5 Less-Traveled Trails on the Oregon Coast

Our favorite underrated hikes for exploring undiscovered gems and incredible viewpoints this spring

For Oregon outdoor enthusiasts, now is the time to hike. Snowmelt fuels intense waterfalls, a season of rain leads to greener-than-usual forests, and most of our favorite trails are no longer coated with ice.

The catch? The nicer the weather, the bigger the crowds.

So while the rest of the spring crowds fawn over the Trail of Ten Falls or Smith Rock State Park, head west and hike your way up and down the Oregon Coast. There’s never a bad view, whether at the end of the Cape Lookout Trail or in the midst of raging waves at Cape Perpetua. And what’s a spring hike without a little mud?

1. Cape Falcon Trail

Short Sand Beach is one of the many highlights along the Cape Falcon Trail. Photo: Matt Wastradowski

After driving around the packed trailhead parking lot a few times, you might wonder how on Earth the Cape Falcon Trail is anyone’s idea of “underrated.” But it all makes sense once you come to the junction after a half-mile.

Take a left, and you’ll walk down to Short Sand Beach, a hidden cove popular with families, surfers, beachcombers, and resting Oregon Coast Trail thru-hikers. The small stretch of sand sits wedged between Neahkahnie Mountain and Cape Falcon, shielding it from the worst of the coastal winds. On a sunny day, you’ll jockey for beach blanket space with kite-flying families, picnicking couples, and surfers drying out after a day in the ocean.

Take a right, however, and you’ll quickly leave the crowds behind. Over the course of two pleasant miles, you’ll walk through a lush Oregon Coast rainforest, often tromping through mud (even at the height of summer) in the shadow of towering western red cedar and Sitka spruce trees. The trail rarely strays far from the coastline over the last mile, and you’ll hear a soundtrack of incoming waves all the way to the lookout point.

The trail ends on a dramatic, windswept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. To the south, you’ll enjoy unfettered views of Neahkahnie Mountain and Short Sand Beach.

2. Cape Lookout Trail

A foggy trail | Photo: Hiking Project contributor Sarah Baker

Dedicated hikers will love the muddy challenge and scenic forest views of the Cape Lookout Trail. The first two-thirds of this well-maintained trail traverses a thick Oregon Coast forest, with a green carpet of moss and ferns extending as far as the eye can see. Beyond the first viewpoint (roughly 1.5 miles from the trailhead), the trail deteriorates through protruding tree roots and constant puddles.

Wildlife enthusiasts will no doubt love the sweeping Pacific Ocean views, which make Cape Lookout an ideal whale-watching destination. (Springtime, in particular, is prime season for spying migrating gray whales.)

Once on the cape’s southern cliffs, hikers are rewarded with views of the craggy coastline, Pacific Ocean, and hillside forests.

3. Munson Creek Falls

The Munson Creek Falls hike might not challenge most hikers—it’s only a quarter-mile each way—but it’s worth a visit for the spectacular waterfall views.

To reach the falls (just south of Tillamook), hikers need only follow a mostly flat path along a bubbling stream to a viewpoint of the falls, which peek out from a curtain of greenery. Munson Creek Falls cascades more than 300 feet and is among tallest waterfalls on the Oregon Coast.

Best of all: Winter runoff in the Coast Range means Munson Creek Falls will be at its roaring peak over the next month or two.

4. Cape Perpetua

Thor’s Well is one of several natural attractions at Cape Perpetua. Photo: John Fowler, Flickr

South of Newport, the Oregon Coast takes on a rugged, rocky, and imposing form that feels like a far cry from family-friendly beaches in nearby Newport and Florence. And there may be no site more emblematic of that craggy vibe than Cape Perpetua, which offers a network of occasionally-connected trails for exploring the region’s rough geography.

It’s hard to go wrong with any of the hikes that start from the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, but we’re especially fond of the Captain Cook Trail. The short path offers up-close views of waves pummeling nearby rock formations—and some of the most photographed spots on the 363-mile Oregon coastline. Over the centuries, these waves have created a number of eye-catching natural features, including Thor’s Well (where the waves crash onto the rocks and disappear down a hole, seemingly straight into the sea) and the Sprouting Horn (where incoming waves rise up through holes in the rocks and resemble a whale’s blowhole).

Up for more of a challenge? Try the Cooks Ridge Trail. The seven-mile trek takes hikers through an old-growth forest and delivers sweeping views of the scenic cape.

Head’s up: Adventurers with nerves of steel are generally allowed to explore the rock formations near Thor’s Well and the Sprouting Horn, even as waves crash nearby. Wear sturdy shoes with a lot of tread, and be mindful of slippery conditions. It’s also a good idea to stay away at high tide.

5. Oregon Redwoods Trail

Sure, most folks likely associate towering, centuries-old redwood trees with Oregon’s neighbors in Northern California. But mere miles from the border, just outside the town of Brookings, hikers can check out a grove of coast redwoods—one of only two such groves in Oregon—on an easy, yet thrilling loop hike.

The Oregon Redwoods Trail starts at the end of Forest Road 1101, roughly a half-hour inland from Brookings. The lollipop-shaped loop trail splits almost instantly after leaving the trailhead. Either way you go, you’ll almost instantly encounter a number of immense redwoods, some towering 200 to 300 feet high and measuring more than 25 feet in diameter. The loop is less than two miles, but the photo-worthy sites may prolong your trip for hours.

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