Marvel at the remnants of an ancient lava flow that originated in present-day Idaho and flowed down the Columbia River basin to meet the sea at Tillamook Head. Walk amid some of the area’s few remaining old-growth forests. Ascend to one of the highest viewpoints on the West Coast. Explore sandy beaches, craggy coasts, and an artsy village. Scan the shimmering waters for gray whales. Learn where to look for nesting puffins and the trails of red foxes. Absorb the rich natural history of the region as we experience this magnificent coastline!
Day 1: Tillamook Head
Wild Coastline. Giant Sitka Spruce. Cannon Beach.
“I behold the grandest and most pleasing prospect which my eyes ever surveyed.” Those were Captain William Clark’s words when he stood here over 200 years ago. We begin our explorations where Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea left off. Tillamook Head, now within Ecola State Park, was the farthest south the expedition went along the coast on their journey. Some of the trails we will walk follow the same route the expedition used when they came here to trade with local natives for whale blubber. While only a few of the giant Sitka spruce trees which once covered these hillsides escaped the axes of early logging operations, in other ways the view has changed very little. In 1881, “Terrible Tilly,” a storied lighthouse was added to the scene. Defense bunkers went in during World War II. However, the sea and the forest have been reclaiming their share ever since, leaving a wild place to explore and admire. It’s only a short jaunt from here to our lodging in Cannon Beach, one of the Northwest’s most popular art towns. If Norman Rockwell had painted on the Oregon Coast, he surely would have reserved a canvas or two for Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock! We will stay here on both nights of the 3-day tour.
– Hiking mileages within the park are variable; elevation gain/loss are minimal to moderate.
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Day 2: Neahkanie Mountain
Cape Falcon. Old-Growth Forest. High Point.
If the tides are cooperative, today is our best opportunity for exploring tidepools. Our guides will lead you to the best ones. Either way, a short drive to the south today takes us to Oswald West State Park. The park features well-preserved ancient forest and the “Devil’s Cauldron,” as well the undisputed high point of our journey. First, we explore the lichens, mosses, liverworts, and giant trees in the rainforest. Only once we have contemplated the “Cauldron” and stopped for a snack at a secluded sand beach we will begin the trek uphill. But do not fear the ascent. Neahkanie Mountain is as accessible as it is amazing. No matter which trail we take it is a bit of climb, but achieving this bird’s-eye view of the coast far outweighs the effort. Contemplation comes easy here. To the north, rocky headlands are pounded by the ocean waves. To the south lies a beach surrounding a tranquil bay. To the west… nothing but the glistening waters of the Pacific Ocean. In the afternoon, we return to Cannon Beach with plenty of time left to explore the public art, cafes, galleries and beachfront.
Walking Distances: Mileage varies according to which trails we take. Expect 6-8 miles with 1000-2000’ gain.
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Day 3: Cape Lookout
Rocky Cliffs. Sand Dunes. Tillamook Cheese Factory.
Today we head a bit farther south than we were yesterday. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Highway 101, Cape Lookout State Park straddles an 800-foot-high headland that juts nearly two miles out into the Pacific Ocean. Crashing waves batter the cliffs to either side – nowhere is the power of the sea more palpable than here. It is also the best place to try and spot gray whales off the coast – bring your binoculars! Compare the restless drama of this soaring, rocky peninsula with the quiet tranquility of the grasslands and sand dunes at Whalen Island where we will go for a short walk to look for animal tracks on the beaches and mudflats. We will also leave some time in the afternoon to stop for a well-deserved ice cream cone and to sample some cheeses at the world-famous Tillamook Cheese Factory on our drive back to Portland – yum!
Cape Lookout: 5 mi, 400’ gain.
Whalen Island Loop: 1.5 mi, 100’ gain.
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Oregon Coast Hiking Tour Details
- Tour Highlights
- Tour Inclusions
- Accommodations & Food
- Customizations for Your Family or Group
- Additional Information
- Tour Preparation
Spend two nights in the artsy and picturesque town of Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Naturalist guides connect you to the story behind the scenery.
