6 Breathtaking Coastal Trails to Hike in the PNW

29/01/2020



When the Lewis & Clark expedition reached the Oregon coast in 1805, the men were astonished by the “high waves dashing against the rocks” and the immense ocean, according to William Clark’s journal. For hundreds of years, the coastline of the Pacific Northwest has dazzled travelers and adventurers with its beautiful beaches, crashing waves, rugged cliffs, and majestic mountains.

These days you don’t have to mount a major expedition to explore the Pacific Northwest, but it does involve a little bit of adventure. Whether you’re doing a day hike or multi-day trek, you might have to study tide charts and time your walks to avoid dangerous and challenging beach crossings. Plus, you’ll encounter steep, rocky, slippery terrain as well as wet areas along trails and the beach.

To be safe and comfortable, you’ll need proper gear, including sturdy, waterproof boots or shoes with excellent traction. But, your efforts will be rewarded as you travel through a landscape full of rare and fantastic natural features. To help you navigate this wild region, we’ve highlighted some of the most breathtaking coastal hikes in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon





 



1. Ecola State Park Crescent Beach Hike

Distance: 2.5 miles Difficulty: Moderate

Located about 78 miles northwest of Portland, Oregon, Ecola State Park offers excellent opportunities to explore sandy beaches, lush spruce forests, and intertidal zones where you can get close-up views of sea creatures. For one of the best hikes in the park, begin at Chapman Point and take the 2.5-mile, round-trip hike along Crescent Beach. You’ll negotiate some steep terrain to reach the beach, but there’s a big payoff. Along the way, you’ll encounter sweeping views of glowing Bird Rock with Seal Lion Rock to the north and other distant offshore cliffs to the south.

Low tide presents terrific opportunities to view a variety of animals that roam the area, including deer, elk, seals, sea lions, and a variety of bird species.

2. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Distance: 0.2-27 miles Difficulty: Moderate

Hikers seeking solitude will find bliss among the secluded beaches and coastal crags of Oregon’s Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. This sparkling destination just off Highway 101 in southern Oregon offers epic scenery and access to long hiking trails.

Named after the first superintendent of Oregon State Parks, the scenic corridor stretches 12 miles. Within the area, there are several paths where you can do anything from a quick jaunt to a long trek to reach beaches and overlooks with dramatic scenery. To see the iconic Arch Rock, you can hike just o.2 miles on the Arch Rock Point & Spruce Island Viewpoints Trail. Or, take the 2.9-mile Thomas Creek Whaleshead Beach Trail to walk through a beautiful forest and enjoy incredible views of the coast.

This is also the perfect destination for a longer hike because the scenic corridor includes 27 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail(OCT). Stretching more than 380 miles, the OCT crosses sandy shores and rambles through forests with towering spruce trees.

3. Oregon Coast Trail

Distance: Varies, 382 miles to complete the entire trail Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Whether you’re seeking day hikes or a challenging thru-hike, the Oregon Coast Trail will introduce you to the most stunning features along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Stretching 382 miles, the OCT boasts stunning views of gorgeous headlands and explores river mouths, verdant forest, dunes, and golden sand beaches.

The OCT’s northern trailhead is about four miles north of Fort Stevens State Park, and the southern terminus is at the Oregon/California border about five miles south of Brookings. About 40 percent of the trail traverses sandy beaches, while another 40 percent is on paved roads, and the remaining part follows paths through the forest. Some segments parallel Highway 101, state parks, and private lands, and in some areas, there are ferries to carry hikers across the bays and large river mouths.

Because the OCT runs through towns and includes many access points, it’s a popular destination for day hikes. A great option is the 4.1-mile trek from Arch Cape to Oswald West State Park. Hikers take a suspension bridge to cross beautiful Arch Cape Creek and continue to traverse the scenic headlands of Cape Falcon and Neahkahnie Mountain. The 3.8-mile walk from Yachats to Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint leads hikers along the clear waters of several creeks and includes stairs that lead to sandy beaches and tide pools.

