Notations such as “(Hike 17)” refer to hikes in my book “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.”
Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.
From Garibaldi (according to the official Oregon Parks & Recreation Department website), the route of the OCT continues along the shoulder of U.S. 101 and Netarts Highway all the way around Tillamook Bay to the community of Cape Meares.
There is simply no way I would do that. Why walk 20 miles of road shoulder, far from the beach, when it’s easy and shorter and way more fun and scenic to hire or hitch a ride across the mouth of Tillamook Bay to Bayocean Spit and walk down the beach less than 6 miles? OK, it takes either a little planning or a little luck, but an unnecessary highway slog is just not an option for OCT hikers, IMO.
The preferred alternative: Head down to the marina at Garibaldi and ask around among the recreational fishermen messing around in their boats whether someone might give you a ride over to Crab Harbor on Bayocean Spit (see Hike 17). (That’s the best place to get dropped off; the trail up the spit hugs the bay there. Father north you have to bust through dense underbrush to reach the trail.) Or do as other hikers have done and inquire with Garibaldi Marina (503/322-3312) about arranging a ferry for a fee. Such a shuttle may only be possible at mid- to high-tide, so arrange in advance or prepare to wait.
There are a couple of rustic campsites at Crab Harbor (again, see Hike 17), one with a vault toilet (but no water). From here, follow the wide gravel trail (a former road) south about 2.3 miles, depending on exactly where you got dropped off, to the trailhead parking area, then follow the trail west through the dunes 0.4 mile to the beach. It’s about 2.7 miles down the beach, passing the community called Cape Meares (no stores, no motels, but there are several house rentals listed on VRBO.com), to the foot of the headland called Cape Meares (5.4 miles).
You may have to wait for low tide to get to the trail leading up the cape. My book, Day Hiking: Oregon Coast, mentions a High Tide Trail, but landslides have reportedly destroyed it. Instead, walk the beach to the base of the cliffs and pick up the trail heading uphill. You’ll (presumably still) reach a trail junction with the old High Tide Trail in 0.2 miles; just continue up another 1.5 miles to the top of the cape. Turn left at the trail junction to reach the park road (7.1 miles).
To continue, go left a few steps to reach Cape Meares Loop Road and begin following it to the south, toward Oceanside. If you want to take a break, follow Lighthouse Road west 0.25 mile to the end of the road, where there are flush toilets and potable water and where you can visit old Cape Meares Lookout. To pick up the OCT from here, follow signs 0.6 mile past the Octopus Tree to the trail’s end on Cape Meares Loop Road. Follow the road 2 miles down to the community of Oceanside (10 miles), where you can return to the beach at the state wayside (flush toilets/water). Walk down the beach about 2.4 miles to the community of Netarts. From here:
· Wave over a fisherman to hitch a ride across the mouth of Netarts Bay, then follow the beach on the ocean side of the spit 5 miles south to the Cape Lookout State Park day use area near the base of the cape (17.4 miles).
· Try to arrange a ride across the bay mouth with Big Spruce RV Park, in the boat basin (503/842-7443) or possibly Netarts Bay RV Park and Marina (503/842-7774) (I haven’t tried them) and walk down the spit to the park as described above.
· Walk Netarts Bay Drive (becomes Whiskey Creek Road) all the way around the bay to Cape Lookout State Park (the least preferable alternative, but at least it's not busy U.S. 101).
Cape Lookout State Park has a great hiker-biker camp. There is lodging in Oceanside and Netarts, and maybe those RV parks in Netarts would let you pitch a tent if need be.