Sunday, June 22, 2014

The End! Mile 363 to Mile 386.4: Secret Beach (Sam Boardman State Scenic Corridor) to the California border

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.
Notations such as “(Hike 109)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.
Let me know about your OCT journey, especially anything that contradicts or adds to the information in this blog. I will happily share it with other hikers.

For details of the trail south from Secret Beach, see Hikes 109, 111, 112, 114, 115, and 116, approximately 12 miles (but it might be a little longer; I need to recheck those mileage figures). The route is not always clear, due to spur trails, etc., but you won't get lost. A southern trail extension has been added to what I wrote in Day Hiking: Oregon Coast. At Lone Ranch Beach, continue down the beach 0.5 mile, crossing first one creek and then a second at the base of the headland where the beach ends. Here look for a trail up the headland and then east, where it tunnels into the trees. It emerges for a distance, then dives back into forest to wind to the highway (0.7 mile from the beach). Walk the highway shoulder 2.3 miles to Harris Beach State Park (15.5 miles).

To continue to the California border from Harris Beach, follow a paved bike path out of the park for 0.4 mile, then continue on highway shoulder and sidewalk along U.S. 101 for 2.1 miles, crossing the Chetco River Bridge. At the south end of the bridge, turn right onto Lower Harbor Road and follow it 1 mile, to where it rises and turns left; here, make a sharp right onto Oceanview Drive (19 miles).

Follow Oceanview Drive 2.2 miles to the entrance to McVay Rock State Recreation Site, which has toilets (I don't recall if it has potable water). Walk west 0.2 mile to the beach. Ideally get here at low-ish tide, both to get around the rocks on the shore (I did some scrambling) and to wade the Winchuck River, 1.5 miles to the south. I arrived at high tide, so I followed the north shore to a little trail to a parking area near the highway, crossed on the highway bridge, and returned to the beach.
The California state line is about 0.5 mile south of the Winchuck River by road or beach (23.4 miles). Nothing marks it on the beach, but it's just south of Crissey Field State Recreation Site, a "welcome center" that opened in December 2008. It represents the official end of the Oregon Coast Trail—though, oddly, there was absolutely no information about the OCT there when I arrived in July 2009; the volunteers on duty didn’t seem to know much about it.  I didn’t expect a brass band, but after 390.5 miles, a little lapel pin or commemorative fabric patch—even a trail register for successful OCT completers to sign their names—would be nice!

WHERE TO SLEEP: There's no lodging in the vicinity of Pistol River; the first accommodations south of Gold Beach are the cottages at Whaleshead Beach Resort (, which is basically a large RV park (tent campers not allowed). It's not strictly legal, but OCT hikers have pitched tents at Miner Creek Beach and China Beach in Boardman park. Harris Beach Sate Park at the north end of Brookings has a hiker-biker camp, and it's a fairly short walk from the park to the nearest grocery (1 mile?). There's lots of lodging in Brookings (


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mile 341.4 to Mile 363: Gold Beach to Secret Beach (Sam Boardman State Scenic Corridor)

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

Notations such as “(Hike 106)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.       

Updated 9/25/14 with new details about the trail south of Crook Point: From the Rogue River’s south jetty, head south on the beach. At 2 miles wade the outlet of Hunter Creek. Continue another 3 miles to the base of Cape Sebastian and look for a trailhead post and trail angling up off the beach 0.3 mile before the beach ends. This trail (north side of Cape Sebastian) is little used, poorly marked when last I hiked it, and hard to follow in places, but it beats the highway shoulder.

Here's my best shot at trail directions to the top of Cape Sebastian (in general, if you bear right at trail junctions you will stay on the trail and stay off US 101).
Start up the trail and, after 1 mile, turn right at what should be a signed trail junction, then go right again immediately. The trail descends for 0.7 mile, then ascends about 0.2 mile to an unmarked junction. Go right (down). The trail levels out, passing two OCT posts in a row; through this section basically stay on the main double-track trail/old road. It may be extremely overgrown (a crew came through and wacked back the salal two days after I hacked my way through in mid-July). At 3.2 miles (from the beach), the trail emerges into a grassy viewpoint (nice bivouac spot if you have water?); re-enter the forest by the trail post and go up a very, very steep, narrow trail through a lovely, airy forest for 0.8 mile to the north parking lot at the top of the cape (9.3 miles). From here it's easy; follow the park road north 0.5 mile to the south parking area. From here, follow the asphalt trail west, then pick up the forest path leading down the south side 2.5 miles to the beach (Hike 106); watch for poison oak toward the end of the trail (12.3 miles).

