Friday, August 30, 2019

Late season OCT update

At Sisters Rocks, south of Port Orford
Nearly-September greetings, especially to those of you about to start a fall OCT hike. I finished my OCT hike a couple of months ago but haven't had time to post updates; sorry about that. Better late than never, I hope.

First, though, my news: I have a contract to write a a through-hikers' guide to the OCT for Mountaineers Books! Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail will be way easier to use (and up to date, and informed by way more research) than my Day Hiking: Oregon Coast, which is still the best thing out there at the moment for through-hiker. Won't be out until fall 2021, however.

In the meantime, I plan to build a robust OCT website to replace this blog, which will have a lot of the info that's going to go in the new book. So 2020 hikers will have access to that.

But for NOW, here are the most important tidbits I gathered that either add to or correct info I've already put out there. They include references to the big yellow numbered beach access (BA) signs you'll see along the way; those went up after Day Hiking: Oregon Coast came out in 2015. They are SUPER helpful for wayfinding on the OCT and will definitely be part of the book. I hope these updates are helpful to the rest of the Class of 2019.

HIKER-BIKERS: Many (not all) hiker-biker camps now have lockers where you can charge a phone (and stash your food out of reach of rodents). Bring a small padlock to be super secure, but we didn't and no one stole our phones. But it can happen.


  • Nehalem Bay: Jetty Fishery is solid. 
  • Tillamook Bay: Garibaldi Marina seems to be iffy; sometimes they'll give rides, sometimes not (if not, consider catching a bus from Garibaldi to Oceanside, which means you'd skip Cape Meares).
  • Netarts Bay: all depends on what Zach at Big Spruce RV Park is up to; if he can't help you out, you might get a ride with a recreational boater, or the road walk isn't bad.
  • Siletz Bay is my bad: when I hiked it 10 years ago I had no problem hitching a ride with a boater, but I think I just got lucky that day. If no boats, walk the highway, get a cab, or check the bus schedule.
  • Umpqua River: Winchester Bay Charters is solid; they'll get you across the Umpqua, but they need to pick you up around high tide, and be prepared to bash your way through a bunch of downed trees on the beach past the jetty (kind of a hassle; blame Mother Nature).
  • Coos Bay is a no-go; Sharkey's has quit offering rides (he never did actually provide one to anyone, and now he say he's not going to), so I suggest getting a cab from Horsfall Beach to Charleston (but call ahead; I've heard of long waits for cabs here).

A WORD ABOUT CAMPING: You know there's no dispersed camping allowed in state parks, but sometimes you just have to bivouc (leaving no trace!). And I'm kind of down on actually camping on the beach, but some OCTers camp on beaches all the time. Just be discreet, avoid towns, use nearest toilets, and you should be fine.

At Hug Point, south of Cannon Beach


CAMP RILEA: Not as big a problem as before. When the beach is closed, it isn't usually for the whole 3.5(ish) miles, and they might even give you a ride across the closure area at the top of the hour. Also note that the posted range schedule (online) can change at the last minute (as it did the day we hiked).

GEARHART: To leave the beach at Pacific Way, note that the BA 6A sign is WAY up on the bluff; you have to actually hike up onto the foredune to see the sign, so look for footsteps into the dunes and you'll see the sign from the top of the foredune,

BARVIEW: Walking train tracks from here to Garibaldi is no problem. Train goes really slowly, conductor is friendly, no trestles, way better than walking highway.

GARIBALDI: Old Mill RV Park was great for camping, except it's on grass so we got tons of condensation in/on tent.

SAND LAKE: I've seen pictures of people wading up to their knees, but we were up to our waists. Maybe we should have tried crossing right at the mouth, where the waves hit? Hard to tell where the shallowest spot was (even RIGHT at low tide). Talked to another hiker 2 months later who was unable to cross even at low tide. It SHOULD be crossable, but you might want to put your pack in a garbage bag as you cross...???

CASCADE HEAD: We took the unofficial trail from the north to Hart's Cove Trail, described in my book, first walking through the gated community at Neskowin, despite signs warning away all but residents and guests; in fact, the only people who talked to us were SUPER friendly. Once on the trail, we only got lost once, and then very briefly. Fortunately there are plans for way improving the official route over Cascade Head, but not in time for the Class of 2019.

DEPOE BAY: OCT route north and south of here is very close to highway and not very clear (brushy), but try it; beats walking the highway shoulder.

 YAQUINA HEAD: Actually, north of Yaquina Head: If the tide is higher than mid-tide, leave the beach at BA 55 (Moolack); there is a headland about 1 mile south that can't be rounded except at low-mid tide.

