Check one of the “Seven Wonders of Oregon” off your bucket-list and enjoy three days of non-stop ocean views, emerald forests, crashing waves, beaches, and sea stacks on this tour of the northern Oregon Coast. Relax for two nights in the charming seaside town of Cannon Beach in view of Haystack Rock – one of the area’s most iconic images. Hike in three of Oregon’s widely acclaimed State Parks. Timing your visit for good low-tides reveals another world beneath the sea. There is no better way to see and experience the Oregon Coast than with an expert guide and a small group!
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
“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.
Day 2: Neahkanie Mountain
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.
Mileage varies according to which trails we take. Expect 6-8 miles with 1000-2000’ gain.
Day 3: Cape Lookout
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.