The Oregon Coast's Best Hikes Through Rainforest and Old Growth
Published: 10/05/2015  Updated: 08/16/2019
A Sitka Spruce tree flanks the trail at Oswald West State Park
A Sitka Spruce tree flanks the trail at Oswald West State Park  Photo by Beth Wise

If lush forests are calling your name for a peaceful walk in the woods, it's time to grab your boots and hit the trails on the Oregon Coast.

Spruce needles high above whisper in the wind as if in conversation with the ones crunching under your trusty hiking boots. Mammoth evergreens crowd together, shadowing lush undergrowth, thick with ferns, mosses and wood sorrel. Dozens of species of mysterious-looking mushrooms and lichens spring from fallen logs and a plethora of birds and forest creatures contribute their chirping and chattering to the trickling of hidden streams, adding to the harmonious forest hum. With striking forest-meets-sea vistas and landscapes, these great Oregon Coast hikes also happen to wind through some of the most beautiful woods in the world.

Cape Falcon Trail
Named for its talon shape, Cape Falcon is the north promontory of Oswald West State Park on the North Oregon Coast. With the sounds of the Pacific never far off, this relatively easy hike meanders through the mossy, coastal forest and offers panoramic views of the forested coastline hugging the wild sea. The trail emerges from the forest at the end of the cape through the high-growing salal, where you can see north all the way to Tillamook Head and south to Cape Lookout on a clear day. The Cape Falcon trailhead can be accessed from the Oswald West parking lots along Highway 101 and the round-trip hike is five miles long, with an elevation gain of 300 feet.

Cape Lookout Trail
Setting out on the Cape Trail takes you through some interesting forest features and dramatic breathtaking views as it leads out to the tip of Cape Lookout, on the Three Capes Scenic Route, west of Tillamook. The trail winds through an old-growth, gnarled Sitka Spruce forest dripping with moss and so pristine you'll wonder if you've stepped back in time. At end of the line, you will discover why many refer to the park bench at the tip of Cape Lookout as the best seat in the house. On a clear day, you can spot landmarks 40 miles away: Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda, as well as Cascade Head and the distant Cape Foulweather. The Cape Trail is a moderate 4.8-mile round-trip hike with 400 feet of elevation gain.

The Giant Spruce Trail
For an intimate look at a fog-belt rainforest, hike the well-maintained Giant Spruce Trail. Begin your trek at the visitor center at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area near Yachats. Grab a self-guided brochure to start your exploration of this headland in the Siuslaw National Forest. The trail parallels the south side of Cape Creek, through old-growth forest bursting with flowers and ferns. As you hike up the narrow valley, the towering Sitka Spruce trees along the trail pale in comparison when you emerge at the 500 year-old "Giant Spruce" at the end. This easy, short hike is 2.3 miles round-trip, with a net elevation gain of 100 feet.

Heceta Head Lighthouse to Carl Washburne State Park
The Heceta Head Lighthouse provides an enchanting beginning or end for this moderate-to-challenging hike that climbs over Heceta Head. Enjoy the verdant coniferous forest while taking in the vast ocean views including offshore rocks that are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes you can spot seals and sea lions hauled out on the rocks. This challenging section on the north side of the lighthouse starts with a two-mile segment of the Oregon Coast Trail and offers spectacular viewpoints before descending to the beach via the Hobbit Trail. Travel over the promontory and drop down to the secluded beach, ultimately connecting with Carl G. Washurne State Park. An alternate trailhead can be found just south of the state park, along Highway 101. This hike is a moderate 3.75-mile through hike or a 7.5-mile loop, with an elevation gain of 600 feet through the Oregon Coast Trail segment.

Riverview Trail to Redwood Nature Trail
Along the banks of the scenic Chetco River in southern Oregon, hiking in Alfred A. Loeb State Park offers a rare glimpse of two hard-to-find tree species in Oregon: the Coastal Redwood and the Oregon Myrtle. Considered by most to be the best-smelling park in the state, your first impression at Loeb State Park may well be the crisp, bay leaf aroma of this protected myrtle forest. Trailhead access and parking is located near the park's riverside day-use area. The Riverview Trail follows the north bank of the Chetco River, through the 200-year-old myrtle grove, to a crosswalk that connects to the Redwood Nature Trail. The Redwood Trail leads to a fifty-acre stand of immense Coastal Redwoods and the northernmost place this giant can be found. The Riverview Trail is a 0.75-mile one-way trek that connects to the Redwood Nature Trail. Redwood Nature Trail is an easy loop of 2.6 miles, climbing 527 feet.

Francis Shrader Old Growth Trail
Located in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, near Gold Beach, this short hike is one of the best opportunities to see old-growth forest on the coast. The virgin forest here is dense, lush and green; where some of the Northwest's largest hardwoods intermingle with huge cedar and stately old-growth Douglas Fir trees. The trail loops through multistoried stands of trees; more than 22 species of trees, plants and shrubs can be seen on this hike. To find the trail, take County Road 595, which turns into Forest Road 33, east to Lobster Creek. Turn right on Forest Road 090 for two miles and the trailhead is on the left side of the road. Francis Shrader Old Growth Trail is a 1.5-mile hike.
The Oregon Coast's Best Hikes Through Rainforest and Old Growth