Short Sands Beach, which is known to locals as Shorty’s and is inside Smuggler’s Cove, is a beautifully situated natural attraction that is both familiar and different in its setting.
This serene destination is enveloped in the forest-and-water setting that the Northwest is famous for while its position in a cove allows it to enjoy features that are unique compared to other beaches in this region. In fact, many say that this is the most beautiful place anywhere along Oregon’s stunning coastline.
Your Journey Here
Most will be making the trip from Portland. To do this, you will drive along a twisting road that takes you amongst old growth forest, a beautiful journey that is memorable in and of itself.
You will head west on U.S. Route 26 out of the Rose City before going south on U.S. Route 101 where Route 26 ends. In fact, if you are anywhere along the Interstate 5 corridor, you should first head to Portland and then go west.
Of course, if you are in Astoria to the north of where Route 26 meets Route 101 or anywhere along the coast, simply take Route 101 north or south to here.
The parking lots for Short Sands Beach are conveniently placed right next to the highway, and there is no cost to use them. With that said, do make sure to park in one of them as you may receive a citation if you instead leave your car on the highway shoulder.
Oswald West State Park
You will now be in Oswald West State Park, about 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, a city that you passed en route to your parking spot. This 2,448-acre recreation area has a lot of other attractions to offer its nature-loving visitors as well, but Short Sands Beach is understandably the focus for many who come here.
Walking to the Beach
There is no parking available adjacent to the beach, and you will need to walk from your car to get here. However, you will quickly realize that you will have no complaints whatsoever about doing so, especially if you love forests as you will be going through one. Also, this final stage of your journey to Short Sands Beach will be short. It will only last about 15 minutes.
The route from the main parking lot to here will initially take you under the highway. En route, you will go by brooks, streams, ferns and, of course, trees and on a suspension bridge that you may or may not be looking forward to crossing. Fortunately, if you are not, you can take advantage of other options to get to the beach.
The trail that takes you on the most direct route to the water has a moderate 100-foot elevation gain.
At that point, especially if it is your first time here, you might have your breath taken away as you see the Pacific Ocean, the beach itself, the waterfall to the side if it is not dried up for the summer, a stream that brings fresh water from inland out to the ocean and cliffs that are made from sandstone and volcanic basalt. Not to mention that when you turn around, you are reminded that this has all been beautifully placed amidst a forested backdrop.
As you experience this, you will usually hear the waves lap the shore as you feel a mild breeze hitting your face, the latter thanks to the calmer winds that occur here as compared to the Oregon coast as a whole.
Shorty's: Two Main Activities
There are two main activities that most who visit Short Sands Beach take advantage of once they arrive here.
Short Sands Beach is a popular attraction for surfers, and many say that here is where Oregon’s best waves are found. The shape of the cove helps create those, and they are also generally more even than is found elsewhere along the Oregon coast, making this an especially inviting surfing destination for those who are new to the sport.
If you are from out of state, note that you will most likely prefer to wear a wetsuit while surfing, even in the summer, as the water here is much chillier than is found in Southern California and in many other areas of the world.
Of course, surfing is not the only water activity that can be enjoyed as many are also here using paddleboards, skimboards and bodyboards as well as simply having fun in the water without a board – i.e. swimming.
Enjoying The Beach
The other main activity that many visitors take advantage of is simply enjoying the view: gazing at the ocean and at the waves crashing on the beach, looking back at all of the gorgeous trees, taking it all in. This can, of course, be done either by yourself as you get more in touch with nature or while you are spending time with family or friends as you enjoy this incredible setting.
That aforementioned waterfall is especially noteworthy in that when it is not dried up and it is also high tide, the water goes right into the ocean, a rare feature of a waterfall. Meanwhile, when it is low tide, you can go up to it to enjoy the resulting tide pool and the interesting sea creatures that are visible there.
Picnicking and Barbecue Grills
An activity that many take advantage of here is eating at the available picnic tables while enjoying this view and environment. There are also barbecue grills located here if you want to cook while overlooking the ocean.
Short Sands Beach is a particularly dog-friendly area, so that is something to keep in mind whether you are a dog lover or not. If you are, that can make this place even more attractive. If you are not, then you should aim to visit here during its quieter times so that can enjoy a mostly dog-free experience.
Also note that dogs are allowed to be off-leash here, the only place in Oswald West State Park where this is allowed, although it must be done safely.
When To Visit
When should you visit Short Sands Beach? There are pros and cons to coming here at different times of the week or of the year.
The most important thing to consider if you are planning to visit during the summer is the crowds as it can get crowded on summer weekends. If you have some flexibility for your summertime trip here, you may want to aim for a weekday versus a Saturday, Sunday or holiday.
Also expect the parking lots to start to fill up early in the day on particularly busy summer weekends, especially since those lots are also used by nature enthusiasts who are visiting the area to take advantage of the other attractions that are nearby.
Of course, summers will generally offer better weather than winters tend to although there is a charm to coming here on a chilly January day with a drizzle in the air, especially considering that you will have the beach almost to yourself.
However, if you do plan to come here in the winter, take into account that if the weather is particularly hostile, that could result in the waves making the entire beach not really safe to be in.
There are a few other points that you should keep in mind for your trip here. For example, there are restrooms on site, and you should refrain from fishing, taking anything away from here and operating drones. Also, camping is not allowed anywhere in Oswald West State Park.
Alternate Activity Options
You can also take advantage of a number of other activities while on this trip. Here are a couple of them, both of which you can do from the same parking lot that you had utilized to visit Short Sands Beach.
Cape Falcon Hike
This 5-mile hike provides you with incredible views of the water from a higher vantage point, thanks to its 300-foot elevation gain. You also get to enjoy numerous beautiful viewpoints en route to the top. However, do consider the mud factor if you are considering this hike in the winter or spring.
Many who have completed this hike in the past have recommended that future hikers do this and then relax on the beach as opposed to the other way around.
Meanwhile, if you instead want to keep going once you reach the top, you can proceed to hike all the way to Arch Cape. In fact, the Cape Falcon Hike is part of the 363-mile Oregon Coast Trail, so there is essentially no limit as far as how long you can hike, particularly if you are simply looking to experience a day hike.
If you are looking for a more ambitious hike than heading to Short Sands Beach or the Cape Falcon Hike, consider taking a challenging 10-mile trek to Neahkahnie Mountain.
Most hikers should allow six hours to complete the round trip, and you should be mentally or otherwise prepared for more crowded conditions during nicer weather, with both people and dogs, particularly if it is a summer weekend.