Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mile 32.5 to 56.3: Cannon Beach to Manzanita/Nehalem Bay State Park

Notations such as “(Hike 12)” refer to hikes in my book “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.”

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to this section only.

I have vivid memories of the morning I walked south from Cannon Beach, past Haystack Rock, on my through-hike. I started early to catch the low tide, and I recall the rising sun glinting off the wet sand as I threaded my way among the tall rocks at Humbug Point. You will want to hike this beach stretch on a low tide to get around Silver and Humbug Points (or you could always hop up to the road/highway if necessary). Hug Point (4.8 miles), the next potential obstacle, has a road cut into the rock a few feet above the sand that stagecoaches, and then cars, used in the last century, when the tide was too high to travel on the beach (see Hike 12), but you still want to aim at hitting it at low to mid tide. There are vault toilets up the beach access trail here. Continue another 1.75 miles. About 100 yards before the beach ends at the foot of Arch Cape, leave the beach on a little trail that leads onto Leech Street. Follow Leech east almost to US 101, turn right on Cannon Street, and follow it south and east under the highway and onto E. Shingle Mill Lane. Walk up Shingle Mill Lane a total of about 0.4 mile from the beach; at the sign for Third Road, turn right on a little gravel road that leads to a suspension bridge over Arch Cape Creek and resumption of the OCT as a forest trail (Hike 13). Walk 0.1 mile, turn right at the trail post, and follow the trail another 1.75 miles up and through the woods over Arch Cape and back to U.S. 101 (8.8 miles).

The trail resumes across the road about 50 yards to the south. Now you're looking at a 6.75-mile hike over Cape Falcon before returning to U.S. 101 at the base of Neahkahnie Mountain. A few landmarks along the way:  2.75 miles after the forest trail resumes, you'll reach an unmarked spur trail leading out to the bald tip of Cape Falcon (scenic spot for a break, where I sketched Neahkahnie Mountain in my notebook; could you bivouac here in a pinch?). In another 2.75 miles you'll reach a lovely picnic spot in Oswald West State Park overlooking Short Sand Beach (approaching this spot, bear right at trail junctions). Unfortunately, Oswald West State Park (formerly a hike-in campground favored by surfers) is now closed to overnight camping. (There are flush toilets and potable water here.) Rangers DO kick out anyone found camping here. The trail resumes at the southeast corner of the picnic area; follow it over Short Sand and Necarney Creeks another 1.25 miles to U.S. 101 (15.6).

The OCT continues across the highway, heading up Neahkahnie Mountain (Hike 15*). I was too beat to hike 4 miles up and over the mountain, with its 1,200-foot elevation gain, despite the awesome summit views. Instead, I opted to walk along the highway instead (1.5 road miles, minimal elevation gain, narrow highway shoulder, still great views). Either way, from the access road leading to the southern Neahkahnie trailhead, walk 1.2 miles south on U.S. 101 and turn right on Nehalem Road (20.8 miles), which winds 0.8 mile down to the beach; follow the beach 0.7 mile south to Laneda Avenue, the main street in Manzanita where most of the shops and restaurants are. (This town as lots of good restaurants and a great coffee shop:  Manzanita News & Espresso.) Alternatively, continue on U.S. 101 past Nehalem Road for 0.3 miles to a little grocery store on the right; walk west a block, then south a block, then continue west down Laneda Avenue to the beach and knocking 0.5 mile off your hike.) Nehalem Bay State Park is 1.5 miles farther down the beach (23.8 miles, or 20.8 with shortcuts I took); watch for footsteps leading east over the dune. The hiker-biker camp here has elevated tent platforms, which are a little odd but probably great in the rain, as long as your tent is a smallish, self-supporting dome tent.
Be aware that since the closure of the campground at Oswald West State Park, there is no legal place to pitch a tent between Cannon Beach and Nehalem Bay State Park (20.6 to 23.6 miles—a long day’s hike). There is lodging (rather high-end) in both Arch Cape and in Manzanita, 13 to 16 trail miles apart.

 *Day Hiking: Oregon Coast (third edition) mistakenly lists trail distance up the north side of Neahkahnie Mountain as 4.2 miles; it’s more like 2 miles. I’ll correct that in the fourth edition.

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