Continue down the beach 4.6 miles, wading the Pistol River, all the way to the beach's end at Crook Point. Here, scramble across the driftwood pile marking the end of Sand Creek, below an OCT post in the dunes. Follow it up and across the dunes. Beach grass overhangs the trail through here, obscuring the route; just follow your feet and occasional white-topped trail posts painted with black Us, or horseshoes (the trail is also used by horseback riders). At 0.4 enter an open bowl of sand; cross it and rejoin the trail at the wooden “Coast Trail” sign. From here the trail climbs and contours around hillside ravines, in and out of cool spruce forest and open piney dunes, mostly on soft sand. At 0.75 you’ll reach a junction with Lola Lake Loop; continue straight to reach the trail’s end at US 101 in 0.25 mile, a total of 1 mile from the beach (or detour around the Lola Lake Look for a view of what is, in summer, a grassy depression and adding about 0.4 mile to your walk).  
Now it’s back to the highway shoulder southbound for 2.1 miles until the OCT resumes at Sam Boardman State Scenic Corridor (details below). The OCT winds a total of about 20 scenic miles on trail and beach between the highway and this dramatic coastline along a 12-mile (highway miles) corridor. It's extremely scenic, but be aware that it is constantly going up or down (so not an easy 20 miles). There is NO potable water available along the trail, and the only (vault) toilets are at Arch Rock Point Picnic Area, Whaleshead Day Use Area, and Lone Ranch Beach at the very end. No camping is allowed in the park or on the beach (though some hikers seem to have managed an unobtrusive bivouac).

To find the north end of the OCT through Boardman, look for a blue OCT-signed trail post a few steps north of highway milepost 343. Trail drops down and up and returns to highway in about 0.4 miles at a highway sign for Arch Rock Butte. It resumes and drops down the hillside toward the beach (you'll see Whiskey Creek in a concrete flume on your right); the trail is very steep and slumping downhill in places. It crosses a couple of creeks on footbridges before heading back uphill to another trail post just downhill from another highway turnout just south of the Sam Boardman Corridor entrance sign. Stay on the trail heading south, just below the highway, until it leads to the parking area at Arch Rock Point picnic area (about 2.2 mile from resumption of OCT in the park). Follow the OCT trail 0.3 mile to the Spruce Island Viewpoint trailhead (Hike 108), then another 0.75 to where it meets the trail from the highway down to Secret Beach (Hike 109). Secret Beach is a lovely spot (it looks as though through-hikers sometimes bivouac just above the beach here. At any rate, it's a good place to end this penultimate OCT post (21.6).

Mile 316.8 to Mile 341.4: Humbug Mountain State Park to Gold Beach

Hiking season is upon us! I would love to hear about your experience on the OCT this summer, especially if you have updates or corrections to share. Please post comments about your experience on the trail or with this blog, or use the contact tab above to send me an e-mail (even a photo; it could go into the next edition of my Oregon Coast hiking book, with your permission).

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

Notations such as “(Hike 103)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.       

The summit of Humbug Mountain is a great day hike (Hike 103), but you may be ready to keep moving south. Pick up the OCT off the campground entrance road near the registration booth. You have 1.2 miles of trail walking (Hike 102) to where it ducks under US 101 and ends at state park picnic area. (When I hiked it in 2009 this trails stretch was closed due to landslide; I don’t know if that was a temporary or permanent closure. If it is closed, just hike the highway shoulder to the picnic area.) Keep your eyes open for poison oak; this is the first time I saw it trailside on the OCT, and there is more as you go south (but not horribly more).

From here, follow the (wide) highway shoulder for about 5 miles until it drops down and passes Arizona Beach State Recreation Site. If the tide is low (I've heard varying reports about how low it needs to be), get off the highway here and onto the beach, first wading Mussel Creek. Walk south on Arizona Beach, around rocky Pigeon Point (may have to scramble on rocks here) to the stunningly beautiful beach at the base of Sisters Rock. 

 You'll see what looks like the remains of quarrying operations; scramble up to the rocky jeep road leading up the rock's neck. At a flat area, bear southeast onto a footpath (the jeep road veers southwest a short distance to U.S. 101) and follow it a short distance to U.S. 101 (at an unsigned wide gravel turnout 0.7 mile south of highway milepost 314)—a total of about 2 miles from Arizona Beach (8.2 miles). Continue along the highway another 3 miles (crossing Euchre Creek at 2.5 miles). Once you pass the last of the roadside fencing, look for a little path leading off the highway 0.2 mile through the dunes to the beach. After 3.9 mile, leave the beach at the north end of Nesika Beach and follow Nesika Beach Road south 0.5 mile from the beach to where the OCT resumes on the right (15.8 miles). It leads 0.3 mile to Geisel Monument and back out to the road.
Follow it 0.2 mile, cross, and pick up the mostly gravel Old Coast Highway (a more pleasant but slightly longer alternative to US 101) for 2 miles, through forest logged not many years ago, to its junction with US 101. Follow the highway 0.2 mile, turn right onto Otter Point Road and walk 0.2 mile to an OCT trailhead. Head down the trail, take an immediate left at the fork, and continue 0.75 mile down to the beach (19.1 miles).

Continue south on the beach 3 miles to the north jetty at the Rogue River. Walk out to the road and follow Wedderburn Loop 1 mile to the Rogue River bridge, cross it, then take the first right (Harbor Way) and right again on South Jetty Road; follow it out past an RV park to get back to the beach (24.6 miles).

DETAILS: South of the hiker-biker camp at Humbug Mountain State Park, the next hiker-biker camp is at Harris Beach State Park, though there are some RV parks in Gold Beach where you might be able to pitch a tent in a pinch. There is plenty of lodging in Gold Beach, including a Motel 6 right at the end of the Rogue River Bridge (but not in Nesika Beach, as far as I know). You can buy groceries in Nesika Beach and Gold Beach.  If you do go into town in Gold Beach (such as to get camping fuel, as I did, or to treat yourself with a browse and a coffee at Gold Beach Books and Biscuit Coffeehouse), you can get back on the beach by continuing south on U.S. 101 to 5th Place and following it out to the beach. (Try walking west north of Fifth Place and you’ll be stopped by the airport.)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mile 296 to Mile 316.8: Floras Lake to Humbug Mountain State Park

Notations such as “(Hike 97)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.
The route from Floras Lake onto Blacklock Point can be a bit confusing. Re-scouting this stretch is on my summer 2014 list of things to do. Until then, these directions ought to get you where you’re going, with or without a little backtracking.

Whether you’re on the beach continuing south or you’ve detoured to Boice Cope County Park, get on the trail from the beach to the park, then veer north onto a trail that heads through the dunes around the west side of Floras Lake. Follow it for 1 mile, following little trail stakes, to where the trail starts to rise onto the bluff. You'll quickly reach a trail junction marked by large boulders. I believe if you bear right here, then left, you will be on the official OCT route that passes a beach spur, drops into a creek valley, and then follows the cliffs to meet the Blacklock Point Trail in 3 miles (bear right at all junctions. However, this trail is prone to chronic erosion and may or may not be open. Instead, I suggest going straight, which should put you onto the Airport-Floras Lake Trail—a lot less scenic, but a reliable through-route (Hike 97).

Boardwalks keep feet dry
on many trails
at Blacklock Point.
Follow that trail 2.25 miles through the woods to the end of the huge Cape Blanco State Airport runway (3.5 miles), built during WWII and now used by the occasional private pilot and, I'm told, July 4 weekend car races. Cross the end of the runway and pick up Blacklock Point Trail heading west. Continue for 1 mile, bearing left at all (four) junctions, to reach the beach on the south side of Blacklock Point. (At the third of those junctions there is a well-established informal campsite under the trees at the end of Blacklock Point.) Follow the beach south (in 2009 I had to clamber over a huge log pile first) about 1.25 mile to the Sixes River (5.75). 

More than one account I read said the Sixes River is nothing but a dry sandbar in late summer/fall. Not so when I crossed in mid-July; it wasn't difficult, but I couldn't have crossed at high tide. Definitely aim for low tide. If you get there and water is too high to safely cross, you could (1) backtrack to Blacklock Point and follow the trail inland to Cape Blanco State Airport, then follow airport road out to the highway and go south, or (2) follow the river's north bank 1 mile, pick up a farm road leading east 2 miles, then walk south on a road along Summers Creek to U.S. 101; follow it to the first road leading west, toward the Cape.

Crossing the Sixes River
From the river's mouth, it's about 1.5 miles to Cape Blanco; walk the beach almost to the end and look for a marked 0.25-mile trail leading up to the road at the top of the cape. The OCT resumes across the road as a mowed path that turns into a forest trail leading about 0.5 mile to the state park campground (with hiker-biker camp). Continue south on the beach access road another 0.5 mile to reach the beach on the south side of the cape (8.5 miles).

In 1.3 miles you will reach Elk River, easy to cross at low tide. Continue another 3.3 miles, passing a steep bluff along the beach, to where a sand path leads up to a parking area at Paradise Point State Recreation Site. (If you need groceries, leave the beach here and follow Paradise Point Road about 1 mile east to US 101, and start walking south; you should hit a grocery store on the right at the outskirts of Port Orford.) Otherwise, continue down the beach another mile nearly to the base of rocky Port Orford Heads and go east where footsteps lead off the beach just north of a low dune (14.1). A trail leads a short distance to the parking area at Tseriadun State Recreation Site; locals apparently call it Agate Beach. (In 2009 there was a portable toilet but no water.) Follow Agate Beach Road east out of the park (becomes Ninth Street) 0.75 mile to U.S. 101, just north of the center of Port Orford. Follow the highway south 0.5 mile and return to beach at the Battle Rock wayside, which has restrooms with flush toilets/water (15.4 miles).
On the way to Paradise Point

There is lodging in Port Orford, but it’s likely you’ll want to get to the next hiker-biker camp, at Humbug Mountain State Park, 5.4 miles farther, perhaps after filling up at a the Crazy Norwegian or the pizzeria on the highway or another restaurant at Port Orford. From Battle Rock, walk south on the beach—how far depends upon your evaluation of the tide:  

If the tide is quite low, you could follow the beach 2.25 miles to Rocky Point, distinguished by the boulders at its base. Scramble around the point, continue down the beach another 0.25 mile, and watch for a path heading up the brushy hillside that leads to gravel road up to U.S. 101. Follow the highway shoulder another 0.2 mile.

