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 in places 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.
*Due to variations in route, everyone counts mileage on the OCT a little differently. This is the number I came up with for my guidebook Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail. It may differ a little from figures you fine elsewhere.
As of September 2021
No trail closures I know of.
YOU SHOULD KNOW ...
SOUTH OF HUMBUG: Pro tip from hiker "Brunch!" for those who want to skip the long stretch of highway shoulder walking here (mentioned in my book, but more detailed here): "Curry Public Transit bus will pick you up at Humbug Campground and drop you off at Nesika or Otter Pt for just $4 removing that long haul on 101. Simply call dispatch (541.412.8806) when they open at 8 am PT and they‘ll communicate w/ the driver. 3 buses/day make the 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 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.
OVERNIGHTING UPDATE, GOLD BEACH-PISTOL RIVER:
Lodging: 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. Check it out before giving up on inn-to-inn on this stretch.
Camping: I just learned of another camping option here: Turtle Rock RV Resort, at the mouth of Hunter Creek (BA 179), has a tent camping area. PRO: it's right off the beach and 3 miles south of the mouth of the Rogue River, making your next day that much shorter. CON: it's windy and frankly sounds not as nice for tent camping as Indian Creek Campground (mentioned in the book).
SECTION HIKE SUGGESTION?
I actually don't recommend section hiking south of Port Orford. Day hiking, yes: it's gorgeous. Humbug Mountain, Cape Sebastian, Boardman State Scenic Corridor: all spectacular. But camping and tap water are very limited in places (none between Gold Beach and Harris Beach State Park in Brookings), and there is a good amount of highway shoulder walking. For thru-hikers it's less of an issue; they're already used to long days of walking (and stealth camping if necessary). Read more in Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail.