Big news: I've just arranged with FarOut Guides to put together an app for the Oregon Coast Trail, which should be available by the 2024 hiking season. When that happens, these website updates will go away: they'll all be on the app, and hiker comments on the app will continue to keep it updated. Should WAY simplify wayfinding and really enhance the safety of the trail.
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.
With high snowpack in the Sierra and Cascades, I won't be surprised if a lot of Pacific Crest Trail hikers opt for the OCT while they wait for mouintain trails to clear. They will find this is a different kind of trail, with no need for mail-ahead resupply (and no need for water filter) but with lots of adventure and beauty along the way.
About those highway shoulder miles, the Oregon Coast Trail Action Plan is about to wrap up and reveal its rcommendations for closing gaps in the trail and minimizing the amount of highway walking. It's a great vision, but it will take years to complete. Meanwhile do your best to get rides across bay mouths and you'll eliminate much of the highway walking.
It's had some great reviews, including an excellent one from Treelinereview. I do I make a little money with each purchase. But this is mainly a passion project. I love this trail. It is complicated, not like any other trail I've hiked (in the US or Europe), not quite complete, but still very hikeable if you're flexible and especially if you do your homework. And PLEASE read the intro; I generally skip that part of guidebooks, but this trail is different from other trails. For instance, don't drink water from streams! Use toilets! Don't plan to camp on the beach every night (or even many nights)! No resupply needed! The intro explains why.
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.
Get the right book for your trek. Author Connie Soper has written a wonderful book called Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail. But it is designed as a guide to hiking the trail as a series of day hikes; it does not deal with the problems of finding legal campsites and potable water, dealing with long highway shoulder stretches, and other issues for thru-hikers. If you plan to thru-hike or section-hike the OCT, I urge you to get my book, Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail.
Side note: 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.
As the trail gets more popular, it will be more important than ever to practice Leave No Trace, OCT-style:
LAST UPDATED 9/19/2023
THE FOLLOWING UPDATES summarize trail closures and changes to date as well as a few corrections to my book. It's meant to supplement (not replace) my guidebook. (Keep scrolling to find links to section pages, photos, etc.)
I don't have GPX files to share, but I suggest you get the Gaia GPS app (premium, for $39.99) and use the OpenHikingMap overlay. I think it shows all (or almost all) the trail walking sections; refer to my book for details as necessary.
If you encounter trail closures, bad trail conditions, or other challenges you'd like to warn other 2023 hikers about, please email me and I'll share your info here.
BEACH CAMPING: I’ve never been totally clear about where beach camping is NOT allowed, other than adjacent to any state park site and certain towns. I recently came across this list, which I hope is comprehensive, on a tourism website: No camping on beach adjacent to Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Lincoln City, Newport, Bandon and Gold Beach. State parks folks are also not allowing beach camping north of Gearhart. How do you know if you are within city limits? Google the city name and it should show you.
THE NORTH TRAILHEAD AT THE COLUMBIA RIVER: Trailhead and viewing platform are fully reopened now (at Parking Lot C, Fort Stevens State Park).
ECOLA STATE PARK: A lot of people seem to miss where the trail continues south of the Indian Point parking area on south side of Tillamook Head. DO NOT GO DOWN TO THE BEACH! Walk across the parking area and pick up the signed trail south to Ecola Point.
ARCADIA BEACH: Vault toilets only, no water.
SOUTH OF NEHALEM BAY: An issue has arisen about how to proceed north from Jetty Fishery (after you get a ride across the mouth of the Nehalem by, yes, Jetty Fishery). It seems they don’t want people walking through their little RV park to get to the rock jetty leading out to the beach, but employees of Jetty Fishery have different opinions on this. So here are your options:
1) Walk through/past the RV park to the saltmarsh, which is usually dry in summer but might have a little channel running through it at high tide. Find a good spot to clamber up onto the jetty and head west. (Do NOT try to walk through the break in the jetty, as tends to be very slippery and dangerous, and unnecessary.)