If the tide is high enough to rule out a scramble around Rocky Point, walk south just 0.9 mile from Battle Rock and look for a path leading off the beach and up to U.S. 101. From here, follow the highway shoulder south 1.8 miles (18.2 miles).

In either case, turn east off the highway on a road just past the sign for Humbug Mountain State Park and follow it as it curves right for 0.1 mile, then bear right and walk past the gate at the OCT trailhead sign (Hike 102). Here the OCT follows the old coast highway route a total of 2.6 miles to Humbug Mountain State Park. The trail rises for the first mile, then descends another 0.8 mile to a 0.4-mile, steep spur trail into the campground; instead, continue another 0.8 mile on an old asphalt roadbed to the end of the trail, near the park entrance and the hiker-biker campground (20.8). The hiker-biker campground here is serviceable but a little odd; it is arrayed on a hillside near the park entrance (not the usual more communal arrangement).

Monday, April 7, 2014

Now for a word from our sponsor

Spotted 4/7/14 at Pacific Way Bakery & Café in Gearhart--a highly recommended trailside eatery!

Oregon Coast Trail hikers, I promise to resume my OCT section descriptions for the south coast soon; just been busy with other projects, including the launch of my new book, The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast. It's had some great reviews, including this one in the LA Times.

Fortunately most people don't do the whole trail, and most section hikers head to the north coast (which I've already posted about) rather than the south coast. By June 2014 I should have the entire OCT described in this blog. And by fall 2015 this information will be available in my updated hiking guidebook Day Hiking: Oregon Coast Trail, with additional details such as GPS coordinates.

And it's really not quite OCT hiking weather!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mile 279 to Mile 296: Bandon to Floras Lake

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

The Oregon Coast Trail changes character south of Cape Arago. The beaches are narrower and the sand softer, which makes the going a bit harder for hikers. The scenery continues to be stellar, of course. And there are some very remote stretches. In fact, south of Bandon you enter what is perhaps the remotest OCT stretch of all; once you get a mile or two south of town, it’s likely you won’t see another soul for 13 or 14 miles.

Beach south of Coquille Point
From Old Town Bandon, follow US 101 south up the hill about 0.5 mile to 11th Street SW, turn right, and follow it 1 mile west to Coquille Point, returning to the beach on stairs down the point's south side. (Alternately, from Old Town Bandon, follow First Street around the bay as it turns into Jetty Road and leads you to Bandon South Jetty Park (toilets/water) and the beach. Head south on the beach, rounding Coquille Point). Continue south, rounding the point at Face Rock, to the mouth of Twomile Creek, about 5 miles south of Coquille Point, and 1 more mile to the mouth of New River (7.5 miles).  (Note that those were the distances to the creek mouths when I last hiked it in 2009, but the mouth of New River, which runs just inside of and parallel to the foredune, tends to get pushed around by winter high water; you may find that it has busted through the dune to the ocean far to the north or south of where I found it.) New River should be easy to wade at its mouth at low tide.

From this point, you will be on the toughest stretch of beach walking on the Oregon Coast, in my experience. The sand is coarse and soft, the beach steep; it may help to hit this area at low tide, but I don't think it helps much. And there is no camping allowed except in one spot (to avoid disturbing nesting snowy plovers March-September). Continuing south, look for an "INFORMATION" post in the dunes about 1.5 miles past the New River mouth, marking the north end of the New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern; continue another 3.25 miles to a second "INFORMATION" post, which marks the location of the only (primitive) campsite on this stretch of beach. Even if you don't camp here, it's a good place to get out of the wind and take a break.

Continue 4.25 miles more to the end of the plover fencing (March-Sept.) and a break in the dune with lots of footsteps emerging (17 miles); follow the footsteps to a trail that leads east 0.5 mile, crossing a footbridge over New River, to Boice Cope County Park on Floras Lake, a good place for an overnight (toilets/water). The park caters mainly to board sailers and kiteboarders; there’s plenty of room for a backpacker to set up a tent in the middle of the camping loop. Alternately, arrange to stay at the B&B a few steps away ( I don’t think there is any regulation against camping on the beach or in the dunes here, as long as you’re outside of the plover fencing.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mile 269 to Mile 279: Seven Devils to Bandon

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

This post gets you to Bandon—a fairly short OCT stretch. I took a layover day here, and it’s a good place to regroup and resupply, as the distances between towns are farther here on Oregon’s South Coast. Plus Bandon is a nice town and easily within walking distance of the hiker-biker camp at Bullards Beach State Park.

From Seven Devils State Recreation Site, head south on the beach 1 mile to Fivemile Point, which must be rounded at low tide or possibly mid-tide, depending on tide height. (There is a roughly 2-mile OCT trail section over Fivemile Point, but it’s not particularly scenic—a no-man’s-land of prickly gorse shrubbery with no ocean views—and I’m told the trailhead is hard to locate. If you are stuck by the tide, look for a trailhead about 0.25 mile south of Twomile Creek, or about 0.25 north of Fivemile Point; the trail winds east and south, hits Whiskey Run Road, and leads back west to the beach at Whiskey Run creek.)