CAMPING IN CAPE PERPETUA AREA: We camped at Rock Creek CG; very shady, and windy the night we were there. Maybe Cape Perpetua is better? Presumably there is no official hiker-biker at either, but camp host will squeeze you in, though we never saw camp host at Rock Creek.

CAMPING IN FLORENCE: You can still camp at the RV park at the Port of Siuslaw, they just don't have an actual hiker-biker area (you have to get a regular tent site). They have three little tent sites on the grass. If they're full, you can take an RV site (each has grass area) if available, but have to pay RV price. Might call ahead to reserve.


SILTCOOS RIVER: Try to hit at low-mid tide for easier wading.

WINCHESTER BAY: Umpqua Dunes is a Douglas County RV campground that offers showers, laundromat, and potable water. Consider stopping off here, filling water bottles, then continuing down the beach to camp in the dunes.

TENMILE CREEK: Aim at low tide. (We ran into through-hikers who got there at high tide and there were seals swimming in the estuary: definitely not crossable!)

SUNSET BAY STATE PARK: Note that the route I describe (somewhere; in blog?) from Bastendorff Beach to Sunset Bay still exists but is totally unmarked, so can be confusing. Also they have moved the hiker-biker site to a new spot in the park--not as soggy!

CAPE ARAGO: If you try the route up the Pack Trail and through the private timberland here, note one big mistake in book: When you get to what I call the "landing," sontinue south on the little trail on the right, not the one on the left (which dead-ends). The correct trail starts very narrow but quickly opens into a wide logging road. Keep trending south and you'll get where you want to go. Still no "No Trespassing" signs at north end, but there are some as you pass the final gate and hit the road ...

BULLARDS BEACH STATE PARK: Leave the beach at BA 146 and follow Pearl's Trail 0.8 to the campground (and relocated/improved hiker-biker camp).

NEW RIVER: Very dynamic; mouth isn't hard to wade at mid-tide, but there is a breach in the river about 1 mile south of the mouth that has more water volume than the mouth; that's what you want to try to hit at low tide. Or at least that was the situation in late June; changes all the time here.

FLORAS LAKE TO BLACKLOCK POINT: To get on the trail from the beach, follow the OCT signs, NOT my instructions; its a much clearer route. Signage is good for awhile, then falls away, then improves; you'll figure it out.

CAPE BLANCO: Aim at hitting the Sixes River (north of Cape Blanco) close to low tide. The Elk River (south of the cape) is shallower and can be crossed at mid-tide (or higher?)

PORT ORFORD: The port has a "campground" (=parking area) at the corner of Dock Road and 5th Street (sign is subtle; is inside the fence). No facilities, but you can walk down to the port and use the toilet and showers there. Mostly gravel, but can probaby put up a tent along less-gravelled edges.

ROCKY POINT: Don't try to round Rocky Point on the beach. I took several good looks at it last weekend, and even at low tide it's a long slog over boulders. Just leave the beach at Hubbard Creek (BA 164) and walk the highway to continuation of the trail in Humbug Mountain State Park.

HUMBUG MOUNTAIN STATE PARK: The trail to the day-use area has been restored and reopened, reducing your highway walking by 1 mile. Yay.

SOUTH OF SISTERS ROCK: Follow highway for 0.5 mile, then hang a left up a mown and increasingly overgrown road right-of-way. It's only brushy for 0.3 mile, then you hit a wide gravel road. Follow it south: becomes Coy Creek Road. I'm uncertain about ownership here, but this is WAY better than hiking the highway. Follow it south, then pop back on the highway north of Ophir just in time to take little trail back to beach.

CAMPING IN GOLD BEACH: Just 0.6 mile off the trail/highway is Indian Creek Campground, a private campground that is awesome. Look it up. They have lots of tent sites far away from the RV sites, a cafe on site serving breakfast and lunch, and a restaurant ust 0.2 mile down the road. Plus the usual other campground amenities. (Just not a hiker-biker area, but they usually have openings.)

Those are the highlights. Have a great OCT!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Try this itinerary--or riff off it

Walk the beach at Seaside, or walk the Prom? We'll decide when we get there.

Hey, I also just updated the 2019 campground list. Again.
And be sure to check out this 2019 boat shuttle list and my 2019 OCT update

Have I mentioned I’m planning to thru-hike the OCT again in June?

