The Oregon Coast Trail is a roughly 400-mile walking route that capitalizes on Oregon’s 262 miles of publicly owned and accessible sandy beaches. Roughly half the route is on the beach itself. Another quarter follows footpaths over headlands, also publicly owned. The remaining quarter or less follows quiet side roads and, where unavoidable, the shoulder of US 101.
I've often wished I could share a book list with folks planning to come to the Pacific Nothwest to hike the OCT. Then I had an opportunity to create one on shepherd.com. Check it out!
And it's generating some great reviews!
Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail (Mountaineers Books) is designed as a guide for thru-hikers and section hikers, with more emphasis on camping options, boat shuttles, and other details backpackers and inn-to-inn hikers need than you can find in my 2015 guidebook Day Hiking: Oregon Coast. It's packed with information. But the OCT is still a work in progress, with new trail sections opening up and other sections of trail closing due to winter storms, plus details about boat ferries, camping options and other services changing as well. Please continue to visit this website for updates to the information found in Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail.
I know some people would prefer to hike early, before the busier summer season, and aren’t put off by the potential of rainier weather. I want to remind you that the south half of the OCT can’t really be safely walked, most years, until early or mid-June. There are lots of rivers and creeks to wade on the OCT, but on the north coast there are nearby bridges you can use for any streams that are too high to wade. South of Florence, however, many such rivers and creeks have no reasonable bridge alternative and you’re stuck wading them. High water in spring can make that dangerous, even at low tide.
Here is a summary of trail condition reports and info that update what you’ll find in my book. (Scroll down for links to section pages, photos, etc.)
THE NORTH TRAILHEAD AT THE COLUMBIA RIVER: Trailhead and viewing platform are fully reopened now (at Parking Lot C, Fort Stevens State Park).
TILLAMOOK HEAD: At this point (4/4/22) the road into Ecola State Park is still closed due to washouts, but it sounds like it's almost fixed; it will certainly be open by late spring. In any case, all that means to thru-hikers is you’ll have a quiet walk through and out the south end of the park.
NEAHKAHNIE MOUNTAIN: The North trail to the summit is still closed and may be this whole hiking season, although my sources tell me it may reopen by late summer. If it's still posted as closed when you get there, you can walk the sidewalk along the highway instead (not a bad option). Continue on the road shoulder to Nehalem Road, or detour up to the south trailhead (longer, but off road) to Nehalem Road.
CAPE LOOKOUT: The North Trail from the campground to the summit is still closed (but my sources indicate it may reopen sometime this hiking season). Ask a campground host at the hiker-biker camp or look for signage; if it's still closed, walk out to the park entrance and up the road to the trailhead at the summit and follow the South Trail down to the beach. I have not seen the damage myself, but knowing what I know of the trail pre-storm, this is not a trail you'll be able to walk until it really is fixed.
CASCADE HEAD: The bottom of the North Rainforest Trail is a lot easier to spot as you hike up the highway south of Neskowin; they’ve carved out a small parking area. Take the trail up and over the head. Note that Road 1861 (which thru hikers typically don’t use anyway) is closed and may be for another year or two due to a massive landslide (or landslides).
SALMON RIVER TO ROAD'S END: Sounds like I kicked a hornet's nest by suggesting hikers leave the highway at N. Clancy Road (Section 2, Leg 6). The road was not posted as private when I have hiked it, but apparently it is, and the property owners on it are NOT friendly. I suggest you NOT walk up N. Clancy Road but instead trudge another 2 MILES on the shoulder of US 101 to NW 40th St. and use it to access the beach. This would be so much better for hikers if USFS would build a maybe 1.5-mile trail from N. Fraser Road that hooked in with existing trails leading to Road's End. I hope it happens soon.
