ISSUE 86  |  To the Beach

Hike of the Week: Oswald West State Park, Oregon

August 23, 2013 3:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

I grew up on the Long Island Sound where the coast is mostly a calm place (mid-summer beach-goers not included). Waves lap gently along the water’s edge, the sea breeze barely tousles your hair. On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I got reacquainted with another kind of coastal experience. Along the Oregon coast, the Pacific dances to a different tune, sending waves crashing into the sandstone and basalt cliffs. The coast is wild and moody and the wind is strong enough to work your hair into a tease that any ’80s hair band would envy. Edged with old-growth forests that teeter precariously over sandstone cliffs, the Oregon coast is a place for adventuring, not listlessly thumbing through magazines from the comfort of a beach chair. Well, when in Rome. 

Easily accessible from Oregon’s scenic Highway 101, Oswald West State Park in Manzanita hosts 13 miles of Oregon Coast Trail for eager day-hikers. Trails wind through old growth Sitka spruce forests, neat and organized second-growth forests, and finally along the craggy and wild Oregon coastline. My husband and I tackled several of the hikes (one of them with a surfboard in tow, sans handsome tote).

Photographs by Erin Boyle.

Above: The Oswald State Park Trail Guide outlines 16 trails, ranging from quick 1/2 mile jaunts to the beach to longer trails that traverse the coastal cliffs. One of our favorite hikes spans from Arch Cape to Cape Falcon. The 6.5 mile (one way!) hike alternates between dense forest and coastal vistas. If you find yourself on the north coast of Oregon, I suggest packing a lunch (Olivia’s Avocado Sandwich would be perfect), tying on some comfortable sneakers, and having yourself a coastal adventure or two.

Above: The trails are well maintained throughout the park, with wooden bridges to get you through the muddy sections, but a word of warning: in some places, especially along the coastline, the trail is somewhat narrow. I’d recommend long pants to avoid too many scrapes.

Above: A portion of the Arch Cape to Cape Falcon trail winds through second growth forest, where the younger trees are almost eerie in their symmetry.

Above: Old growth Sitka spruce and ferns make for a forest that looks positively primeval.

Above: The Oregon coast is rich with mushrooms–especially the delectable chanterelle and matsutake varieties–and an ideal place for mushroom foraging. Just make sure you know what you’re looking for. The mushrooms above make for excellent faerie houses, but not a very good dinner.

Above: If you can arrange it, plan your hike for a sunny day–yes, they do exist–and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the coast.

Above: Take a moment to pause at the various vistas along the basalt and sandstone cliffs that mark the coastline. This overlook was the perfect spot for a picnic.

Above: Standing above the beach, listen to the rumble of the basalt rocks as they’re drawn repeatedly back into the ocean.

Above: Finally, as you hike along the coast keep your eyes peeled for seals who sun themselves on the rocks below, though I promise you, you’ll hear them first.

A map of Oswald West State Park:

View Larger Map

See more of our Hike of the Week posts and start planning your next adventure.