Plan A Coastal Hiking Adventure To This Beautiful Western US State Park

Oregon has no shortage of scenic hiking spots that border the harrowingly beautiful Pacific Ocean. While it may not be as well-known as Crater Lake National Park or other outdoorsy Oregonian destinations, Ecola State Park is the ultimate spot to plan an unforgettable coastal hiking adventure on the West Coast. 

Somewhat of a hidden gem, Ecola State Park is located just an hour northwest of Portland. The state park lies at the edge of Tillamook Head — a towering promontory that juts into the ocean — between the city of Seaside and the popular Cannon Beach. This small yet stunning area encompasses 9 miles of pristine coastline, rich woodlands, coves, and the historic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. (Fun fact: This famous lighthouse was featured in the classic film "The Goonies.") Ecola State Park is also home to Indian Beach, a quiet sandy beach that's popular among locals and out-of-town visitors alike, especially surfers. In addition to laid-back beaches, the state park features a diverse network of trails that day trippers seeking oceanfront views will love. 

The Oregon Coast Trail

One of the most prominent hikes in the park is the 8-mile, out-and-back segment of the Oregon Coast Trail where trekkers can discover epic sightseeing opportunities. The Oregon Coast Trail in Ecola, which is also a designated segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, can be accessed from both the north and south sides of the park. Depending on where you start and the direction you head, you can take a 1.25-mile descending path to Crescent Beach, or a 2.1-mile route to Indian Beach. While at either beach, be sure to peer past the shoreline to catch a glimpse of dramatic sea stacks, coves, and even migrating gray whales during winter and spring months. 

The Oregon Coast Trail leads hikers all the way up north over Tillamook Head. As you weave through the various Pacific landscapes on this route, you'll walk through old-growth and second-growth Sitka spruce forests. Oftentimes, on quiet days, deer and elk are spotted in the woods. Don't forget to look up to observe eagles, songbirds, and more seaside feathered friends. 

Other hikes in Ecola State Park

There are shorter trails within Ecola State Park that are bucket list-worthy. The Clatsop Loop Trail is a 3 mile hike once used by the Corps of Discovery. Before even reaching the main trailhead, you'll head over Canyon Creek and pass a serene waterfall. Soon after, you will cross Indian Creek, which opens to a gorgeous view of the park's coastal forests. Continuing to wind through the trees, a World War II observation bunker will greet you on trail. Around halfway into the path, there is an excellent viewpoint where you'll be able to see the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. As you make your way back, you'll encounter switchbacks that will lead you to several cliff outlooks that offer arresting panoramas of the ocean.

Prior to planning your trip to Ecola State Park, check the weather forecast and look for any safety alerts. In past years, winter storms and landslides have led to the closures of different trails and roads leading to the park. Though the trails are well-marked, bringing a trail map is never a bad idea. If you're a hiker or ocean lover, pack your gear and head to the Pacific Northwest — with its moody coastal environment, Ecola State Park makes for a unique outdoor trip.