbound, take Rte 99W to Rte 18 south. At the intersection with U.S. 101 near Lincoln City, head north, then turn left on Three Rocks Rd (as of this writing, the road was unsigned). Follow it for two miles to a fork, bear left and park in the Knight Park lot.