Backpackers rounding Fivemile Point

From Fivemile Point, continue south on the beach 5 miles (or less; see below) to the day use area at Bullards Beach State Park; look for people and footsteps heading off the beach to the day use parking area. If you are continuing on, follow park roads east 1.4 miles out to US 101 (7.4 miles). If you plan to camp at the hiker-biker camp here, back up; there’s a shortcut off the beach that will save you more than a mile of walking. Rather than hiking all the way down the beach to the day use area, watch for a “No Motor Vehicles Allowed” sign on the beach about 4.5 miles south of Fivemile Point and continue another 0.25 mile to where footsteps lead up the dune and off the beach; they lead to a 0.75-mile sand trail that leads to Campground Loop B. Turn left to walk to the end of the loop, then left again on the main campground road to find the hiker-biker camp in the middle of Loop C.

Looking south from Fivemile Point toward Bandon
It would be nice to walk down the beach to Bandon, but you can’t wade the Coquille River, and there’s no practical way to arrange a boat across it. You could try your luck at the end of the spit or at the boat ramp in the park; otherwise, you’ll need to cross on the highway bridge. Hence, continuing south from the park entrance on US 101, head south along the highway shoulder, crossing the Coquille River bridge with care (no sidewalk). Just 0.4 mile past the bridge, bear right onto Riverside Drive NW and follow it south 1.6 miles to First Street. Turn right onto First and follow it a couple of blocks into Bandon's Old Town (10 miles). There is a wide variety of lodging in Bandon and plenty of restaurants. For groceries, follow the highway 0.5 mile west from Old Town to Mother's Natural Grocery and, a short distance north, Ray's Food Place. Or follow the highway south from Old Town for more stores (food, hardware, etc.). That’s the direction you need to go anyway to return to the beach at Coquille Point.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mile 253.5 to Mile 269: From Charleston, over Cape Arago, to Seven Devils State Recreation Site

Notations such as “(Hike 89)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

Heading south from Charleston, you have three options:

ONE. The most expedient route: Head south on Seven Devils Road and follow it 11.5 miles to return to the beach at Seven Devils State Recreation Site. At about the midpoint of this walk, the paved road you are on becomes Beaver Hill Road; at that point, veer right to continue on Seven Devils Road (now a gravel road). There are no services whatsoever on this road, but the shoulder is wide, there is little traffic, and there is some lovely forest along the road (along streams, where it hasn't been recently logged).

TWO. Officially, the OCT leads hikers 3-ish miles out to Cape Arago and Sunset Bay State Park, a beautiful section of coast (see route description below) … and then back to Charleston and down the road to Seven Devils State Recreation Site to return to the beach. The problem is that there is no official, strictly legal route over Cape Arago and back down to the beach. Sunset Bay and this section of coastline is well worth a detour, however, unless you’re in a hurry.

THREE. Unofficially, some hikers have found their way from Sunset Bay State Park south over Cape Arago and back to the beach following an old trail and logging roads down to Seven Devils Road. This route goes through private timber land. Although I didn’t see any "No Trespassing" signs posted in 2009, this route is on private land, not public land. Keep that in mind as should you choose to cut over this way; certainly don’t camp or build a fire along the way.

Here are the directions for Option Three:

Bastendorff Beach; Yoakam Point in background
From the marina at Charleston, the simplest route is to follow Cape Arago Highway 3 miles to Sunset Bay State Park. For a slightly longer and much more scenic route, find your way from the marina to Boat Basin Road and follow it a short distance to the gray shingled buildings of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. In the middle of that tiny campus, turn left up gravel Coos Head Road and follow it 0.7 mile (bearing left at one junction). When it meets a paved road, turn right and follow it 0.4 mile, bear left, and continue 0.3 mile more a parking area with vault toilets at Bastendorff Beach.

End of Bastendorff Bog Trail at Sunset Bay hiker-biker camp
Follow the beach south 1 mile, wading a small creek. Where the beach ends at a rocky point (just north of larger Yoakam Point) you will see trails leading to an RV park; don't take these but, rather, look for a couple of wooden steps leading a rough trail that heads steeply up the hillside to the south. (Thanks to Connie Soper for scouting this trail last week and sharing what she found!) Keep bearing left up this approximately 0.25-mile trail and you'll end up at a turn-out along Cape Arago Highway; cross the highway and walk a short distance (or up to 0.2 mile, depending on which informal trail spit you out on the road) to where a footpath resumes across the road. This is the new Bastendorff Bog Trail (currently unsigned, but signs may be posted by the end of 2014). The 1.25-mile trail begins as a level path for about 0.3 mile, starts to ascend, tops out at about 0.6 mile, then descends, ending with a steep drop down stairs to end at a footbridge leading into the hiker-biker camp in Sunset Bay State Park (4.2 miles).

