DISTANCE: 74.3 miles*
ELEVATION GAIN: +7320 feet
HEADLAND SUMMITS: Devils Backbone (460 feet), Otter Point (310 feet), Cape Sebastian (676 feet), Sand Hill (470 feet)
It's not very remote—the highway is never far away. In fact, the highway is often right at your elbow; it includes more highway shoulder walking than any other section. It is also logistically difficult and impossible for a backpacker to walk without some very long days, a motel or two, some stealth camping, a little bus or taxi assist, or a combination of all four. There is no lodging between Port Orford and Gold Beach. And water is a problem; there is no public water source between Gold Beach and Harris Beach State Park, (although you can buy water at Whaleshead Beach Resort in the middle of Boardman State Scenic Corridor).
So, why hike it? It’s part of the thru-hike. It has some memorable highlights including Sisters Rocks, the hike over Cape Sebastian and the beaches at either side, remote Crook Point, and the hike through Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Honestly, especially for a thru-hiker who’s come this far, the highway shoulder walking isn’t bad, especially if you can get an early start. The views are great, and there’s much less traffic here than on the north coast.
OCT UPDATES TO DAY HIKING: OREGON COAST
As of March 2021
COASTAL STATE PARK HIKER-BIKER CAMPS: Both of those on the south coast should be open now (Humbug Mountain and Harris Beach).
BOARDMAN STATE SCENIC CORRIDOR: The trail up Sand Hill at the south end of Whaleshead Beach has slid away and requires a very careful scramble up the steep slope to reach what's left of the trail.
YOU SHOULD KNOW ...
APPROACHING HUMBUG MOUNTAIN STATE PARK: Heading south from Battle Rock Wayside Park in Port Orford, cross Hubbard Creek at Beach Access 164 and continue another 0.8 miles to where a narrow path leaves the beach (maybe signed, maybe not) and take it to the highway. Do NOT try to scramble around Rocky Point; even at low tide, it's a long boulder scramble, dangerous and time-consuming.
ARIZONA BEACH TO SISTERS ROCKS: If you plan to take this route, you need to hit it at low tide (or maybe mid-tide?) to get around the headland south of Arizona Beach. Be prepared to clamber up and over a significant pile of boulders.
NESIKA BEACH: Day Hiking: Oregon Coast tells you to leave the beach at the south end of town: WRONG. This is all private property. Instead, about 1.3 miles south of Ophir Rest Area, look for Beach Access 171 and look for the little trail that leads up to Nesika Road.
PISTOL RIVER: I don't know if it can ever be safely waded; I've never been there when it could. I recommend 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.
APPROACHING BOARDMAN STATE SCENIC CORRIDOR: This part of the coast is prone to landslides, which have wiped out some attempts at trails on the west side of the highway. Your first opportunity to leave US 101 in the Boardman Corridor may come at about milepost 344; look for the trail leading west and then immediately south. This route leads through
the dunes and forest west of the highway and ends at Arch Rock picnic area,
the first developed site in the scenic corridor. Alternately, stay on the shoulder
of US 101 for 0.7 mile more to the picnic area. The OCT resumes at the top (south side) of the parking area.
WATER: Note that there is NO public tap water from the south jetty of the Rogue River in Gold Beach all the way to Harris Beach State Park in Brookings. You can buy bottled water at Whaleshead Beach Resort, in the middle of Boardman State Scenic Corridor. There are vault toilets in several parks along the way, but no water. Plan accordingly.
MORE OPTIONS FOR OVERNIGHTING
OPHIR: Honey Bear By the Sea RV Resort and Campground ($$) has some of the finest tent camping on the Oregon Coast. You’ll pay at least three times what state parks charge for hiker-biker sites, but you get to camp at one of a handful of tent sites scattered at the edge of a huge meadow out of sight of the RV park (but that's for up to 8 people in two tents, so it might pencil out if you're part of a grup). There are lovely, clean showers and a restaurant that is open on weekends only. Advance reservation are a good idea.
NESIKA BEACH: Nesika Beach RV Park and Campground ($$) has tent sites.
GOLD BEACH: About 0.6 mile up the south bank of the Rogue River from the bridge is Indian Creek RV Park ($$), which has a lovely tent camping area with twenty-six sites; you might want to call ahead to reserve one. The on-site café serves breakfast and dinner; another restaurant and bar serving lunch and dinner is just 0.2 mile up the road.
GOLD BEACH-PISTOL RIVER: A scan of Air BnB indicates that there are now a handful of Air BnB options in this otherwise lodging-free zone, including one right at Pistol River and one on Cape Sebastian a short walk from the trail. So be sure to check it out before giving up on inn-to-inn on this stretch.
HARRIS BEACH STATE PARK, BROOKINGS: If you plan to camp here after hiking through Boardman SSC, follow the highway shoulder 1.6 miles south from where the trail from Lone Ranch Beach hits US 101 and look for a bike path west of US 101 just past Carpenterville Road and Dawson Road. Follow it south 0.7 mile to the campground entrance.