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!

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