These Oregon Coast Hikes Have All the Views

Neahkanie Mountain, Cape Lookout, and other coastal trails beckon with shady walks and ocean views.

By Julia Silverman and Michelle Harris

The view from Neahkanie Mountain

The Oregon Coast calls to us year-round, with the drama of crashing waves and precipitous cliffs, small towns to explore, and much to eat the drink. But a simple stroll is a fine way to spend an afternoon at the coast, too. Here are a few of our favorite spots to take a walk

Neahkanie Mountain, Oswald West State Park

Neahkanie—named for the Tillamook term for the “place of the deities”—looms over the town of Manzanita, just to the south of Oswald West State Park. If you’re just out for a pleasant stroll before a spot of tide-pooling or sandcastle building, amble down the shady, one-third-of-a-mile path to the protected cover of Short Sands beach inside the park, and call it a day. But if you’re seeking a handy bit of exercise, and one of the best views on a coast that’s full of them, Neahkanie is for you. Access the trail from the south trailhead off US 101, as the northern, more overgrown section has been closed for maintenance since a September 2020 storm. You’re looking at an elevation gain of about 900 feet to reach the top, over about a mile and a half that’s mostly shady switchbacks, until you reach the rocky, windblown top, where you’ll need to do some boulder-hopping. On a clear day, the view from the top is truly spectacular, stretching to the Tillamook headlands to the south and Cannon Beach to the north. Geocachers should look for a hidden logbook at the summit, but leave your metal detector at home. Though legend has it that long-ago Spanish sailors buried a chest of gold at Neahkanie, fortune hunters dug so many holes in the bluff during fruitless searches that the state parks department finally banned the practice.

Looking south from the Cape Lookout Trail

Cape Lookout Trail, Cape Lookout State Park

It’s rare to find a mostly flat trail that still leads to an epic view. That helps explain the popularity of the Cape Lookout Trail, which achieves its view not via elevation but by virtue of its location on a long finger of land extending out into the Pacific, south of Oceanside and Netarts. It’s about 2.5 miles out to the very tip of the cape, and once there, you feel untethered from the continent’s edge. Along the way, you’ll hike mostly through cooling Sitka spruce, but you should be able to catch peekaboo views of the ocean as you go. A word to the wise: the misty Oregon coast weather means this trail is often extra-muddy. Wear hiking boots with good tread, bring your poles, and prepare for some puddle jumping. Another good item to stick in your backpack is a pair of binoculars—during their migration season, this is prime gray whale spotting territory. —JS

Heceta Head to Hobbit Beach, Heceta Head State Park

A fair haul from Portland, but if your beach travels take you as far south as Yachats or Florence, this is a really rewarding stop. Start at Heceta Head State Park, where you can climb the half-mile paved trail up to one of the coast’s most romantic old lighthouses. (If you’ve planned way ahead, you might even be able to snag a reservation at the lighthouse keeper’s old abode, now a small bed-and-breakfast.) Continue on the Heceta Head trail behind the lighthouse and head up and over the headlands for beach views for miles, then wind your way down to the poetically named Hobbit Beach, reached via a trail so thickly forested and mossy that the trees and bushes form virtual tunnels above your head. Retrace your steps to the parking lot; it’s about four miles round trip. —JS

Ecola State Park

Ecola Point to Indian Beach, Ecola State Park

This hike begins just north of Cannon Beach at the Ecola Point day-use area, a grassy bluff with some picnic tables that overlooks Crescent Beach, with views stretching farther south toward Haystack Rock. Follow the trailhead sign for Indian Beach, where you’ll soon duck into the forest and cross a footbridge over Crescent Creek. Meander uphill until you reach a viewpoint near a cliff edge, where you’ll spot Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, a deactivated lighthouse that sits atop a basalt rock in the middle of the ocean. Pass the old decommissioned trail and ascend through a mossy old-growth forest of giant, storybook-like Sitka spruce and western hemlock, where you’ll climb a series of switchbacks before heading down through a secondary forest. Soon enough, you’ll descend some steps and be treated to an even closer look at the lighthouse. Hiking right along the cliffside, you’ll come to a junction that takes you on a short trail to Indian Beach, where you can take in the ocean breeze and have a picnic before heading back. —MH 

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