FISHING ROCK-FOGARTY CREEK: Get out your Sharpie! I had missed a route change at Fogarty Creek that keeps hikers west of the highway (so no highway crossings), still gives you restroom access, and adds no distance to the hike. Cross off the instructions on pp. 141-142 and do this instead: After leaving the beach at Fishing Rock, turn right on Fogarty Avenue and follow it south to US 101. Then walk the highway shoulder just 0.1 mile and veer right into a wide gravel path down to the beach. Wade the creek if you want, otherwise go left on the paved path along the creek a short distance to a footbridge (at the park restrooms), cross the bridge, and take another paved path on the south bank east to stone stairs leading up the hill to where the OCT continues south.
WALDPORT: If high water keeps you from returning to the beach immediately south of town (p. 154), here’s a shortcut: rather than walk the highway for 1.2 miles south to Governor Patterson SRS, leave the highway in just 0.5 mile at Waziyata Avenue; follow it (bearing right) out to a beach access trail.
CROSSING THE UMPQUA RIVER: Definitely call ahead to get a ride from Winchester Bay Charters (or take your chances flagging down a passing boater). Note that they may not be able to accommodate your schedule; be prepared to adjust to their schedule. (These are great people trying to run a small business on the coast in a pandemic; be kind.) The alternative is to leave the beach at Beach Access 116 for a 12.3-mile slog on gravel Sparrow Park Road and the shoulder of US 101. Not fun.
CROSSING COOS BAY: Winchester Bay Charters may be able to help you find an outfitter there to take you across Coos Bay, but charter boat operators in Charleston generally aren't familiar with the OCT or aware of hikers' needs (their focus is on fishing), so don't count on it. Note that, if you can pull it off, the 4-mile crossing will be more expensive than most (shorter) boat ferries on the OCT. (And if you find an outfitter who will ferry you, please let me know!)
SOUTH OF HUMBUG: More details about a public transport alternative to a long highway shoulder walk: Curry Public Transit bus will pick you up at the entrance to Humbug Mountain State Park campground and drop you off at Nesika or Otter Point for just $4. Call dispatch (541-412-8806) when they open at 8 am and they‘ll tell the driver to look for you. Three southbound buses a day make this trip.
PISTOL RIVER: In mid-May 2021 I heard from a hiker that the mouth of Pistol River was totally crossable. I have checked it several times in the past, even low tide late summer, and I have never found it crossable. Obviously it is very variable. You could try it, knowing you might have to backtrack. Otherwise follow the instructions in Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail that have you leaving the beach at Beach Access 185 (Pistol River Middle). Look for a house-sized rock and a trail leading through the dunes to the highway. Walk the shoulder of US 101 south 1.3 miles, cross the river on the highway bridge, and return to the beach over the dunes west of Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint.
The Oregon Coast isn't a wilderness. But hiking the Oregon Coast Trail is an adventure. Read about season, direction of travel, and other quirks and key info.
The start of the OCT (yes, you definitely should hike southbound) has beaches, headlands, everything--but limited legal camping presents challenges.
A half-dozen gorgeous headlands, long beaches, camping and lodging options, and limited highway walking if you study the route carefully.
A great stretch with fabulous views and good lodging and camping, diminished only by a couple of long stretches of highway walking.
The most remote stretch of the OCT, ideal for backpacking, with a couple of bay mouth crossings--one easy to wrangle, one more challenging.
Amazing views in this least-developed stretch of the Oregon Coast, but limited lodging and some camping challenges, and some long highway hiking.
Bonnie Henderson has been backpacking and writing about the Oregon Coast Trail since 2008. She is the author of three guidebooks: Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, Day Hiking: Oregon Coast, and Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon (with Zach Urness), all from Mountaineers Books. She is also the author of two nonfiction books: The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast and Strand: An Odyssey of Pacific Ocean Debris, both from Oregon State University Press. She lives in Eugene, Oregon. Follow her work at bonniehendersonwrites.com.
Have you seen trail conditions change? Have you discovered a great campsite or slick way to cross a river? Have you scrutinized my book and this site and still have questions about planning your OCT thru-hike? Send me a message.