2) If you are stopped by someone at Jetty Fishery or by innundation of the saltmarsh at high tide, walk up toward the highway and head south on the railroad tracks. Go 0.8 mile to a little tsunami escape trail, follow it down the hill and across the tracks to Riley Street, and take it to the beach. An excursion train operates on these tracks and they don’t want you walking there, but the train is VERY slow and easy to avoid and this is by far safer than the third alternative:
3) Walk the highway 0.8 mile south (shoulder ranges from wide to literally nonexistant, with sharp dropoff) and catch the same little tsunami trail on the right just north of Scenic View Drive. Follow trail down, across tracks, and out to the street and the beach.
OSWALD WEST STATE PARK:
An early March snowstorm destroyed the bridge over Necarney Creek, which the OCT crosses just south of Short Sand Beach. Instead, at Short Sand walk down to the beach, head south and cross the outlet of Short Sand/Necarney Creek, then pick up little trail that leads up to the OCT.
If you need water, use the restrooms (flush toilets, potable water) right above Short Sand Beach, just off the OCT route (a second restroom building to the south, closer to Necarney Creek, is closed). It's the last tap water before Manzanita. There are also restrooms 0.5 mile off the OCT at the Short Sand Beach parking areaon US 101
Note that the trail over Cape Falcon can be very brushy early in the season--as is true of many forested trails on the OCT.
CAMPING AT OLD MILL RV RESORT, GARIBALDI: Still a great option if you are planning a morning boat ferry to Bayoean Spit. However the city made them eliminate their hiker-biker area. They still welcome OCT hikers to their tent camping area; walk-ins get their HB rate of about $22. If you make an advance reservation it's $40 and change. There is usually space for walk-ins on weekdays, less certain on weekends.
CAMPING NORTH OF TILLAMOOK: If you opt for hiking (or busing) the highway around Tillamook Bay, note that Twins Ranch, a private campground 6 miles south of Garibaldi, offers tent camping and is very friendly to OCT hikers. There is no formal hiker-biker area, but they will always find room for hikers, and at a very friendly price. Also if you are walking to Cape Meares, there are new vault toilets (no water) at Memaloose Point, about halfway from Tillamook to the beach.
CAPE MEARES: My book says Bayshore Road is the official route to the top of Cape Meares, because the old trail to the top was no longer being maintained. News: that trail is again being maintained and it is to be the official OCT route going forward, though it is steep and prone to slides. (Besides Bayshore Road is currently closed to hikers on and off as contractors reroute the road for car traffic.) To reach the trail from Emergency Beach Access sign 30 in the community of Cape Meares, continue south on the beach 0.6 mile (and over a rock ledge, or around it at low tide) and look for a steep, rough trail heading up the last gully before the cliffs at the cape; the trail quickly improves as it leads about 1 mile to the state park entrance atop the cape.
CAPE LOOKOUT STATE PARK: The North Cape Trail (from the campground to the top of the cape) has reopened.
NETARTS BAY: Andy is now the manager at Big Spruce Boat Rentals. He is usually too busy with his boat rental business to shuttle folks across the bay mouth but will sometimes do it at or just before high tide, most likely in the afternoon when they already have a boat available at the Netarts boat ramp. He doesn’t want to advertise this service! But you might luck out. Note new phone number: 503-801-5434.
SAND LAKE OUTLET: Many hikers have crossed the mouth of Sand Lake at low tide, but even under the best conditions it is typically waist deep and, as such, a wet and risky crossing. The following route can be a shallower (but still not risk-free) way to cross Sand Lake estuary and continue south on the OCT. It involves wading the estuary from Fisherman’s Day Use Area to Whalen Island, then walking the road to Sitka Sedge State Natural Area and back to the beach. (Or ask the campground host at Whalen Island for the best route back across the estuary to the southwest to avoid road walking entirely.) This route is much shorter than following roads the entire way around Sand Lake estuary (the third, longest, and least-risky route option) and offers the option of camping at Whalen Island County Park (no hiker-biker, but the hosts tend to find a place where hikers can camp). NOTE: Recent hikers have reported that the deepest point was knee-deep at low tide and waist-deep two hours past low tide. SEPTEMBER UPDATE: I've heard reports of people trying this in chest-deep water. VERY DANGEROUS. By now the daytime low tides may be too high to try this safely. I recommend crossing at the mouth at low tide or walking the road.
