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!