Should you decide to cut across the mountains at this point rather than return to Charleston and follow the road, here are rough directions. From the entrance to Sunset Bay State Park, walk south on Cape Arago Highway about 1.25 mile to the start of the Pack Trail (Hike 89), on the left. Follow it 1 mile to where it crests and turns sharply west; instead, continue straight (south). The trail is not maintained and may be overgrown and have fallen logs that you need to negotiate. The trail tops out and then descends to a landing. One road veers to the right, but the main (gravel) road continues straight. From here you will encounter many road junctions, but the route of the main road is pretty clear. The road roller-coasters through recently cut and replanted forest before finally descending to a gate; go around it. Continue to a junction with a road and powerline; turn left. You will meet the main road (and second gate) in about 10 minutes (total distance from Cape Arago Highway to this point is about 5 miles).

At this junction, paved Seven Devils Road meets paved Beaver Hill Road; instead, veer right onto the continuation of now-gravel Seven Devils Road. It's good walking (just lots of ascending and descending) along this road about 5 miles more to the short entrance road to Seven Devils State Recreation Area, which has toilets and potable water (15.5 miles). An OCT hiker recently suggested that you could shorten the road walking by turning west down a street called Pacific Surf, about a mile past the junction with Seven Devils and Beaver Hill roads, and follow it about another mile down to Sacchi Beach, then south on the beach about 0.5 mile to the next headland, where a trail leads over the headland and back to Seven Devils Road. I have not confirmed this route.

You may want to continue a few more miles to the hiker-biker camp at Bullard Beach State Park to spend the night—but I’ll get to that in the next blog post.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mile 232.3 to Mile 253.5: Winchester Bay to Charleston

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

Directions for this OCT leg: Get back on the beach, start walking south, and just keep walking.

Mouth of Tenmile Creek on a winter day
Slightly more detail: From the marina at Winchester Bay, follow Salmon Harbor Drive west and south as it curves through Windy Cove Park. Take the first opportunity to go west, through the dunes to the beach on the south side of the south jetty. Altogether it's about 2 miles from marina to beach, another 7 miles on beach to the mouth of Tenmile Creek (ATVs allowed in the dunes but not on the beach), and another 7.7 miles to Horsfall Beach Access (ATVs allowed in most of this last section of beach) (16.7 miles). To find Horsfall, look for the ATV closure sign (the Forest Service calls them OHVs, or off-highway vehicles) just past the entrance to Bull Run Sand Road and, just south of that, a wooden observation platform just visible above the top of the foredune. Follow the next little break in the sand to reach the campground (just a big parking lot, with toilets and water).

If don’t plan to get a boat ride across Coos Bay, leave the beach at Horsfall Beach Access, walk out Horsfall Beach Road and Trans Pacific Lane (alternately called TransPacific Parkway) about 5 miles to U.S. 101, then continue south over McCullough Bridge to North Bend and keep walking, following road signs to Charleston, a total of 15 miles of off-beach road walking (alternately, call a cab).

Sand Road leading to North Spit Boat Launch
Otherwise, from Horsfall Beach Access, continue south on the beach another 1 mile to a sign allowing ATVs again, then 2.25 miles more, watching for footsteps leading up to a break in the foredune. (From this point, you should be able to look south and see twin FAA towers jutting out of the foredune in the distance; if you walk to them, you’ve gone 1.25 miles too far.) Climb the foredune here; a (soft) sand road leads east and northeast 0.9 miles to the North Spit trailhead. From the trailhead, walk north on Trans Pacific Lane about 0.3 mile to the North Spit Boat Launch, a.k.a. the "BLM boat launch,” where you’ll find toilets and drinking water (21.2 miles). I pre-arranged a ride from this boat launch to Charleston with Captain Thomas of Vessel Alert; in 2009 he charged $100 minimum for the trip. It appears that he is still in business (though I haven’t confirmed that lately); I reached him at 541-297-8099.  With such a large parking area, North Spit Boat Launch looks like it should be a busy boat launch and, on the right day, it should be easy to talk someone into giving you a ride. The gloomy day I arrived, there was no one around. No one. Until Capt. Thomas arrived by boat to pick me up.

From Charleston things get a bit iffy (see next post); if you call a cab to pick you up north of Coos Bay, you might ask the driver to take you all the way to Seven Devils State Recreation Site, since from Charleston you have more road walking for quite some distance.