Experienced hikers seeking a challenge can attempt a thru-hike of the OCT, which usually takes about a month. The best time to hike is between June and September when the rains let up, and it’s safer to cross rivers and creeks. As with the majority of Pacific Northwest hikes, it’s important to follow the tide charts carefully, as the route has several sections where you walk along the beach. Also, make sure you do your homework to study the route, obtain maps, and secure necessary camping permits. Visit Oregon.gov for trip-planning info and to get maps.

Washington








4. Cape Alava (Ozette Triangle)

Distance: 9.4 miles Difficulty: Moderate

The Olympic Peninsula seems like a mysterious place with its temperate rainforests and the majestic Olympic Mountains. But the peninsula’s surreal coastline is just as captivating, and the Cape Alava Loop (Ozette Triangle) is an excellent place for hikers to begin exploring the area.

The 9.4-mile loop starts at the Lake Ozette Trailhead and runs through a lush forest with a dense undergrowth of moss and ferns shaded by the canopies of red cedar and evergreen trees. You’ll walk a mix of dirt trail and boardwalk and cross the Ozette River, and continue to the Pacific’s sandy beaches. Keep in mind this is one of the more popular hikes in the region, so try to hike it during the middle of the week.

If you wish to camp along the way, you’ll need to obtain a permit from the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, and some areas require reservations. Campers must also carry an approved bear canister, and you can have yours checked or rent one at the Visitor Center.

5. Ozette Trailhead to Rialto Beach

Distance: 20 miles Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

From the Lake Ozette Trailhead, you can also do a 20-mile, multi-day trip by hiking south along the shore to Rialto Beach. From the Ozette Trailhead, you’ll take the Sandpoint Trail for three miles, and then walk on the beach for the remaining 17 miles.

While this two- to three-day hike does require a shuttle service (unless you have some sort of pickup at the other end), it’s well worth it, as this remote region offers exceptional solitude and impressive scenery. About two miles from Rialto Beach you’ll reach the stunning Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation where an opening in the stone frames sea stacks farther down the beach. After you enjoy the view, you can investigate nearby tide pools frequented by seals and otters.

As with many coastal hikes, it’s crucial to know the tides and when the low tides are occurring. Timing hikes to within two to three hours of low tide is necessary as some areas may be impassable or dangerous during high seas. It’s also crucial to obtain permits, pay Olympic National Park fees, and carry a bear canister. Keep an eye out for the elusive animals to the area like cougars and black bears.

Read more about it: https://www.10adventures.com/hikes/olympic-national-park/ozette-triangle/

6. Shi Shi to Point of the Arches

Distance: 8 miles round-trip Difficulty: Easy

Among all of the hikes in the Pacific Northwest, the trek from Shi Shi Beach to Point of the Arches is truly special. A sacred coastal area to the local native Makah Tribe, Shi Shi encompasses all of the rugged and dreamlike delights of the Olympic Peninsula. During the 8-mile, round-trip hike, you’ll visit several small bays and sea stacks as bald eagles soar above and sea otters roll in the ocean waves.

Beginning at the Shi Shi Beach Trailhead, you’ll traverse boardwalks to pass through old-growth forests of Sitka spruce. As you walk along bluffs, you’ll gain views of the ocean and then descend to the beach. The rest of the trek is a walk along the open beach to reach the stone steps and cliffs known as Point of Arches. Be sure to bring your camera to capture gorgeous images of glassy tidal pools surrounding the massive seas stacks.

While you can complete this hike in a day, consider doing a multi-day excursion so you can relax and really soak in the natural beauty. To hike Shi Shi two permits are needed—the Makah Recreation Pass and an Olympic National Park wilderness permit. Be sure to plan your trip using tide tables and camp above the high-tide mark.

Since the first American explorers reached the Oregon coast more than 200 years ago, the Pacific Northwest has held a special place in the hearts of people who love the outdoors. When you see images of its broad, unspoiled beaches, churning waters, and high cliffs, it sparks something wild and compels you to head west and experience this remarkable world. Fortunately, the coast is blessed with an abundance of trails that serve a wide range of people. Whether you’re a day hiker or thru-hiker, you can make your own unforgettable discoveries on the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

Written by Trevor Husted for Matcha in partnership with Garmont North America.

Featured image provided by Loren Kerns