Yes, it’s time. I did it before in two halves, in 2008 and 2009; it’s time for an update. I’m really curious how many other thru-hikers I’ll encounter—lots, I suspect. (I think I met only three other OCT backpackers 10 years ago: 1 woman hiking alone and a pair of women.) A few other differences:
  • Last time I hiked solo. This time I’ll be walking with one friend as far as Florence, where we’ll be joined by another friend.
  • Last time I didn’t plan it out much (I was pretty familiar with the whole coast though); I tended to make plans a day at a time. This time we have every day scheduled. Because …
  • This time we plan to stay in lodging about 1/3 of the time camp 2/3 of the time. We have reservations for lodging, so we're pretty locked into a schedule. This camp/inn hybrid is kind of wasteful of pack weight (still need to carry tent, stove, sleeping bag), but sharing some of that gear weight with a companion will help. Plus there are off-trail lodgings I just want to check out. Plus it will be fun.
  • Have worked out a plan that sticks very close to an average of 15 miles a day. (Last time I had some 25-mile days; I know that’s an “easy day” on the PCT, but that is a thru-hike of another order of magnitude).
Given all the work I’ve put into planning this 15-miles-a day itinerary, I thought it would be helpful to share it with others. Note that some of my decisions are pretty idiosyncratic (like, I just want to experience camping atop Tillamook Head), so use it if it’s helpful but don’t be a slave to it. You have your own trade-offs to consider.

Just FYI, I’m figuring about $350 each for two of us on the north half for lodging, camping fees, and boat shuttles. On the south half, where there will be three of us, it looks about the same per person (not including stopover at Tu Tu Tun; see below). We plan to eat in restaurants/cafes pretty often and resupply in grocery stores along the way, which costs more $$ but saves pack weight/volume. I wouldn’t call it glamping, but it’s a pretty deluxe trip we have planned. I was probably influenced by the inn-to-inn walk I did across England last June.

Note that mileage figures are rough; probably pretty accurate to within a mile. Note that we’ve engineered in a couple of layover days. (The second one is just to luxuriate at Tu Tu Tun Lodge on the Rogue River; a friend is meeting us and driving us there from Gold Beach.)

Follow us, if you want; I plan to post updates on my "bzenderson" Instagram account. Naturally I'll share updates about trail conditions, etc., in this blog after I finish.

Average 15 miles/day, range from 11 to 18 miles/day

DAY 1: to Gearhart, 14 miles. Lodging. Remember to check to see of the range at Camp Rilea will be "hot" or "cold."

DAY 2: to Tillamook Head, 11 miles. Camp. CARRY IN WATER.

Day 3: to Arch Cape, 14 miles. Lodging. Will try to time it so we can get around Hug Point at low tide instead of walking around it on the highway.

I always love the view of Neahkahnie Mountain from Cape Falcon trail.

DAY 4: to Manzanita, 14 miles. Lodging. Boat shuttle across Nehalem Bay.

DAY 5: to Garibaldi, 16-17 miles. Camp.

DAY 6: to Cape Lookout State Park, 18 miles. Camp. Start day with boat shuttle across Tillamook Bay with Garibaldi Marina; also hoping to catch boat ride across Netarts Spit with recreational boater (otherwise walk Whiskey Creek Road to the state park).

DAY 7: to Cape Kiwanda/Pacific City, 11-12 miles. Lodging. Need to time our crossing of Sand Lake outlet to low tide.

DAY 8: to far side of Salmon River, 17 miles. Camp. We plan to camp on some private property I know about; sorry I can’t share that with you-all. First plan to hike up the back side of Cascade Head via Hart’s Cove on informal trail I describe in the book; no idea what condition it’s in these days. We’ll find out.

DAY 9: to Depoe Bay, about 18 miles. Lodging. Taking a secret back route (that might someday be the official route, but that I can’t share, yet) to get back to the beach at Lincoln City; you might use this route to cut a few miles off the highway slog into Lincoln City.

DAY 10: to South Beach State Park south of Newport, 16 miles. Camp.

DAY 11: to Beachside State Park south of Waldport, 17 miles. Camp.

DAY 12: to Rock Creek Campground, north of Yachats, 17-18 miles. Camp.

DAY 13: to Florence. Here we’ll either get picked up at Baker Beach (10 miles) or hike all the way to the north jetty (19 miles) or somewhere in-between. Staying with friends.


South portion
Average 14 miles/day, range from 8 to 17

DAY 15: to Threemile Lake in the Oregon Dunes, 12-13 miles. Primitive camp. We plan to get a ride to the south jetty in the morning and skip the highway walking from Florence. CARRY IN WATER.

DAY 16: to Winchester Bay, 10 miles. Lodging. Arranging boat shuttle from north Umpqua spit to Winchester Bay with Winchester Bay Charters.

