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! And 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)! 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.
And not just because the weather is better. Many rivers and even creeks are too high to wade until (typically) mid-June. This is not really an issue north of Florence, where bridges get you across the biggest rivers, but on the more remote south coast there are stretches where you can't access a safe crossing without bushwacking for miles through private property.
As the trail gets more popular, it will be more important than ever to practice Leave No Trace, OCT-style:
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.
Last updated 3/22/23
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. 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 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.
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 same March snowstorm that wiped out Necarney Creek Bridge downed dozens of trees on the north trail (from the campground to the top of the cape). It's closed at this time, no word on how long before it may reopen. Walk the road to the top of the cape and pick up the OCT heading down the south side.
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: Great tip from a hiker who found Sand Lake outlet too high to safely cross at the mouth. He learned that, at low tide, it's possible to walk from Fishermans Day Use Area across the estuary to Whalen Island (about 300 yards) without water rising above his knees. He found the footing fairly solid (but used trekking poles). Upon reaching the island, follow the shoreline footpath south to Whalen Island County Park. Here you can camp, or continue south by crossing the bridge and continuing south on Sandlake Road to Sitka Sedge State Natural Area and its trails back to the beach. NOTE: Attempt this only at low tide (which at this location is probably about an hour after low tide at the mouth), and be aware that conditions may change; be ready to reverse course if necessary.
CAMPING AT SAND LAKE: Book (p. 115) mentions new hiker-biker site at Fishermans Day Use Area. It's not really signed, but it's available. Start up access road, take little path on left past amphitheater, and look for two picnic tables and fire rings on right. Use vault toilet and water at Fishermans Day Use Area. No reservations. Probably no fee (but if someone comes to ollect a fee, it won't be more than $5.)
INN-TO-INN HIKERS: Sandlake Country Inn does seem to be permanently closed.
CASCADE HEAD: 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. Take the trail up and over the head. You may see a sign indicating that Forest Road 1861 is closed; don't let it worry you. Cars can't use it due to a massive landslide near the start of the road, but as a hiker you just have to cross over the road (far from the landslide) to continue down the South Rainforest Trail.
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: As I note in the book, there is tent camping at the Port of Siuslaw in Florence, but not hiker-biker (and not cheap). 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: $43-$55/night + fees. No website, and inactive on Facebook; instead use Airbnb to book. Google "airbnb florence 101 hostel." She is adding more small rooms/pods in an adjacent house; they should be available by July and will be even cheaper ($35 + fees). Could be a nice splurge to celebrate the halfway point on the OCT.
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. (It's small business run by lovely people; 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 recommended.
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, yet (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!)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. They offer rides as a volunteer service, but contributions to cover their costs are appreciated.
INN-TO-INN AT FLORAS LAKE: Floras Lake Inn has reopened as a B&B.
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: A landslide occurred in January a mile or two north of Arizona Beach, on a highway shoulder-hiking section. Be prepared to follow flaggers instructions for hiking through here. Also, just south of the Arizona Beach-Sisters Rock trail section, in the book (page 220) I I suggest 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.
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.
BOARDMAN STATE SCENIC CORRIDOR: Last summer guidebook author Bill Sullivan wrote an article about a two-night backpacking trip he made in Boardman. Too bad he either didn't know about my book and about the Oregon Coast Trail Action Plan or chose not to mention them, and he didn't realize that filtering surface water on the OCT isn't a good idea like it is in the mountains. But his choices of (illegal) campsites might be helpful to other hikers: China Beach (good to know high tide didn't reach his tent) and the remote-ish south end of Whaleshead Beach (if you choose to camp here, don't put up your tent until sunset and take it down promptly in the morning).
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.
Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail
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