WHERE TO SLEEP: The only campgrounds in this stretch are a couple of them catering to dune buggy folks, including Horsfall (just an RV parking lot). Bluebill, a Forest Service campground about a mile inland on Horsfall Beach Road, is a nicer setting. Plenty of primitive (sandy) camping potential, however; I camped on the beach at the mouth of Tenmile Creek, a lovely spot. There are a few motels and RV parks in Charleston and plenty of motels in Coos Bay-North Bend. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mile 207.3 to Mile 232.3: Florence to Winchester Bay

Notations such as “(Hike 76)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

From the Siuslaw River Bridge in Florence, follow US 101 south 0.6 mile to South Jetty Road; take it west 2.5 miles and get back onto the beach at the first beach parking area. Here begins what you probably pictured when you imagined walking the Oregon Coast Trail: miles and miles and miles of uninterrupted beach walking, at least two or three days' worth.
The Siltcoos River is 5.7 miles ahead. It is easy to wade at low to mid tide and probably at high tide. I didn't know that, however, and was arriving tight at high tide, so about 0.6 before reaching the river, I went east to Siltcoos Beach Access (toilets, no water) and walked 0.3 miles to Driftwood II campground (caters to ATVs; water, showers, toilets) and a short distance further to the bridge over the Siltcoos at Waxmyrtle Campground (no ATVs; water & toilets) and picked up Waxmyrtle Trail to the beach well south of the river's mouth (see Hike 70 and associated map). But let’s assume your timing is better and you wade the Siltcoos: the next creek crossing is 5.5 miles south of the Siltcoos at the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek (14.3 miles), easily waded at low tide and probably mid- or even high tide in summer.

A few landmarks along this long stretch of beach: About 3 miles south of the Siltoos, look for a trailhead sign in the foredune; it leads inland 1 mile to Oregon Dunes Day Use Area (Hike 76), which doesn’t offer a hiker anything but a flush toilet and potable water. You’ll see another trailhead sign 1.5 miles farther—part of the Hike 76 loop. Follow it inland a short distance to a nice little campsite on the right just above Tahkenitch Creek, or go a little further, up and over a "tree island," to an oxbow in the creek (in the photo; enticing, huh?); you can cross the creek and camp in the oxbow.

Continuing south from Tahkenitch Creek, it’s another 4.5 miles to the end of Sparrow Park Road and Threemile Creek (easily waded), where there are frequently people (car) camping. The Umpqua River's North Jetty 5.25 miles farther.

I know of no boat ferry service across the mouth of the Umpqua. I took my chances and hiked to the lonely end of the north spit, then followed first a sand road and then the beach inside the rock jetty about 1 mile to a sandy cove (25 miles) and was able to flag a boat for a short ride to the marina at Winchester Bay, just 0.25 mile across the water. You might be able to prearrange a ride by calling Winchester Bay RV Resort at 541/271-3407 and inquiring about options (I have not tried calling them). The sandy cove is apparently a popular boaters' campside on Fourth of July weekend and perhaps other times, but it was quite deserted when I was there on a gloomy midweek morning in midsummer. You should have more luck flagging someone down on a weekend. If you don't want to chance it, turn inland at Sparrow Park Road and follow the main road (avoiding spur routes) east 4 miles to U.S. 101, then follow the highway south through Gardiner and Reedsport to Winchester Bay—a long walk, and one I wouldn't recommend.

WHERE TO SLEEP: Not at Honeyman State Park, which has a hiker-biker camp but which is not easily accessible from the beach (you could bushwhack across the dunes, but there’s no direct trail). Camp on the beach or in one of the developed Forest Service campgrounds clustered at the mouth of the Siltcoos (see map, Hike 70); Driftwood II, catering to ATV enthusiasts, tends to be loud. For primitive camping, see notes above for campsites along Tahkenitch Creek. Also, about 1.5 miles south of the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek, look for a trail post in the dunes; from here, a footpath and posts mark the way 0.5 mile inland to the north end of Threemile Lake and a lovely primitive campsite perched at the forest's edge (Hike 79). For developed camping near Winchester Bay, Umpqua Lighthouse State Park is about a 1-mile detour off the OCT route just south of Winchester Bay. Tent camping may be an option at the county's Windy Cove Park (catering to RVs). There are motels and other lodging here as well ( But this is an ideal stretch for primitive camping.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mile 190.3 to Mile 207.3: Washburne State Park to Florence

Notations such as “(Hike 62)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

The last post got you to US 101 at the Hobbit Beach trailhead, 1.2 miles south of the entrance road to Washburne State Park. Now pick up the lighthouse trail (Hike 62), at the trail junction just steps west of the highway as you’re heading toward Hobbit Beach, and follow it south 1.5 miles over Heceta Head to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, then down 0.5 mile past the keepers' quarters to the beach at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint (toilets, no water). Take the park road back up to US 101 and follow the narrow highway shoulder south through a very narrow highway tunnel (I hitched a ride through the tunnel to avoid tangling with motor homes in that narrow space; at least wait until the coast is quite clear, and make sure you are visible to cars coming up behind you). Continue walking alongside the highway .7 miles to Sea Lion Caves and 1.8 more to the point just beyond milepost 181 and the sign for the Southview housing development where railroad-tie steps lead down the hill below the guardrail. The trail continues as a mowed path that zigzags 0.2 mile down to the beach (5.4 miles).