DAY 17: to Sunset Bay State Park, 8 miles. Camp. Cross Coos Bay in the afternoon with ferry prearranged with Sharkey’s Charters.

DAY 18: to Bullards Beach State Park, 15-16 miles. Camp. We’ll probably walk the “secret” trail over the headland (see my book). Need to hit Fivemile Point at or below mid-tide.

DAY 19: to Floras Lake, 16 miles. Lodging. Ideally hit New River outlet at low tide.

DAY 20: to Port Orford, 15 miles. Lodging. Want to hit Sixes and Elk rivers as close to low tide as possible.

DAY 21: to Ophir, about 17 miles, much of it on road. Camp (at Honey Bear Campground, mainly for RVs, but has tent camping, perfect location).

DAY 22: To Gold Beach, 12 miles. Lodging.


July 2009: A passerby offered to snap my picture atop Cape Sebastian.

DAY 24: to Crook Point, 16 miles. Camp. Unknown where we’ll stealth camp. CARRY IN WATER. There are no other options here. (Although last time I did the OCT I called a cab at Pistol River, slept at Harris Beach State Park, took cab back the next day, and hiked back to Harris Beach.)

DAY 25: to Whaleshead Beach, 13 miles. Lodging at Whaleshead Beach Resort (the only near-trail lodging between Gold Beach and Brookings)

DAY 26: to California line at Crissy Field State Recreation Site, 16 miles, where we’re being picked up by a friend.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Your 2019 Oregon Coast Trail update

View of Cascade Head from the top of the saddle at Cape Kiwanda

I think this is the third year I've assembled an update to be used with the directions I give for through-hiking the Oregon Coast Trail in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast. Most result from changes in the trail since the book was published. Yes, there were also a few boo-boos in the book; most were pretty minor, but when you use up all your water overnight on Tillamook Head and are expecting to fill your water bottle at Indian Point, but the toilet there is actually a vault toilet and there's no water for a couple more miles, it's kind of a bummer. Hence, this annual update.

2019 OCT route update

Also check out my 2019 campground list and boat shuttle list.

If you're reading this in April but aren't hiking until August, check back: I seem to end up updating the update once or twice a season.

What's new? In a few places the trail has just gone to hell and isn't hikeable (until it gets repaired). Many notes are about small things. I have a few new tricks for cutting your highway shoulder walking here or there.

As I've mentioned before, there is a robust effort underway to create an actionable master plan for improving the Oregon Coast Trail, mainly to create new trail that gets hikers off the highway in places where there's currently no alternative. That process started a year ago and is set to wrap up at the end of 2020. There may not be any new trail sections built by then (or there may be; in fact, I know of two places where new trail sections are supposedly being built this summer). The hope is that this process will identify the pragmatic steps that must and can be taken in key areas to eliminate most of the highway walking on the OCT. I had been hoping that it would include action toward adding developed campsites; so far I haven't seen any momentum in that direction, but I keep hoping.

I plan to be on the OCT most of June myself; maybe I'll run in to you! In any case, I hope you have a safe and fun journey this summer or whenever you hike the Oregon Coast Trail.

To cut your highway shoulder miles, look for this at about mile 315 ...
... and follow it 0.5 mile to get to this.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Crossing the big bays with an outfitter

Stepping out on Bayocean Spit after a ride across Tillamook Bay from Garibaldi.

Bay mouth crossings: they’re one of the things that make hiking the Oregon Coast Trail extra fun and different from other long-distance trails. You can avoid them (and the uncertainty or expense of getting a boat ride) by simply walking around the big bays, but that puts you on miles and miles of highway shoulder walking, forces you to skip miles and miles of beach walking, and kind of defeats the purpose of hiking the OCT, in my opinion. The good news is that there are now outfitters who will offer rides at every major bay crossing, plus several less-major ones.

When I last hiked the OCT a decade ago, I just hitched rides with recreational boaters across Tillamook Bay, Netarts Bay, Siletz Bay, and the Umpqua; I paid for a ride across the Nehalem (easy and cheap) and prearranged and paid for a ride across Coos Bay. Bumming rides from boaters still strikes me as a good option for people willing to live with some uncertainty (and willing to ask a favor of strangers, and eager to save money, and inclined to not plan ahead). There are usually lots of boats out and about in summer. (Though certain bays need to be crossed only at high tide, or only on an incoming tide; only later did I realize how lucky I was with my timing of the tides.)

