Start the year fresh with a wooded stroll through some of Oregon’s signature coastal forests.
There is something invigorating about a walk through a coastal Oregon forest at the start of the new year — swollen creeks and thundering falls; deep, mossy greens; towering, swaying trees. Underfoot could be banana slugs, newts and mushrooms; above, the occasional bald eagle or osprey sailing by. One can’t help but be energized and refreshed, ready to embark on another year with a new commitment to getting out amidst all the splendor this corner of the world has to offer.
It’s wet and slippery this time of year and can still be chilly, so rain gear and waterproof hiking boots or shoes with solid treads are a must. Consider trekking poles to help navigate muddy trails and creek crossings, pack important gear — especially cellphones — in Ziploc bags or waterproof containers, and bring a change of clothes for warming up and drying off back at the car. Take note of leash laws, too: All of the hikes below allow dogs, but trail courtesy is always good practice.
But most of all, take that step outside and see just what a walk through a forest on the Oregon Coast can do. Here are five great walks to consider.
1. Empire Lakes Loop
Coos Bay may be the most populous city on the Oregon Coast, but an amble near Empire Lakes might just convince the casual hiker they’re in the middle of a forested wilderness instead. An easy 1.9-mile trail in John Topits Park winds around Lower Empire Lake, passing under lofty Doug firs and looking out over the quiet lakes, where blue heron and egrets glide by and alight on barren snags. Rainbow trout, bass, bluegill and catfish ply the water here as well, adding to the feeling that these pretty lakes are much farther out and much more remote than they truly are. There is ample free parking in multiple lots and on nearby streets. No permits are required.
2. Hundred Acre Wood
Haven’t heard of this one? That’s because it’s some of the newest hiking and biking trails in all of Oregon. Located on 144 acres of forested property in the city of Coquille — a quaint town bordered by a namesake river and a lush forest just 15 miles from the coastline near Bandon — this natural open space is now home to more than 3 miles of hiking trails and almost 4 miles of mountain biking trails. The hiking trails, mostly packed with crushed rock to make them walkable year-round, wind through a dense forest of evergreens, hardwoods and the beckoning fronds of sword ferns. The strolling is pleasant here, and there’s more to come: A pavilion, a restroom and additional trails are in the works. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead; no permits are required.
3. Drift Creek Falls
This is a well-known ramble through classic Oregon Coast terrain — a mossy forest dripping with lichen and rainy, evergreen glory during most of the winter, spring and fall months. But its familiarity is well deserved and detracts little from the restorative effects that come from walking among Doug firs near the pristine Drift Creek toward the trail’s signature destination: Drift Creek Falls itself. The 75-foot waterfall plunges down a basalt cliff face, cascading into a scenic churn that flows toward the Pacific. The suspension bridge that affords the most commanding view of the falls is itself a marvel that only elevates the entire experience of hiking this roughly 3-mile gem outside of Lincoln City. There is parking at the trailhead, and be sure to check road and trail conditions before heading out, as some road work is planned for early 2024. The area requires a day-use fee of $5 per vehicle or a Northwest Forest Pass — passes must be bought online in advance.
4. Siltcoos Lake Loop
The largest lake on the Oregon Coast, Siltcoos Lake is also a scenic one surrounded by coastal forest and graced by a quiet, 4.3-mile hike just 7 miles south of Florence. The easy walk is an interesting one, with views out across the lake, avian visitors like mergansers and cormorants, and some choice camping spots for backpackers looking for a one-of-a-kind night out on the shores of one of the state’s lesser-known lakes. There is parking at the trailhead, and the area requires a Northwest Forest Pass or a $5 day-use fee.
5. Oregon Redwoods
Think California claims all the renowned redwoods? Think again. Oregon is home to a few grand redwood groves of its own — with the trees at the northernmost reach of their species — near Brookings on the Southern Oregon Coast. A peaceful drive about 9 miles from Brookings lands you in the middle of one. Head about a half-mile north of Alfred A. Loeb State Park along the Chetco River, and you’ll find the Redwood Nature Trail. Parking is free but limited. Hike the short but pretty trail through mixed forest and across a creek, where the trees can reach 10 feet in diameter and soar upward to 250 feet tall.
– By Jon Bell
Top photo of the Redwoods Nature Trail by Facing Waves
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