Less-Crowded Spring Hikes
If you’ve got a serious case of cabin fever, it’s time to come out of hibernation and start making your hiking bucket list for the season. Many coastal trails are still a bit muddy in March and, for that reason, less crowded. So if you’ve got your 10 Essentials and are up for adventure, there’s no better time to hit the trail. Where to go first? Here are several stellar trails to check out (and return to in May and June, when wildflowers make a bigger appearance).
Epic Coastal Views (North)
Neahkahnie Mountain near Manzanita is one of those iconic spots that fills up with crowds seeking panoramic views in the summer. But the springtime can be just as nice, and you may be much more likely to snag a parking spot. Either way, consider heading out to the 3-mile out-and-back trail on a weekday or early in the day for a quieter experience. When you do encounter fellow trail users (pups included), make sure to say hello.
Wildflower Lovers (North)
In the Tillamook State Forest, you experienced hikers can spot early blooms at the rugged Kings Mountain Trail, a challenging, 5-mile round-trip hike with a 2,546-foot elevation gain in 2.5 miles. The views from the summit are worth the trek, and all along the way, you’ll get to admire the pops of early-spring color from bear grass, penstemon, phlox and the rare phantom orchid.
Waterfall Lovers (Central)
Twenty-five miles inland from Florence, the Sweet Creek Falls Trail in Mapleton is a bit of a hidden wonder, with not one but 11 delightful waterfalls to spot. There are four segments along the 2.7-mile out-and-back trail, so you can choose how far you’d like to go before turning back. Breathe in the deep scent of the mossy forest and hear the rush of the cascading stream, which can be especially powerful in the spring after snowmelt.
Garden Lovers (Central)
You’ll find springtime rhododendrons in pops of pink, purple, yellow and white at the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve in Yachats. Start at Smelt Sands State Recreation Site to embark along the Ya’Xaik Trail for this 2.1-mile lollipop loop hike along the rocky shoreline and through a Sitka spruce forest. The trail passes through the preserve, open to visitors by appointment only, so call ahead if you’d like to explore the array of native and exotic species. Keep Fido at home, as dogs are not allowed in the preserve.
Big Tree Lovers (South)
Did you know Oregon has its own Redwood forest? The 1.-2-mile Redwood Nature Trail in Brookings is home to Coast redwoods up to 250 tall and 10 feet in diameter, up to 800 years old. Find a brochure at the trailhead and let the kids stretch their legs along the flat (elevation 200 feet) trail before the crowds of summer arrive. It’s always smart to pack a raincoat and layers along with sturdy footwear, but the canopy here will keep you mostly dry. It’s also less rainy on the South Coast year-round.
Wildlife Lovers (South)
You’ll be far off the beaten path at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, a tranquil hideaway located off Cape Arago Highway near Charleston. With trails for all mobility levels, visitors can follow creek crossings to several lookout points along the slough, ideal for wildlife watching. Lucky hikers may see salmon, great blue herons, bald eagles, ducks, sea otters and more. Remember to pack out what you pack in, since bits of food and debris can harm the wildlife.
By Jen Anderson
South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve photo by Justin Myers