CoastWalk Oregon participants climbig into a Jetty Fishery skiff to cross Nehalem Bay. (You don't know about CoastWalk Oregon? Google it.)
But you might prefer some predictability (and a licensed captain) and be willing to pay for it, especially if you are hiking as a group. Great news: there are now outfitters available to provide a boat ferry almost everywhere you really want a boat ride. The three most important bays to boat across, due to the length and unpleasantness of the highway-walking alternative, are Tillamook, Umpqua, and Coos; you might be able to hitch a ride across Tillamook Bay and the Umpqua River, but you’ll need to prearrange a ride across Coos Bay due to the length of the ride.

Here is a downloadable list of the outfitters I’m aware of who are offering boat ferries at each major crossing on the OCT in 2019, listed north to south. Directions for where to meet the boat, in each case, are explained in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

(OOPS--the link was going to the wrong list. Fixed now.)

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Ultimate Oregon Coast Trail campground list

Cyclist with all his stuff at Bullards Beach State Park hiker-biker camp

Here it is: I finally compiled what I think is a comprehensive list of established campsites on the Oregon Coast Trail, along with some glaring gaps noted. I hope this is helpful (you won't find this level of detail in my Day Hiking: Oregon Coast. Sorry.)

Download campground list
Updated 5-9-19

A few notes:

Most nights you can camp at developed campgrounds just off the beach that have hiker-biker campsites (shared with other hikers and cyclists, no reservations needed and always have room, showers included, typically $8 or $9 in 2019).

You can camp at other public campgrounds that do not have hiker-biker camps (county or US Forest Service), but those may be more expensive and may not have an available campsite. No showers at USFS campgrounds.

You can camp on the beach except adjacent to city limits or state parks (Google the city or park name to see the boundaries); I mention a few options in my list but there are many others. Please avoid burying your poo and instead use nearby toilets if possible. Bring your own water. Obviously be aware of the tide and camp well above the high tide line.

You can camp at the private campgrounds listed on the list (typically more expensive, some more welcoming to backpacking tent campers than others).

I also mention a few “primitive campsites”: established flat places to pitch a tent, usually in a remote area, no toilet or water (or $$).

Backpacker camp atop Tillamook Head

Thursday, January 24, 2019

CoastWalk Oregon 2019: Registration opens March 1 ...

It begins: clambering onto the south jetty of Nehalem Bay at the start of CWO 2018

... and if last year is any indication, registration may fill by day’s end March 1. In 2018 all but about 10 of the 90 slots filled in the first 24 hours. CoastWalk Oregon is a fundraiser for North Coast Land Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust that operates like The Nature Conservancy to preserve habitat, but on a smaller scale, conserving lands only on the Oregon Coast. CoastWalk Oregon is a fundraiser in which participants take a guided walk on 30 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail over three days. I’m super dedicated to this organization, which is why I work year-round helping to plan this event. (That, and I love everything OCT.)

On Rockaway Beach, Day 1 of CWO 2018

Why CoastWalk Oregon? You can hike the Oregon Coast Trail for free. And you may not be in shape for three consecutive 10-mile hikes. But it makes a good training goal. What CoastWalk Oregon provides is wayfinding, snacks, trailhead shuttles, and other little trail-angel benefits. Mainly it’s a fundraiser for coastal conservation, which is what most of your $379 donation is used for. And this year’s route, which runs from Sand Lake Estuary to the southern end of Lincoln City, offers a couple of special experiences other OCT hikers don't get:

CASCADE HEAD. At this time the official route of the OCT basically bypasses Cascade Head: it’s a long highway walk with an optional detour through the forest. But the great thing about Cascade Head is the fabulous ocean view from the saltspray meadows at its western tip (arguably the best view on the Oregon Coast, and that's saying something), along with the deep Sitka spruce forest. That forest is one reason this headland is designated a UN Biosphere Reserve, the only one in Oregon. CoastWalk Oregon has chosen a route that leads you through both aspects of Cascade Head.

SOUTH OF THE SALMON RIVER. This is a part of the OCT that is in flux, with various public and private agencies trying to figure out how to add a trail segment to get hikers off the highway between the Salmon River and the beach at Road’s End. For CoastWalk Oregon, we’ve made special arrangements with private Camp Westwind to skip the highway walking and, instead, hike north through the forest and down into the camp, where we’ll have a celebration lunch before being shuttled by boat across the Salmon River to end Day 3. Very special indeed.

Hopping over creeks, Day 1 of CWO 2018

So if this appeals to you, definitely check out CoastWalk Oregon. And if you like what you see, mark your calendar to register March 1 for sure.

Approaching the summit of Cape Lookout on Day 3, CWO 2018