Hike to one of the highest viewpoints on the West Coast.
Visit three of Oregon’s acclaimed State Parks.
Explore the diversity of the coastal rainforest environment, from old-growth forests to grasslands to sand dunes
From rocky headlands to sandy beaches, the north Oregon Coast has everything the Pacific shoreline has to offer.
Visit Tillamook Cheese Factory.
Naturalist tour leader
Overnight accommodations – all included.
Overnight accommodations – all included
Full breakfasts – all included
All lunches included. We will pack our trail lunches from fresh, local, organic (where possible) ingredients.
Full dinners – including appetizers. Alcohol at restaurants is not provided
Snacks, water, sparkling water, local wine, local beer, etc.
Accommodations for this tour are in Cannon Beach, accessible to the public art, galleries, and cafes the town is famous for.
We have selected these accommodations to give you the opportunity to explore the area on your own, as well as with the group.
Cannon Beach is one of the most popular towns on the coast. There are excellent options for lodging and dining at varying price points.
We are happy to tailor the tour to suit your desires and budget! See the "Customizations" tab for other ideas and options for your group.
More basic (less-expensive) accommodations can be had on all nights of the tour.
Another option for controlling costs is having breakfasts and dinners on your own.
The hikes can be easily selected and tailored (shortened or extended) to meet the desires or abilities of your group.
The tour can be lengthened by combining this 3-day tour with more days in the area or with another tour (or tours) in the region to create a longer and more diverse Northwest wilderness experience! Options include:
Seasons (What to expect):
This tour can be run any time of the year. Summer is by far the busiest time. Things slow down tremendously during Spring and Fall. In winter, it is practically deserted.
For tide pooling, April through early August generally offer the best daytime low tides. Check with us for the best dates if this is a priority for you.
If whale watching is your thing, the gray whale migration seasons (March to May and mid-Dec to mid-Jan) offer the best opportunities to spot them.
Climate and weather: Cannon Beach, OR
Books A quick search online will reveal a bounty of books written about the attractions of the Oregon Coast, but if you are looking for literary fiction the task becomes more difficult. Our resident bookworm (Chad) has the following favorites to recommend. In his mind all of them are, or are destined to be, literary classics.
- Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. Although it is no doubt a more challenging read than the novels listed below, this is the undisputed classic of the logging era in coastal Oregon – hands down! It was also made into a movie the 1971 film starring Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, and Lee Remick. As of this writing, Chad has yet to see the movie.
- The River Whyby David James Duncan. A love story on multiple levels.
- Mink Riverby Brian Doyle. A charming tale of coastal life post fishing and logging.
Below is a suggested list of items that you may want to bring on your upcoming hiking tour. When packing, remember that the weather can offer surprises, especially in the mountains. Plan to dress in layers and carry extra clothing every day for lunch and rest stops.
- Hiking pants or convertible pants
- Casual clothes—jeans, shorts, sport shirts
- Dinner clothes—nice casual attire is fine
- Hiking boots suitable for rocky trails
- Casual shoes
- Hiking socks (no cotton) and casual socks
- Sweater or light jacket
- Waterproof jacket
- Bathing suit for hot tubs and spas
- Camera, extra batteries, charger, and memory cards; dry bag (optional)
- Daypack with hydration system
- Driver’s license
- National Parks or Federal Recreation Lands Pass (optional; bring it if you have one)
- Reading material
- Ball cap for sun protection
- Sunglasses – dark enough for snow and bright sun
- Insect repellant of choice
- Toiletries and blister kit
- Vitamins and / or prescription drugs
- Extra set of glasses or contacts
- Small headlamp or flashlight
- Trekking poles (collapsible)
- A spirit of adventure
Additional Items for Cooler Seasons and High Elevations
- Baselayer shirts and tights
- Long sleeve fleece or mid-weight jacket suitable for active hiking
- Warm jacket for mornings and evenings
- Fleece or wool hat
- Winter gloves
- Thermal socks
- Wool sweater
- Waterproof rain gear