Guide to the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Photo courtesy of Denis LeBlanc
Meandering 12 miles along the scenic southern Oregon coast, the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is a treasure trove full of beautiful little gems just waiting to be explored. Named in honor of the first Oregon Parks superintendent, the landscape protected here is stunning. With secluded beaches, beautiful vistas, ancient trees, and roughly 27 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail to wander, there are plenty of reasons to visit. This park is best appreciated by walking numerous small trails and spurs. Signage isn’t always optimal, but that just increases the feeling of serendipitous discovery.
Start your exploration at the northern end of the corridor by taking time to explore Arch Rock Viewpoint + Picnic Area. There are plenty of picnic tables nestled into the forest where you can take in the views over lunch or a cup of coffee. For photos of the massive sea arch and to stretch your legs after eating, there is a short loop trail that skirts the cliff.
The aptly named Secret Beach requires a little more determination to reach. Two rough-and-tumble trails lead to two sections that are worth exploring, each with their own small creek that runs to the sea. While the northern section is nearly always accessible, the southern section is only available at low tides. Be sure to check your tide tables before heading out if you are keen to see both pieces. For slightly less steep, though slightly longer access, you can also get to Secret Beach by way of the Thunder Cover parking lot.
Consider combining a visit to Secret Beach with the Thunder Rock Cove Trail. A scant 0.8 miles in length, the lack of significant elevation change along this walk makes it pleasant for all ability levels. Thunder Rock cove is a small cove nestled by steep cliffs, replete with sea arches and a sea cave. The thundering echoes of waves rocking into the cave give this spot its name. While the noise can still be heard on days with a quiet sea, the best sound is heard with larger swells and winter storms.
For optimal viewing and photography opportunities, overcast days and early mornings are best when visiting Natural Bridges Viewpoint a little further down the coastline. Afternoon sun reflections and frequent fog can often inhibit viewing, so be sure to stop by later if you miss out on a good look on your first visit. It’s worth the effort. While waiting for conditions to change, consider a walk along the quiet stretch of China Beach. One of the least visited beaches in the area, you are practically guaranteed privacy and solitude along with the beautiful view. Numerous sea stacks just off shore make for interesting scenery along the towering cliffs. With a 1.2-mile walk to access the beach, it’s just long enough to deter the crowds. While you can reach the beach by utilizing the Oregon Coast Trail, the shortest entry point can be found at the North Island Trail Viewpoint.
Unique in the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, the dunes of Indian Sands are a sharp contrast to the typical trails found in this area. Access is a little deceptive here, as you do not actually follow the signs labeled “Indian Sands” in the parking lot. Instead, follow an uphill path at the southern end of the parking area to emerge from the forest onto the dunes. Rather than ocean-fed dunes, these formations are the result of eroding sandstone of nearby cliffs.
Quite possibly one of the prettiest trails in the corridor, the trail around Cape Ferrelo is a special place. A meandering, curving trail that follows the landscape with an eye for the best views, you’ll find plenty of places to pause and take in the sights. The dramatic vistas and gorgeous colors make this a must-see destination despite it’s brief 1.0-mile distance. To extend your visit, consider taking a picnic lunch to Lone Ranch Beach + Picnic Area. While not technically within the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, the long and wide crescent offers picnic tables overlooking the water. Tide pools can also be found here during low tide at the northern end of the beach. Just remember to be mindful of your tide pool etiquette when exploring this delicate habitat.