Getting outdoors and into fantastic scenery in magnificent places can sometimes be blended with a great road trip. Take the Oregon Coast, for instance. Just a couple of hours from the metro Portland area, the coast is a combination of rocky shoreline, majestic seascapes, temperate rain forest and high elevation Mountain ridge trails.
Here the sea clashes with the mountains to create a wilderness unlike any other, where dunes give way to forest and crashing waves echo off cliffs studded with trees swept for so long by harsh salty winds that they grow sideways. Meanwhile, after experiencing the thigh burning rewards of finding the top of a trail along a thick forested ridge, there are shops and pubs and clam chowder waiting in the little towns that dot the coast.
So tale some time to experience the Oregon Coast, not just from a car, but from the many hiking trails to be found. Here is a look at three great options.
Cape Disappointment is one such short hike that promises a storied experience and beautiful views. Members of the Lewis and Clark expedition arrived at this headland after venturing nearly 3,000 miles. These days, a shorter trip of 1.5 miles lets visitors discover a lighthouse, an artillery bunker and a museum. To get there, start at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. To get there from Astoria, take Highway 101 north across the bridge and west 11 miles to Ilwaco. At the traffic light in the center of town go straight on Loop 100, following signs for 3.4 miles. At the crossroads for the park’s boat launch go straight another half mile to the Interpretive Center’s parking turnaround.
Drift Creek Falls
Drift Creek Falls is another great hike. Just east of Lincoln City, This hike offers a waterfall, a huge suspension bridge and a nice view of the Coast Range forest. The trail is wide and well maintained. But be warned: The pleasant stroll in belies the climb back out. Still, it’s well worth the trip. The trail starts by slabbing down a ridge toward the east, amid 50-year-old regrowth forest. After a bit, the trail reaches the end of the ridge, rounds it and heads back westward into a small side canyon.
Port Orford Heads
For some nautical history, try hiking to Port Orford Heads. This short hike can give visitors a good workout while enjoying stunning views and learning a bit about the area. Port Orford’s shore was the site of so many fatal shipwrecks that the Coast Guard established a lifeboat station here in 1934. Until 1970, guardsmen would tumble out of their barracks, race down a 504-step staircase to Nellies Cove, and launch a 36-foot self-righting lifeboat upon sighting any vessel in danger. Today, the barracks is home to a museum and short trails tour the headland’s meadows.
These are just three of the wide range of spectacular hikes to be had along the Oregon Coast. When you make the trip, you’ll enjoy nautical and frontier flavor, as well, as pure Americana road trip splendor.