Plan A Trip To This State Park For Incredible Coastal Views Of The Northern West Coast

Spanning the length of the West Coast are dramatic, wild seascapes that can leave even the most well-traveled adventurer awestruck. For incredible views of the Northern West Coast, plan a trip to Oregon's Oswald West State Park.

The state park is in Tillamook County, about two hours away from Portland. Though just a short drive from a major city, Oswald West State Park is one of the state's best-kept secrets. The 2,484-acre park is home to a temperate coastal rainforest. The rugged yet lush landscape is covered in old-growth trees, including Sitka spruce, red cedars, and western hemlocks. Closer to the Pacific coast, visitors will find a secluded beach and encounter volcanic basalt and sandstone cliffs. The state park overlooks the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, which protects over 12 square miles of Oregon's ocean.

Four parking lots are right off of major U.S. Highway 101, each leading to different areas of the park. Unlike other state parks, the unique observation points and beach at Oswald West are only accessible by foot — making it a must-visit beach destination for outdoorsy travelers. While the park boasts miles of hiking trails, several iconic vistas at Oswald West are popular among locals and avid nature lovers seeking scenic ocean sights.

Hike to Short Sand Beach

Since the only way to reach Short Sand Beach is by foot, you'll have to travel along the Short Sand Beach Trail. This 1.2-mile out-and-back route first weaves through the park's old-growth forest and follows the Short Sand Creek. At around .3 miles, you'll cross a railroad-style bridge that will bring you to a scenic picnic area overlooking the beach. From there, the trail begins to slope towards the sea; you'll begin to hear the relaxing sounds of the salty waters as they meet the shore and see the beauty of the Oregon coast.

As you wander along Short Sand Beach, make your way towards Smugglers Cove, an area of the beach enveloped by rocky, forested bluffs on one side. Once here, set up a chair or roll out a towel to relax and take in unhampered views of the Oregon coast and the seabirds that fly above. You'll probably spot a few surfers on the horizon because the waves are ideal year-round. Short Sand Beach is also a favorite among wildlife sightseers who want to explore the beach's tide pools, brimming with small intertidal critters native to the area.

After perusing the coastline, make your way to the Cape Falcon Hike trailhead, which is accessible from the beach. The out-and-back, easy hike will lead you 200 feet up through the coastal forest until you reach the south headland Cape Falcon, which juts out over the ocean.

Making your way to higher peaks

Several paths at Oswald West State Park offer a bird's-eye view of the Northern West Coast. For a more casual stroll, venture down Devils Cauldron Trail. Though the .5-mile trail is a bit rugged, it is considered an easy hike and can be accessed from a parking lot directly off Highway 101. The out-and-back route will lead you to a grassy post that overlooks a moody cove surrounded by monumental seaside cliffs on both sides. Peer down 200 feet into the cove to catch a glimpse of waves crashing into several sea stacks and look to either side to observe a variety of nesting birds.

If you're a more experienced hiker, lace up your shoes to trek the North Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain Trail. The out-and-back route is a 4-mile-long round-trip, but you will gain over 1,100 feet in elevation. As you ascend, you'll encounter several switchbacks that pass through fields of wildflowers and a spruce forest. The summit of Neahkahnie Mountain, or Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain, is one of the highest points on the Oregon coast, providing breathtaking vistas that stretch from the waters off of Short Sand Beach to Tillamook Bay on clear days. Neahkahnie Mountain from South Hike is a slightly less challenging way to reach the peak. With its secluded beach, unbelievable coastline, and preserved forests, Oswald West State Park offers visitors the type of solitude that can only be found in nature.