The broad beach stretches south from here, seemingly forever; other than a couple of significant river crossings, you’ll pretty much be on the beach for the next three days or so. So start walking, wading first Berry Creek and then Sutton Creek (easy in summer and fall). It is 6 miles to the north jetty of the Siuslaw River (11.4 miles). There is no hikers' ferry service here, nor any good place to be picked up and dropped off near the mouth of the river. You may need to stock up on groceries in town anyway, for the long walk down the dunes.

So head off the beach at the jetty, then pick up North Jetty Road, following it 1.3 miles to Rhododendron Drive; Harbor Vista County Park is on the right just before you reach Rhododendron Drive. Walk south on Rhododendron Drive to the intersection with US 101 in 3.9 miles. Across the road and slightly north is a shopping center with a big grocery store and other services. To the south and just upriver of the bridge is the Old Town bay front with lots of shops and restaurants. If you’ve no interest in stopping and shopping in Florence, continue on US 101 south 0.4 mile from Rhododendron Drive to the start of the bridge over the Siuslaw (17 miles). If you want to skip all the road walking (there’s more to come), try calling a cab in Florence to drive you from the north jetty to the south jetty (see next post).

You have many options for overnighting in this section; I’ll list them north to south.

You could bivouac on the beach or dunes just below Heceta Head, though it’s not very remote. (I think there are vault toilets at the Baker Beach parking area, a short hike inland from the beach south of Berry Creek, see Hike 63.)

There is also a Forest Service campground with toilets/water and developed campsites on Sutton Creek; see map and narrative for Hike 67 to get there from the beach. (For just a pit stop, the day use area at Sutton Beach has toilets; not sure about water. You'll need to wade the creek, as my friends are doing at right, unless there happens to be a downed log in just the right spot.)
Driftwood Shores, a large condo complex and the only oceanfront lodging for many miles, is just off the beach 1.25 miles north of the north jetty.

Harbor Vista County Park, mentioned above, has developed campsites.

And then there’s the Port of Siuslaw RV Park Marina at the end of Old Town in Florence (, which has tent sites. Not remote in the least, but it’s  cheap, has showers, and is a short walk from a number of restaurants where you can celebrate having about reached the halfway point on the OCT!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mile 174.4 to Mile 190.3: Yachats to Washburne State Park

Notations such as “(Hike 50)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

After Yachats, southbound OCT hikers enter a stretch of coastline characterized by a couple of rocky headlands, which means some nice forest trails—and some highway walking, though not too much. Once you get to the other side of Heceta Head you will have no shortage of uninterrupted beach to walk on. For days.

From the end of the Yachats 804 trail, follow US 101 south over the Yachats River bridge and immediately turn right on Yachats Ocean Road and follow it for a mile, until it loops back to US 101. Pick up the little path parallel to the highway’s west shoulder, following it south 0.4 mile as it crosses a little footbridge and  then crosses the highway at Windy Way and continues south on the east side of US 101, a total of 0.4 miles, to the bottom of Amanda's Trail, in photo at right (Hike 50). Follow the trail up Cape Perpetua 2.2 miles (fairly steep for the first 1.5 miles) to a junction; go right and right again to reach the stone shelter and viewpoint at the top of Cape Perpetua (4.1 miles).
Continue through the shelter on the path to where it meets St. Perpetua Trail (Hike 51) and follow it 1.5 miles down the south side of Cape Perpetua to the interpretive center (toilets/water). The OCT resumes as a path parallel and just west of the entrance road; shortly it crosses that road and continues south, just above the highway, crossing Gwynn Creek after 1 mile and ending at a gravel road leading east to Cummins Creek Trail; take it west 0.1 mile to U.S. Highway 101 (7 miles). Now you’re back on the highway shoulder for about 1.5 miles to Bob Creek and perhaps another 0.6 mile or so until you can find a way to squeeze between houses and get back to the beach. You get about 0.7 miles on the beach until you wade across Tenmile Creek and, just beyond it, must return to the highway at Stonefield Beach Wayside (10 miles). Walk the highway shoulder for 2.8 miles to Rock Creek, where the Forest Service has a small (15 sites) campground with potable water and vault toilets (see below). Cross the creek and follow a little trail down to the beach, continuing south for 1.1 miles to China Creek (13.9).

If you want to continue hiking at this point, cross China Creek and go about 1.7 miles more; approaching Heceta Head (photo at left), watch for an OCT trail post in the brush at the edge of the beach; it's the end of the Hobbit Trail (Hike 60), which leads out to US 101 and the start of the southbound lighthouse trail (Hike 62).

 If, at China Creek, you're ready to call it a day, cross the creek and pick up the asphalt path that starts just over the foredune; it leads 0.5 mile to Washburne State Park, which has a hiker-biker camp. When you’re ready to resume your trek, pick up China Creek Trail (Hike 61) at the south end of the park and walk it 1.6 miles to US 101, Cross the highway to pick up the southbound lighthouse trail (Hike 62).

Rock Creek Campground is typically open from mid-May to mid-September; it’s quiet and small, with no RV hook-ups. Sites may be reserved in advance, so it’s possible it will be booked up when you arrive (there is no hiker-biker camp).  There are a few motels scattered along the highway in this stretch.