To truly appreciate the rugged majesty of the Oregon Coast, take a walk through the coastal forest. Immerse yourself in the cool forest air, rich with fresh oxygen and the scents of the nearby ocean. Feel dwarfed under the thick trunk and distant canopy of a Sitka spruce. Watch the ceaseless crash of the surf from atop dramatic bluffs. Discover things growing in surprising places: crowded colonies of mosses perch in the corrugated bark of Douglas-firs, and scraggly huckleberry shrubs reach up from ancient stumps. Even the ocean itself seems alive.
Find all of this on the Clatsop Trail, a 2 1/2 mile loop hike at at Ecola State Park. The trailhead is a scenic ten-mile drive up the coast from Arch Cape Inn and is just north of Cannon Beach, making it a perfect day-trip destination. Pack a lunch for a picnic on the beach, and plan for dinner in town.
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The coastal forest greets you even before you leave the car. As you enter the park (and pay the worthwhile $5 daily fee) and wind your way down the narrow road to the trailhead, you pass old-growth Sitka spruce trees, giants prized by the timber company for their impressive girth and height.
The parking lot is shared by hikers, beach walkers, and surfers. The trail begins at Indian Beach, a cozy crescent of sand between the bluffs of Indian Point and a jumble of rocky tidepools. Check a tide chart and take time, before or after your hike, to explore the tidepools at low tide. Look for hermit crabs skittering across the bottoms of pools, other crabs wedged into crevices, darting minnows, brightly colored starfish, and tentacled green sea anemones.
The trail itself ducks back under the canopy of tall conifers to follow an old gravel road. It climbs up to 800 feet in just over a mile to Hiker’s Camp, a walk-in campsite with three well-used Adirondack-style shelters. A short spur trail leads to the edge of a seaside bluff overlooking the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse a mile and a half offshore.
From here, you can extend your hike by continuing north on a four-mile trail to the town of Seaside. Otherwise, the Clatsop Trail loops back toward the trailhead, trading the gravel road for a footpath. More overlooks peak through the trees, sometimes toward the Cannon Beach sea stacks.
As you return to your car and wind your way back through the park, look forward to dinner at your favorite Cannon Beach restaurant and a relaxing evening back at our inn.