From Fisherman’s Day Use Area, you need to cross a channel to reach the broad sand flats west of the north end of Whalen Island. This should be attempted only approaching or at low tide, and only in summer or early fall, when water levels are lowest. Note that the bathymetry of the estuary changes constantly so the route may not be exactly as described here, and may be shallower or deeper, year to year and even within one hiking season.
Start either slightly west of Fisherman’s Day Use Area or slightly east (but not as far as the point), where the channel should be relatively shallow; this should be the deepest portion of the walk. After crossing the channel you will be on a sand flat, which will probably be shallowly inundated with water. Continue SSE toward the sandy beach at the edge of Whalen Island and pick up the loop trail just above the shoreline. Follow the trail south to the parking for Clay Myers State Natural Area and walk out the access road, crossing a bridge, to reach Sandlake Road, then walk the road south 0.8 mile to Sitka Sedge SNA and follow park trails out to the beach.
CAMPING AT SAND LAKE: Book (p. 115) mentions new hiker-biker site at Fishermans Day Use Area. Walk up the access road a few steps, take little path on left toward and past amphitheater, and look for two picnic tables and fire rings on right with small upright signs that say HB1 and HB2). Toilet at the day use area; water spigot there and near HB1. No reservations; $5 cash (depost at campground fee station; bring a pen.)
PACIFIC CITY: Nestucca Adventures is not offering boat ferries across the Nestucca. Hike the highway to Winema Road or take the #4 bus southbound (4 times daily) from Pelican Pub or Kiwanda Community Center (NWoregontransit.org).
INN-TO-INN HIKERS: Sandlake Countory Inn does seem to be permanently closed.
INN-TO-INN HIKERS: Sandlake Country Inn does seem to be permanently closed.
CASCADE HEAD: Rainforest Trail (North and South) have reopened, but both are "super sketchy," as one hiker puts it: North trail starts with landslide area that's tricky to get around, and south trail has LOTS of brush and downed trees. Expect slow going at best. Note that the bottom of the North Rainforest Trail is now a lot easier to spot as you hike up the highway south of Neskowin; they’ve carved out a small parking area.
RE "back route" over Cascade Head: Not recommended at this time. Because the access road to Harts Cove (Forest Road 1861) has been closed to vehicles due to massive landslides for a few years, there has been no trail maintenance: VERY brushy, downed trees, etc. Some folks have made it but it's in very poor shape. (I have also had my first report of a hiker being told that they weren't welcome in the private neighborhood you use to get there.)
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 short connecting trail from N. Fraser Road to existing trails leading to Road's End. Until that happens, stick to the highway.
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.
CAPE PERPETUA: Campground host says there is no longer a hiker-biker site at the campground here, bummer. You can camp, but it's no longer drop-in and costs more.
LODGING IN FLORENCE: Especially if you are hoping for a zero day in Florence, but in any case, I urge you to arrange camping or lodging in advance. As I note in the book, there is tent camping at the Port of Siuslaw in Florence, but no longer hiker-biker. Cost is about $40 for a tent site with up to 2 tents, plus another $10 if you reserve ahead. USUALLY they have room for drop-ins but not always, and it's getting tighter, with smoke and fires chasing campers to the coast. Another option: Florence 101 Hostel. Owner Marianne Brisbane had to convert it from dorms to private rooms due to covid, so it's more expensive, but not bad: $35-$55/night + fees. Her Facebook pages looks inactive but lists email, phone, and link to AirBnB listings (which is how she books). Could be a nice splurge to celebrate the halfway point on the OCT. About Honeyman State Park hiker-biker (as apparently recommended by folks at the Port of Siuslaw): Non-hikers don't undertand that Honeyman is on 101 but it's not on the OCT, and there are no trails from there to the beach (and bushwacking 2 miles west is rough, across open dunes but also dense coastal forest and westlands). You would have to hike an extra 1.8 miles south from South Jetty Road to get to Honeyman. Then either backtrack to South Jetty Road and then west, or go south another 4.4 highway miles to Siltcoos Beach Road, then west. It's worth a few bucks to line up Florence lodging/camping in advance.
TAHKENITCH CREEK: A hiker reported that it is definitely not crossable at high tide (+8.3 when he tried). Should be doable at low or mid-tide.
CROSSING THE UMPQUA RIVER: It seems that Winchester Bay Charters has gotten overwhelmed with boat ferry requests and is not always answering the phone or returning calls. So try him but don't count on him. Alternatives: 1) Try flagging down a passing boater from the south jetty beach (not a sure thing), 2) hike out Sparrow Park Road and down US 101 to Winchester Bay, or 3) hike out Sparrow Park Road and from there get a ride to Winchester Bay from trail angel Mike Morrow, 503-882-4258; he asks for two days' notice, and he only gives rides in the morning.
CROSSING COOS BAY: No one offerng this at this time, that I know of. If you find an outfitter who will ferry you, please let me know!)
SHUTTLE AROUND COOS BAY: In the absence of a solid boat ferry option around Coos Bay, OCT trail angels Ash and Will are available to drive hikers around the bay (from Horsfall Beach to Charleston). They are also willing to put hikers up at their Coos Bay-area home. Email them at email@example.com. They offer rides as a volunteer service, but contributions to cover their costs are appreciated.
ALTERNATIVE ROUTE OVER 7 DEVILS: I've heard that a ranger is warning hikers off using this route, due to it being private property. I've also heard that hikers have used it with no problem.
INN-TO-INN AT FLORAS LAKE: Floras Lake Inn has reopened as a B&B.
CAMPING AT BOICE COPE COUNTY PARK? Hiker-biker camping (no reservation, drop-in) is no longer allowed, but you can go online and reserve a tent site with charging station and picnic table for $18.43 ($1.50 more for shower). Or consider stopping at the bivouac site 4 miles to the north (bring water), which can be crowded on weekends (or not). No camping is allowed on Blacklock Point just to the south (but people do it, just saying; top off water bottles at Floras Lake).
PORT ORFORD DETAILS: Hiker notes that toilets and showers at Port of Port Orford are only open during business hours. Apparently it's not clear in the book that there are flush toilets and water at Battle Rock Wayside, where you return to the beach SOBO.
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.
MORE SOUTH OF HUMBUG: There is no water at Humbug Picnic area. There IS potable water at Arizona Beach, ahead some miles.
MORE SOUTH OF HUMBUG: In the book (p.220) I suggest that, just south of Sisters Rocks, you consider walking up a short abandoned and overgown portion of Coy Creek Road to get to an off-highway route. A thru-hiker has reported that he found the route impassable due to blackberry thickets, etc. We might have to wait and hope that this route eventually gets claimed and maintained as an official part of the OCT, but for now it appears you need to stick to the highway all the way to Ophir.
OPHIR: Honey Bear by the Sea RV park has expanded the number of tent sites around its beautiful meadow. They're not cheap ($58 or more for max of 2 tents and 8 occupants), but they have also established a small area catering to hikers and bikers. Not a true hiker-biker, because they're not strictly drop-in, but at least this year reservations haven't been necessary. Cost is about $30, fits one tent.
PISTOL RIVER: Marathon Man (and others) also reports that Pistol River is currently wadeable. Note that that may change before the season is out and you may have to use the highway bridge as I describe in the guidebook.
BOARDMAN STATE SCENIC CORRIDOR updates:
Stealth camping: Another guidebook writer has suggested that you could camp on China Beach and at the south end of Whaleshead Beach and stay above high tide. Having just scouted China Beach, gotta say it would make me nervous; a high high tide could get you. Cove at north end of Secret Beach maybe, but again, sketch. Don't know about Whaleshead Beach. Note that camping adjacent to state parks like this is still not allowed.
Route at north end: You can actually leave the highway and get on the OCT just past the Boardman State Scenic Corridor sign and take it to Arch Rock Picnic Area. A little difficult to follow but better than highway. I didn't mention in book because there had just been big landslide, but either it wasn't impacted or it was repaired.
Better route south from Whaleshead Beach: At the top of the road down to Whaleshead Beach, look for nearly-hidden OCT sign and follow very brushy trail (gets better) down to park toilets, then cross footbridge and follow it to beach. Walk beach just 0.1 mile or so and take very steep but short (0.2 mile, 200 feet elevation) scramble trail to Whaleshead Beach Viewpoint. From there follow marked OCT trail south (intersects with aforementioned trail) through the woods 1.3 miles to House Rock Viewpoint. Hate to miss that pretty beach, but it's not like you haven't hiked any beaches on the OCT.
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.