The Best Trail for Backpacking on the Oregon Coast

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By Visit Oregon

Apr 16, 2024 / 3:32 am

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The Oregon Coast is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. and my favorite place for backpacking. Every time I have the opportunity to set out on any of the thousands of trails, I see sights that make me say, “Wow!”
If you’ve ever considered making your way up or down the coastline, all I have to say is, “What are you waiting for?” There’s trails for every skill level, from beginner to advanced, and with over 362 miles of coastline, there’s no shortage of options to choose from.
Whether you’re planning a day trip or a month-long adventure, the Oregon Coast offers nonstop thrills and excitement. So gear up and check out these trails that are perfect for backpacking along the breathtaking Oregon Coast!

The Oregon Coast Trail

The holy grail for adventuring along the entire Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast Trail is one of the most iconic spots for backpacking on the Oregon Coast. On this one trail, you can experience a multitude of different scenery, including sandy beaches, headlands, lush forests, and 28 towns. It stretched along nearly the entire coastline, 425 miles to be exact, making it a bucket-list experience for backpackers worldwide. One of the unique aspects of this trail is the public beaches where you can cool off in the frothy Pacific Ocean or take in breathtaking sunsets.

Witnessing the sunrise over Trillium Lake is an unforgettable experience. The soft huesSince it’s been so long, many backpackers have chosen to make an action plan for accessing potable water and campsites in between public amenities. Fortunately, there are features like restrooms and water crossing services along the way to make your trip more enjoyable. The trail is broken into ten sections to make it more manageable for new and experienced hikers. In some areas, you can camp on the beach, which is such a fun experience, but camping within city limits is prohibited in most areas. The Oregon Coast Trail is also a great option for nature lovers, as you can enjoy bird watching and spotting numerous wild animals like beavers, skunks, black bears, deer, otters, and more. Let’s explore each section of the Trail and what you can expect along the way. of dawn paint the sky while the mountain casts its reflection upon the glassy surface of the lake, creating a magical scene that’s perfect for photography.

Section 1 - Columbia River to Oswald West

The Columbia River stretches 93 miles and offers stunning scenery, powerful waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. The first section of the Oregon Coast Trail starts at Columbia River’s south jetty and heads south along the coastline. Along the way, you’ll pass through Ecola State Park and Tillamook Head Trail, where you can enjoy stunning scenery and crisp, fresh air.

Section 2 - Oswald West to Cape Lookout

The second part of the Oregon Coast Trail brings you through beautiful forests and the Nehalem Bay State Park. There are a ton of can’t-miss stops like the Twin Rocks State Natural Site and Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint. You’ll spend the majority of your hike along the beach, but there is an option to go around Tillamook Bay on a roadside trail, where you can access Al Griffin Memorial Park. Since the majority of the southern half of the trail is roadside, you do need to keep an eye out for cars. However, the sights you’ll see along the way make this a favorite part of the OCT.

Section 3 - Cape Lookout to Lincoln City

Continuing your journey south, you’ll enter section three of the OCT. There are numerous natural areas along the way, including Cape Kiwanda, Sitcka Sedge, and Clay Myers Natural Areas. You can also enjoy exploring Cape Lookout and Bob Straub State Parks. About halfway down the trail, you begin to head inland, where you cross through more mountainous terrain, making for unforgettable views and scenery. There are plenty of amenities along the way, including restrooms, showers, and potable water.

Section 4 - Lincoln City to Waldport

One of the longer sections of the OCT, section 4 stays beachside for most of the hike, making it a popular place for backpacking on the Oregon Coast. There are thirteen natural and recreation sites on this expanse of the trail alone, and you’ll pass through Beverly Beach and South Beach State Parks. Apart from the beginning, there are relatively few on-road areas, making it perfect for a more relaxed journey.

Section 5 - Waldport to Florence

The top half of the Waldport to Florence section of the OCT is beautiful, running beachside with stunning scenery and beach access. There are multiple natural sites and scenic viewpoint spots where you can gaze out on the Pacific Ocean and enjoy the salty air. Just south of the Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint is a long stretch of roadside hiking that ends in the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park before picking back up for about 5 miles before becoming a beachside trail again. You’ll definitely want to check out the Haveta Head Lighthouse. To stay safe, avoid hiking through the tunnel in Florence and grab a cab or taxi to get to the other side.

Section 6 - Florence to Reedsport

Apart from the northern end of the trail, section 6 along the OCT runs solely along the beach. This section contains some of the highest concentration of beach access sites and takes you through Jessi M. Honeyman State Park. In fact, the majority of the trail is in this beautifully protected natural area. One place you won’t want to miss is the Oregon Dunes, which is one of the world’s largest sand dunes. You’ll walk through a mixture of forests, beaches, and dunes, making it one of the most visually stunning legs of the trail.

Section 7 - Reedsport to Bandon

You will have to hike roadside along large lengths of this section of the trail, specifically in the middle as it heads more inland. There is an option to stay along the coast and hike through Sunset Bay, Shore Acres, and Cape Arago State Parks, which are beautiful year-round. The south edge of the trail takes you through Bullards Beach State Park, where you can grab a shower, use the restroom, and set up camp. Much of the trail goes through more mountainous regions, which offer beautiful views as far as the eye can see.

Section 8 - Bandon to Port Orford

Apart from a small branch off in Bandon, section 8 of the OCT runs solely beachside. There are three natural areas and Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, where you can stand atop a jutting cliff and take in towering rock formations. The trail runs through Cape Blanco and Port Orford State Parks and offers numerous camping and amenities.

Section 9 - Port Orford to Cape Sebastian

While beautiful, this section of the OCT is another that has long stretches of roadside hiking. However, there are more than enough stunning views to make up for it! Along the way, you’ll pass through Port Orford Heads and Humburg Mountain State Parks and there are multiple beaches with beach access along the way. Be sure to stop at the Geisel Monument State Heritage Site, where you can explore the historic site of a war skirmish between Rogue Indians and the Geisil family. You can view the family’s graves and learn more about this interesting piece of Oregon history. Another must-see experience along the path is the Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor, which offers breathtaking views.

Section 10 - Cape Sebastian to California

The Southernmost leg of the trail takes you from Gold Beach to the California state line. This section is one of the most prominent for beach access along its northern edge, making it perfect for camping. You’ll hike through Harris Beach State Park, Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint, and the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. The trail runs alongside the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which is unfortunately closed to the public but offers the opportunity to see many types of wildlife. It’s also a favorite spot for birdwatching! There are sections of the trail that are better suited to more experienced backpackers, namely south of the Natural Bridges Overlook, where it’s only accessible during low tide and then climbs steeply up toward Highway 101.

Go Out the and Explore!

The Oregon Coast Trail is one of the most unique ways to explore Oregon’s unmatched coastline. It’s perfect for anyone wanting to get out there and experience the state’s natural beauty. You can choose to hike the entire stretch or break it up into sections. I simply can’t get enough of the beauty and wonder I feel every time I’m on the Oregon Coast. Hopefully, this guide outlining what to expect as you hit the trails will give you the confidence and excitement to head out and see it for yourself. With a year-round temperate climate, numerous scenic viewpoints, and interesting historical stops, the OCT has everything you could want when backpacking on the Oregon Coast. I know I’ll be out there, and I hope to see you along the way!

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