Northern Oregon Coast
From Tilamook to Astoria and everything in between, we spent three weeks exploring the Northern Oregon coast and camping in Seaside. The coast is scenic, the towns are charming, and the forests are magical. While we enjoyed everything we got to see and do, there were a handful of spots we absolutely loved. Here are some of our favorite places to visit on the Northern Oregon coast:
Hug Point State Recreation Site is a State Park located on the coast about five miles south of Cannon Beach. It is a stretch of sandy beach and rocky cliffs that is mostly only accessible at low tide. It is called Hug Point because of the stagecoaches that used to “hug” the cliffs at low tide to get around the headlands before there was a highway. You are still able to see tracks in the rocks left behind by the stagecoaches, which is really cool!
The day we visited Hug Point, low tide was at 8:30 am. We got our butts out of the camper by 7:45 am because if you miss low tide, you are SOL! We wore sandals as I figured we would be taking our shoes off to walk in the sand and tide pools, but it was a chilly day in May, so I would consider wearing boots depending on when you visit. It also gets pretty windy, so I was happy to have our jackets.
We headed to the beach and headed north from the parking lot. The first cool spot we checked out was the waterfall. The seasonal waterfall runs out of Fall Creek into the sea from about 15 feet high over sandstone rocks. We climbed up the rocks next to the waterfall to get a view from the top and to throw rocks into the creek. The waterfall was delightful, and the large rocks made for an excellent naturally created made playground!
Walking further north on the beach, we explored several sea caves and tide pools. There are tide pools that cover the old stagecoach tracks which are fun to explore and walk over! We followed the tracks down to a huge tide pool on the north side of the headlands. The pool was a couple of feet deep and would’ve made for an excellent kiddie swimming hole had it been warmer. We still had plenty of fun splashing around.
As the tide pools got deeper and the sand became softer, I knew our fun at Hug Point was coming to an end. We made sure to head back towards the parking lot before the tide was too far in. They say you can get stranded out on the beach between cliffs when the tide gets high, and I wasn’t about to find out if that was true!
Wrapping around Tillamook Head, between Seaside and Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park stretches along nine miles of coastline and offers outstanding sightseeing and recreation. There is a beautiful beach in the park, but our visit was focused on going for a hike. We parked at Indian Beach which offers access to the beach and Clatsop Loop trailhead. The Clatsop Loop is 2.8 miles and is rated moderate on AllTrails. We generally stick to easy trails with the kids, but this is a hike we really wanted to do and figured we’d give it a go!
You can do the loop in either direction. We started with the more inland route and went counterclockwise. This direction begins with a wide, steep trail. This graded section of the trail is about a mile long and most likely the reason this hike is rated moderate. It’s a steep one, but totally doable for two mediocre hikers, two toddlers (one in a pack and one on dad’s shoulders), and two grandparents. This first part of the trail goes through thick, lush, beautiful forest!
Once we reached the top, we walked the extra 1/8th of a mile out to the edge of the Tillamook Head where we were able to take in the stunning views of the coast and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. “Terrible Tilly” is a lighthouse that sits atop a large rock about 1.2 miles from the shore. This view was definitely worth the extra walk!
The remaining portion of the loop that takes you back down to the beach is much narrower and less steep than the start of the hike. This portion of the trail contains more switchbacks, which is nice for going downhill, but it is pretty muddy, which is not great for going downhill. With the amount of mud on this section of the trail, I was sure glad I opted for my hiking boots over my Keens that day! In the end, our hike in Ecola State Parked was one of our favorites on the Oregon Coast.
Short Sand Beach aka Short Sands aka Shortys is a wonderful little beach in Oswald West State Park, about ten miles south of Cannon Beach. The beach is nestled in Smugglers Cove which keeps the beach well protected from weather and the waves breaking in a way that is perfect for surfing. Short Sand Beach is one of the most popular surf spots on the Oregon Coast!
From the parking lot, located on the east side of the 101, it is a short hike to the secluded beach. It’s about a ½ mile each way to and from the beach. It’s a nice little walk through the forest that was easy for the kids to do while I packed in all of our beach and lunch gear.
There are picnic tables just off the sand once you reach the beach, but we opted to use driftwood as tables and chairs for lunch. There are rocky areas along the cove walls that are fun to explore at low tide. There is a small stream that empties onto the beach, which is also fun to explore and splash around in. The kids and I loved spending the day at Short Sands. It is the ideal beach whether you are looking for a relaxing day on the sand or an action packed morning playing in the waves!
Cape Meares was a little bit of a trek from our campground in Seaside Oregon but definitely worth the 1.5 hour drive. The day we visited Cape Meares, we were actually down that way touring the Tillamook Creamery and decided to drive out to the cape at the last minute because, why not!
Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint offers some of the best views on the Oregon coast and the chance to tour its historic lighthouse. We visited on a clear day and were able to see miles down the coast from the Viewpoint. The Viewpoint gives you breathtaking views of the coast to the south as well as the chance to get a glimpse of one of the largest colonies of nesting common murres. We always keep our binoculars in the truck and were so happy to have them with us for some awesome bird watching!
To get to the lighthouse on the point, we took the trail on the south side of the cape vs. the larger trail down the center. It continued to offer those fantastic views as it took us right along the edge. The Cape Meares lighthouse is the cutest little lighthouse that you ever did see and was built in 1890. There are free guided tours of the lighthouse that allow you to go up into the tower and get a good look at the lamp. Unfortunately, kids have to be 40 inches tall, and CANNOT be carried up the stairs, so Hazel and I stayed behind while the boys went on the tour. Regardless, we all loved exploring Cape Meares!
We will never forget our time exploring the Northern Oregon coast. Its natural beauty did not disappoint. Have you had a chance to visit this area? What was your favorite place? Share what you love about the Northern Oregon coast in the comments below!